What We're Into: Reducing Food Waste

Photo by Flickr user rick

I went to the salad bar at a grocery store the other day for lunch. When I eat buffet-style, I tend to go a little crazy  without fail, I pile more food on my plate than I can eat, and end up tossing at least a quarter of my meal in the trash. This particular lunch salad was no different; I tossed in greens and peppers and cheese and eggs and beans and fruit and chicken, squeezed the lid down over the top, paid for it, and then ate approximately half of it.

As I watched the plastic container (an issue unto itself) disappear into the depths of the garbage can, I thought about a report by the National Resources Defense Council I had read recently about how much food Americans waste every year. Approximately 40%  yes, you read that right, 40%  goes uneaten. This waste happens at every level of the food supply chain, from the farm all the way to the shopping habits of consumers. This information is becoming more widely understood by the general public, but even for those who care a lot about the issue, like myself, it can be hard to change bad habits.

Nevertheless, there are many things listed in the NRDC report that can be done to turn around the way our food system works, and to significantly reduce the amount of food we waste each year. As consumers, one of the main things we can do are to buy (and advocate for the selling of) “ugly” produce, or fruits and vegetables that don’t look as aesthetically pleasing. The other is to actually take steps to reduce the amount of food that we throw out each day.

The second one is so obvious, and yet many people simply don’t do it. It’s easy to feel like individuals can’t make a difference, and that it doesn’t matter if they throw out that head of broccoli, or accidentally let the milk go bad. If each person took just a little extra time to plan out meals, though, or to look through the fridge to see if there was anything they should use that was about to expire, we could slowly chip away at the 20 pounds per year that we each let go to waste. For me personally, a great place to start would be to actually eat my leftovers, and to stop letting my eyes be bigger than my head when buying salad at the grocery store.

By informing ourselves and taking small steps to shift our eating and shopping habits, we can not only help save valuable natural resources and food, but also benefit from the byproduct of becoming more conscious about the kind of food we’re buying and putting into our bodies. The health of the planet and the health of us as human beings is interconnected, and it’s important to pay attention to both.