A new perspective on food waste

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Have you ever come home with something from the grocery store full of good intentions and great ideas for how to use it?  Have you ever lost track of it and found a month and a half later behind a container of leftovers and been forced to throw it out?  I think everyone experiences this from time to time. For most of us this isn’t a big deal; but when you look at some of the impacts that food waste has, you begin to see that it’s a much bigger deal than you’d think once it’s all added up.

Jonathan Bloom, author of the Wasted Food Blog, recently highlighted some facts about food waste (in a United States context) that I’d like to share.

  • It’s estimated that one and a half percent of all United States greenhouse gas emissions can be related to wasted food, based on studies done by CleanMetrics.
  • Of course this is a small percentage, but let’s breaks this down on a smaller scale: “The average person’s food waste contributes almost five percent of the emissions of a typical car.”
  • Approximately 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be related to producing and processing food.
  • The average family is responsible for about 1,800 pounds of emissions from food waste, while an individual contributes about 440 pounds a year. A typical car, meanwhile, emits about 9,000 pounds a year. (Source)
  • Note: The emissions from food waste don’t include food eaten in restaurants or the energy used in cooking or packaging wasted food. (Source)

But I’m not here to depress you about the statistics of how our habits are impacting the environment. Sure, some waste is inevitable with regards to food; we know this more than most, but there are ways to eliminate this. So, now you have seen the side of food waste you may not have considered, lets talk about an interesting idea to stop some of it.

One of my favourite methods that I have come come across recently is a program called Zero Percent Food Waste. Their goal is as simple as the title: zero food waste. It lets you know of great deals on food that is a discount and needs to go before it’s thrown out. As more restaurants continue to become involved, the creators are hoping to expand this free website (and mobile application) so more people can access information on food businesses that are offering discounts on products that would otherwise be discarded. Currently the offers are only available for people in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. However the company does have hopes to continue expanding throughout the United States. But they’re also up for competition because it’ll mean pushing society and restaurants to eliminating more food waste.

Wouldn’t it be great if this service came to Canada? We’re constantly creating policies and initiatives to divert food from landfills, such as the Waste Diversion Act, but still much food is wasted.

“The world is more connected than ever and we don’t believe there is an excuse for restaurants to waste food anymore. As a culture, we haven’t put emphasis on making waste a priority.” (Source)

If you were to do a Google search you’ll find a wide variety of websites and ideas that provide insight on ways to stop wasting food. (And if you don’t believe me, check out my search results.) However preventing food waste is more than just trying to compost and freeze foods when they’re spoiling or donating food to soup kitchens or food banks, it’s about respecting the food that took a lot of energy and people to produce, and has a big impact on the environment.

Preventing food waste is more than eliminating some of the environmental impacts as well. It means that you’re not wasting money.  If you were to eliminate even half of the food that an average family wastes each year, your family would save approximately $600 (Source) if Canada is a good comparison to what happens in the United States. That’s a lot of money!

And after doing this is you wanted to take your good deed one step further, you could use some of the previously “wasted” money to make a donation to a program, such as ours where it will be put to use getting food to people who don’t have the luxury of having food to throw out. (To see a list of the most needed items, click here.) And remember, each step (or head of lettuce) – will have a dramatic impact when you look at the bigger picture.

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