IDEAS For Us | July 8, 2015

Food Waste: What’s the deal?

food-plateDid you know that the average American wastes ½ pound of food EVERYDAY?
That amounts to 182.5 pounds of food per person, and a whopping 555,600,000 pounds of food waste per year and that’s only in the United States. This statistic was so shocking to me that I actually tracked my food waste for a day. I had a banana peel, a rotten cucumber, 3 pieces of spoiled spinach, and burnt veggie “chicken” nuggets as my waste for a single day and this amounted to .73 lbs. of wasted food. It’s ridiculous! Even more ridiculous is the fact that about 40% of all food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten every year!

Last week, I was able to attend a Hive Meeting at the East End Market in Winter Park, Florida. For those who of you who have not heard of The Hive or have not attended, I strongly recommend checking it out if you are an environmental stewardess. The Hive is an environmental think tank and do tank created by IDEAS for US. Members of the community come to these meetings to address a different issue in environmental sustainability on a monthly basis and take action in the within the local community to address these problems. The month of July’s focus was Food Waste. Chris Castro, Clayton Ferrara, and guest speaker, Ian M. Jurgensen, a Program Coordinator for the City of Orlando Office of Sustainability & Energy each spoke at this month’s Hive.

11403135_918045578274226_5125393476452885865_nAt the Hive, we learned about the impacts of global food waste, causes for food waste and how to reduce our food waste. One serious impact of global food waste, is the increased production of methane gases that lead to rising global temperatures through the process of global warming. This methane is produced from bio-waste from fruits, vegetables, meats (from spoilage) and living animals such as cows (through passing gas). Additionally, we deplete our natural resources including water and arable land. Our soil is depleted when we over produce crops and add certain fertilizers. It makes no sense to produce the amount of food that we do when a considerable amount is not eaten and our natural resources are compromised.

Although these are grand problems to deal with, they are NOT impossible to deal with and it is NOT too late to fix these problems either.

So how can you reduce your food waste and make a global impact? Start by something as simple as food planning. Portion out your food for individual meals so that you are not over or undereating and as result not wasting any food. This will ensure you get the most bang for your buck when buying groceries. Or if you have leftovers from a meal, freeze them after your food has cooled if you do not intend on eating them in the next few days. My personal favorite recommendation from the Hive was a young man who suggested gardening as a way to reduce food waste. Through having a garden, you are able to use your edibles as needed which reduces spoilage of produce from a grocery store. As a bonus, you can also start a compost heap to recycle nutrients back into the soil and get your unwanted food waste out of the landfill. Composting can help keep your garden soil/produce healthy as your reduce your global footprint. The city of Orlando even provides free composters, free compost, and compost pick-up at a nominal fee to its residence.

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Other solutions include not buying in bulk as this commonly leads to food spoilage, sharing excess food with friends or neighbors and encouraging grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries etc. to donate food that would otherwise be tossed in the trash. It’s also important to point out that businesses who choose to donate their leftover foods are protected by the Good Samaritan Act to donate to the needy without liability towards the donor or recipient. Or you can check out your local food pantry to donate non-perishable food items that are not expired and that you don’t plan on eating. It’s a great feeling to know you are helping others in your community while you provide stewardship to our great planet!

Your efforts may seem small, but it’s every individual effort that adds up to making an even greater impact towards leading a more sustainable future. Or like how those at the Hive put it, “Act Locally, Think Globally.”

Thanks for Reading,
Kaila Varano (IDEAS For UCF)

For more information about Food Waste check out this TedX talk:

or this PBS News Hour Video