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How much food is wasted around the world?
Food waste is an enormous problem is North America. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that from 2010 to 2012 one in every eight people on earth were chronically undernourished, yet 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year. In the US, 40% of food is wasted through consumer waste, production waste, retail waste, and inadequate storage and packaging. In the majority world, though, a similar amount is not eaten, but due to losses as a result of poor transportation and roads, storage problems, pests , flooding, and drought. This amounts to huge losses every year, many of which are preventable.
Blemished food is a huge issue worldwide. Consumers are becoming accustomed to seeing shiny, round, or straight fruits and veggies in grocery stores. Nature is, of course, not always so “perfect”. It’s to the point that the UN was able to create an entire banquet out of cosmetically damaged foods. At one UN meeting this past year, a 5 course meal was served to some 500 delegates, entirely cooked from reject-grade food. In the food services industry, waste is also enormous. Just think of all of those times servers need to ask whether people would like their leftovers packed up. If the answer is no, that food goes into the garbage. In full-serve restaurants, food waste per day amounted to 49,296,540 lbs.
In the US, food waste is anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the food supply, and the single largest source of waste being thrown into landfills. This information was gathered by the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency in order to create a US food waste challenge to get people thinking about reducing waste at all levels of production and consumption. To read up on it, click here.
What are the consequences?
All of this waste adds up to huge economic, human, and environmental issues. Rotting food in landfills contributes to methane emissions, which is a green-house gas, and contributor to climate change. 28 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used for food that will never be consumed, which also means huge energy and water waste that is used in agricultural production, and loss of energy and resources that go into transporting foods that won’t be eaten. This equates to economic losses of approximately 750 billion a year worldwide, and enormous amount of financial loss.
What can we do about this?
In the US, 25% of this loss is due to consumer habits. In fact, individually, Americans chuck 1.5 pounds of food away every day, in other words, $ 2,275 a year. Clearly, this is a problem where individual action will start making a huge difference, not just to the environment, but also to your personal finances. So, here are some ways to start taking matters into your own hands:
1. Be creative. Got some ugly, less-than-delightful apples? Make apple sauce. Squishy tomatoes? Tomato sauce. Just because some produce was forgotten in your fridge a few extra days doesn’t mean that it needs to be thrown away. Many fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t want to eat in their pure form are still fine for juicing, smoothies, or can even be frozen for future use.
2. Store things properly. Proper containers for bulk grains and proper containers for your fridge and freezer can help properly preserve food for long periods of time.
3. Make lists and meal plans. Don’t go overboard on the organization here, but do think ahead before doing big grocery shops. Think of what you’ll make during the week so that you have adequate ingredients in proper quantities that will not go to waste. And when the ingredients in your home don’t make an obvious meal, revert back to number 1, and try to be creative and flexible in what you eat.
4. Compost. Whether you have a compost at home for your garden, or, hopefully, a kitchen waste pick-up system, not throwing perished food into the garbage will keep it out of landfills and reduce the environmental consequences of food waste. Composting is also a natural way of returning nutrients to the soil if you have a garden at home.
5. Keep leftovers. This one is probably obvious in financial terms, as taking leftovers as lunches is an economical option as well. Really though, not much food needs to be thrown out!
6. Sharing really is caring. When eating out, try and be reasonable when you’re ordering. Know that the pasta dish you’re ordering is humungous? Share it with a friend.
Image Source: jbloom/Flickr