A couple weeks ago, while watching an old episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, I was happy to see a discussion about the problem of food waste in America. Food waste is a topic that often gets overlooked in the media, yet it’s something that’s extremely connected to the health (or rather sickness) of our environment.
According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40% of all food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten. This report also states that Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food every year. As John Oliver pointed out during his show, this is equivalent to every person throwing away about 20 lbs. of food every month, and this is enough food to fill 730 football stadiums each year. Yet, according to a report by the USDA, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. live in food-insecure families in 2013.
Besides the unethical fact that millions of people around the world are literally starving while millions more are throwing away food as if its trash, wasting food is also harming our environment. Throwing away food is essentially wasting the natural resources that went into producing and transporting it. Along with this, when food is tossed in the trash, it ends up in a landfill, which only causes even more problems. In a landfill, food decomposes without air, and this anaerobic environment creates one of the most problematic greenhouse gases known as methane.
Not only individuals, but grocery stores, food chains, and restaurants are all contributing to the problem of food waste. Many places claim they don’t donate food because of potential “lawsuits” that may occur if someone became sick from eating it. However, the Good Samaritan Act would protect food donors from such lawsuits. It turns out that throwing away food is actually cheaper for businesses than donating it, because of the expenses involved in transporting and packaging food. While this would make it seem obvious for food-insecure families to browse through the dumpsters of grocery stores and restaurants, however, such “dumpster diving” is illegal.
Another misconception made by people and companies is the idea that the “sell by” date has something to do with safety. In reality, “sell by” dates have nothing to do with safety; instead, they are created by manufacturers as a guess of when the food is the most fresh, and these dates aren’t even required by the federal government.
Something as superficial as the appearance of food is also part of the problem of food waste. Sellers don’t sell foods that don’t meet the standards for aesthetic appearance, which leaves foods to rot merely for the way they look.
So what can we do? Demand ugly fruit?
I am a strong believer that a simple life is a happy life, and that each individual should try their best to tread lightly on this earth. Now, more than ever, the earth needs a break. Here are ways you can STOP WASTING and START EATING. Our earth, and your wallet, will thank you:
- Stop buying more than you’ll eat. This one is obvious, but true. C’mon people, do you really need 10lbs of carrots just because they’re on sale? Buying in bulk doesn’t save you any money when you end up throwing half the bulk away.
- When your veggies start to go bad, make a soup or a stir-fry. Not only does this prevent you from wasting food and money, it gives you a really healthy, delicious meal. You can find recipes on my Instagram, that_vegan_hippie, or on other food blogs, websites, Pinterests, etc.
- When your fruits start to go bad, bake with them! Berries are good for adding into pancake mixes or breakfast muffins. Browning bananas are great for banana bread. What I always like to do is look at which fruits need to be eaten ASAP and then ask Google for vegan recipes that involve those fruits. You can do this with any food!
- Have a big dinner with friends or family. Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, and if you realize that you have a bunch of food you won’t be able to eat by yourself—invite people over!
- Find out which places need food donations, and then donate your excess. Knowing you fed someone will make you feel good, and practicing compassion for others is what (I believe) we were put on this earth to do.
Any other ideas? Please share them in the comments!
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to watch the episode, click below: