On Memorial Day weekend when many Americans are chowing down and drinking to their hearts’ content, I think a lot about all the food being tossed in the trash can. Think about it for a second. How much of our food goes down the kitchen drain and the garbage disposal? How much goes in those airless plastic bags destined for a landfill?
Quite a bit according to the EPA, which estimates that Americans waste more than 34 million tons of food each year – 14 percent of municipal solid wastes. So when we see those growing landfills we probably need to look in the mirror, and at our dinner plates. Only an estimated 3 percent of our food waste does NOT reach the landfill. Imagine walking into a 90,000 seat football stadium to see it filled with food. That’s what Americans toss away in ONE DAY according to Jonathan Bloom*, author of “American Wasteland.”
In a world with a growing fresh water shortage and a food crisis in a number of regions around the world, perhaps it is time we be a little more mindful about our consumption on the most basic level.
At a loss on where to start? Little things make a big difference:
- Ordering Fish and Chips? Ask them to leave off the tartar sauce if you don’t usually eat it.
- Like your water straight-up? Same deal: tell your waiter, “No lemon, please.”
- French fries: use smaller amounts of ketchup as you eat and add more as you go.
- Not a fan of the pickle? Ask them to leave it off, or give it to a friend at the table.
- Don’t hurt your leftover’s feelings: take them home to enjoy later. Traveling? Many hotels have mini-fridges for their guests if you request it. You could keep your leftovers there for the next evening.
- Freeze! Did you make too much soup or casserole? I do all the time – on purpose. Freeze your leftovers for lunch at work (Pyrex makes great glass 2-cup containers). Bonus: keeping your fridge and freezer half-full (but not packed solid) actually helps it cool more efficiently!
Want a couple “big” ideas?
- Compost! Read what the EPA has to say about that here. Petition your local government to include composting as a part of the municipal waste management. Seattle does it. So could your town!
- Open a restaurant! Every item that is returned uneaten could be composted. AND you could feature an “a la carte” menu so people only order the dishes and sides they want. How many people would rather have the salad than the fries? Imagine the cut in waste if we could pick and choose what appeared on our plates!
- And of course there are the biggies: install a grey water system, plant native plants to your region in your yards, collect your rain water, and so on.
For more tips I have “reblogged” a post by The Frugal Goddess. She has a very practical perspective about food waste. For those less concerned with the world-wide issue of over-consumption The Frugal Goddess also addresses the hit our wallet takes when we waste. Us Americans waste around 27 percent of the food we purchase, according to Michael Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas*. Maybe we can start to change that figure! It always starts with you!
(*Bloom and Webber quotes referenced via this article by Hugh Collins for AOL.)