Many of us are lucky to live in a country where good, fresh food is available for sale at every store. And we all should be grateful for that. But, we also waste a lot of good food in America, every single day.
How much food is wasted every day?
30-40% of all edible food in the United States gets thrown away. That’s like buying 10 bags of groceries and throwing three or four bags away on your way out of the store!
• That’s a pound of food a person a day.
• That’s more than 30 million tons.
• That’s the weight of 100 Empire State Buildings.
• That’s enough to fill a college stadium.
• That’s enough to feed 190 million people.
Meanwhile, there are people who don’t have enough to eat.
One in 10 US households didn’t have enough food last year. So, while 14 million families are hungry, more than 30 million tons of food go to the dump. And, wasting food is bad for our environment, too. Water is needed to grow our food. Farmers use about 25% of all of America’s freshwater to produce food that nobody eats. Energy is needed to transport our food by truck and train, which means more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. Landfills contain more discarded food than any other single item. And landfills account for one-third of all US methane gas emissions. If we stopped wasting food that could be eaten it would help the planet in the same way as taking one in every five cars off the road or saving 17 million tons of carbon dioxide.
So what do we do?
It is our responsibility to help make this world a better place. We only have one Earth to live on and we must all work together and take care of it. Not wasting food is an important way of respecting our earth, our community, our fellow human beings, our home and each other. Unfortunately, we can’t send our uneaten food to those who are hungry. But we CAN try not to waste food.
Start by thinking about it.
Take a minute to think about the food you throw away each day. Have a look in your trash can at home or in the cafeteria at school.
• Do you usually eat all of your lunch? If not, what are the reasons why?
• When you buy lunch at school, why do you think you have to take
• Do you leave food on your plate at home that ends up being thrown away?
• What are friends and family throwing away and how could you reduce waste?
• Set a goal for your family or your classmates and monitor the results.
• Pack your own lunch and take only the items you will eat.
• Eat your whole lunch. Don’t throw away your apple!
• If there’s something you don’t want from the cafeteria, ask the lunch attendant not to put it on your tray.
• Don’t take more than you can eat.
• Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach.
• At home, take less, to begin with and if it’s possible, go back for more. Once it’s on your plate, it’s harder to put back and often ends up being thrown away.
• Spread the word about food waste to your friends.
The good thing about this food waste problem is that there is a simple solution called composting.
What is composting?
Composting is the natural process of decomposition/recycling organic materials into rich soil. These organic scraps (vegetable peels, fruit waste, plant clippings, and grass cuttings) turn into a material called compost. The compost is rich in nutrients and wonderful for house plants, gardens, and other outdoor plants and trees. Compost also reduces waste in landfills, reduces the need for fertilizers and helps control soil erosion.
How does it happen?
Composting happens naturally almost everywhere. In forests, plants die and leaves fall from trees and form a mulch-like layer that protects the soil. Over time, the leaves and plants decay and decompose. These organic materials form a rich, dark, crumbly sort of soil called compost. The nutrients are returned to the soil, to feed trees, grass, and other plants. This is nature’s way of recycling!
During the composting process, tiny living microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa) break down the organic items to produce the compost. Worms and pill bugs also help change organic waste into compost.
How do you make compost?
This natural process can be replicated through the use of composting bins that can be placed in your own backyard.
What can be composted?
Some things can be composted and some cannot. Good composting items include eggshells, paper egg cartons, topsoil, nutshells, paper, wood chips, fruits and veggies, hair, pet hair, coffee grounds, cardboard, grass clippings, pine needles, and dryer lint.
Non-compostable items include fats, oils, wax, meats, dairy, cat or dog poop, metals, and plastics.
By Karen Rice