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Food Waste is Wasting Money...and Hurting Our Environment

We’ve all done it - Bought something from the grocery store that we just couldn’t eat before it went bad or expired. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. But it is. Wasting food isn’t just a hit to our wallet, it’s a hit to our environment and we need to take it more seriously. According to a Penn State study, Americans, on average, waste 31.9% of the food we buy. 21% of what makes up a landfill is the food we waste. And no, food doesn’t decompose the way you think it will in a landfill. They estimate we’re wasting about $1,866 per household, per year. That’s a major amount of money and waste.

When food is grown, it’s using valuable resources like land, water, and minerals in our soil. Harvesting using automated farming tools then emits greenhouse gases. And this is all before the food is transported, processed, and packaged. In fact, 21% of our freshwater (which only makes up 3% of all water on our planet) is used to produce food that will then be discarded. An interesting line from a 2020 BBC article may put food waste's carbon footprint in perspective for you. The article states, “It has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.” Have you ever thought about your food being a greenhouse gas producer? 68% of emissions come from the production of food. 68 percent! What are the emissions made of? It’s mostly a mix of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. And the problem of food waste starts long before you ever hit the grocery store. An estimated six billion pounds of fruit and vegetables are thrown away every year because they are deemed too ugly or imperfect for the consumer to purchase. This can be because produce isn’t quite the right size, a little misshapen, has a blemish, or for a variety of other reasons – none of which have to do with the flavor or viability of the piece of produce. Companies like Imperfect Foods are out to fix this problem in our food system by providing produce along with other food items to consumers at discounted costs. They have helped save 139 million pounds of imperfect food from being dumped, meaning the resources used to produce them were not squandered. Other companies like Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest are also taking on food waste!

But what can we do in our own homes?

1. Buy only what you can eat before it goes bad or expires. 2. Learn to can items you can’t eat right away. (Learn more: 3. Learn how to store different foods properly to lengthen their shelf life. (Learn more: 4. Learn how to freeze foods for use later. (Learn more: 5. Utilize scraps in soups and stews. (Learn more: 6. When you can’t avoid disposing of food, compost it! This will help produce rich nutrients for your soil and garden. If you don’t have a garden, share the compost with someone who does, they will really appreciate it. (Article: How to Start Composting) 7. Buy produce that’s less than perfect that others may pass over, or sign up with companies like Imperfect Foods, Misfits or Hungry Harvest.



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