Image Description: UN Infographic to mark #FLW Day
September 29, 2022 marks the third annual International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, and Green Dining wants to share more information about this day, as well as different ways you can make a more positive impact on the planet with your dietary choices! Some may be confused about the distinction between food loss and food waste. Food loss typically occurs during the production process, or over the journey from the farm to your table. It typically takes widespread cooperation and investment in more sustainable food systems to reduce food loss. On the other hand, it’s much easier to make an individual impact when it comes to food waste, because food waste occurs when you’re eating the meal; when you take leftovers home and forget about them in the fridge for three days and have to throw them out. This day was designated by the UN in 2019 because of some sobering statistics: about one third of edible food produced worldwide is lost or wasted, amounting to 1.3 billion tons of food a year.(UN-End Food Waste).The US also stands out in comparison to our international counterparts: we discard more food than any other country in the world– almost 40 percent of the food we produce! (USDA.gov.)In 2018, over 35 million tons of waste went to landfills in the US. In fact, food is the single largest contributor to US landfills, taking up 22 percent of municipal waste.(Food Waste in America in 2022: Statistics & Facts | RTS.) Food in landfills produces a lot of methane gas, a greenhouse gas that damages the ozone layer and accelerates climate change. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the production of wasted food in the US is equivalent to the emissions of about 37 million cars.(WWF). The water, labor, and energy put into production and transportation is also incredibly wasteful. It becomes even more difficult to understand why we waste so much food when you consider that about 50 million Americans are projected to suffer from food insecurity in 2022. (USDA.gov).
Image Description: onions, tomatoes, and other organic waste piled in a landfill.
This is all disappointing and, frankly, scary. But it may comfort you to know that there are actionable solutions we can implement to reduce food waste. Building more resilient food systems through international collaboration and intention is more sustainable in terms of environmental effects and effective distribution of resources to reduce food insecurity. Redistributing surplus food leads to untold economic, environmental, and social benefits, and we can push for these solutions to our representatives and policymakers. On a smaller, more individual scale, there are plenty of things we can do to reduce food waste, such as:
Buying less food by meal planning and only shopping for what you need
Only buy what you’re sure you can eat
When cooking at home, save leftovers or share the meal with friends or roommates!
If you are trying something new in the dining halls, ask for a “taste” and if you like it, go back for more!
If you do have food waste, to avoid unnecessary methane emissions that result from putting food in the landfill, it is best to compost it! You can find simple compost guides online.
Learn about the issue of food waste by watching a documentary, such as “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”. Find more recommendations here.
Experiment in the kitchen! Here are some tips we have for repurposing food that you may throw away:
Bananas: If your bananas are getting brown, you can peel them & throw them in the freezer to make a smoothie, make banana bread or banana oatmeal.
Broccoli Stalks: roast them, slice them for a salad, or add them to a stir-fry!
Vegetable stems, peels: freeze vegetable scraps that you have and save them to make veggie broth
Greens: If your greens are nearing their expiration date, freeze them and save them for later for a green smoothie or a saute.
Bread: Slice bread and put it in the freezer so that it will last longer! You can pull a slice out and toast it. You can also do this with many other baked goods.
For some more ideas, check out this video: “8 Unexpected Ways You Can Use Kitchen Scraps”
Share this information with friends and family to broaden your impact!