Save money, save time, save your health, and save the environment. Saving is a word with such a positive connotation in our society, so why not do more of it? According to The National Geographic, about $162 billion of food is wasted in a given year. This means that the average family of four wastes almost $1,500 worth of food per year, which is equivalent to each person throwing out about one dollar per day. Are you ready to throw out those dollars from your wallet?
Food waste has become a growing concern due to the environmental, social, and economic impacts that it puts on our society. What exactly is food waste? "Food waste" and "wasted food" actually take on two different meanings in the research, but essentially cause the same problems. "Food waste" can include foods that are not suitable to donate for human consumption, which then go to waste. One of the main reasons for this waste is food spoilage due to overbuying, over-preparing, or taking too large portions. "Wasted food" includes foods that are perfectly edible, but simply are not eaten for one reason or another. This can include unwanted or unsold foods in homes or businesses. Although the reasons are different, they are related because both contribute to wasted food.
Just think about how much goes into growing a single apple. Time, money, labor, energy, gas, water, fertilizers, and pesticides are some aspects of producing food that many consumers might not think about when they take an apple off the shelf at the grocery store. Throwing out an apple does not just waste your own money; it wastes other valuable resources, too. In addition, methane gas is produced from these wasted resources. When food builds up in landfills, it causes a reaction that produces methane, which is about twenty-five times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.
People who are aware of the negative effects of food waste may want to help, but do not know where to begin. A tool called The Food Recovery Hierarchy, created by the Environmental Protection Agency, is a great place to start. This hierarchy provides ideas for the most and least effective strategies for food waste reduction. Source reduction is the number one way to reduce waste, meaning it begins with the consumer. If the consumer buys and prepares only what he/she needs, then there is less chance that there will be an excess amount to throw away. If one does find they have an excess supply of food they need to dispose of, they could consider donating it to soup kitchens, food banks, or to a local farm or zoo. If these methods are not feasible, composting to turn food scraps into nutrient rich soil or industrial rendering to turn fats or meat products into other products or materials are great options that can help reduce cost of energy and crops, while benefiting the environment.
So, the next time you go to throw out that leftover chicken, take a second to think about ways you can help to minimize the buildup in landfills. Learn about programs in your area, such as Hunger-Free Pennsylvania, to help get started.
Royte, E. (n.d.). One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done. Retrieved September 07, 2016.
Sustainable Management of Food. (n.d.). Retrieved September 07, 2016.
Written by Sarah Chesky, Penn State Dietetic Intern