Pass the Olives

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80 Billion Pounds of Wasted Food

A note that says by reading this text instead of viewing a photo, you .are saving .2 grams of carbon emissions.

Over Buying Food Means Wasted Food

The latest news, after the war in Ukraine, is the 80 billion pounds of wasted food that Americans produce every year.

  • 22% of the space in our municipal landfills is used to bury wasted food.
  • 37 million cars would be necessary to produce the carbon emissions produced to grow wasted food.
  • 242 pounds of food is wasted by or on behalf of each American citizen.
  • 80% of Americans discard food because the label erroneously says it is no longer safe to eat.

We know as Americans that we are quite adept at having too many things. And blaming the market for seducing us into buying more things than we will ever use. With food, we compound the problem by carrying it home to eventually throw into the compost pile or to be trucked to a landfill. Earth-to-Safeway-to-Kitchen-to-Earth is not exactly what the Cradle-to-Cradle crowd means by C2C.

What we do with the food we buy is like producing the most expensive, fuel-efficient, glamorous cars, shipping them off to people who allow them to sit visibly in a parking space for a month, and then throwing them into the Grand Canyon or the ocean.

The Effects of Wasted Food

The numbers above are from the Visual Capitalist. Having read similar statistics elsewhere many times, I’m assuming that the numbers are as correct as such numbers need to be. Once things get up into the billions it’s hard to argue with the calculations. Whether the true number is $40B or $60B, doesn’t really matter. The impact on one hungry person or a million hungry persons will be the same. Starvation.

The United States throws away more food than any other country in the world. This not only contributes to world hunger but it contributes to our carbon footprint and the depletion of our soil and water. The largest percentage of wasted food is vegetables and most of it is grown in California where more than half of the water is used for irrigating water-hungry food crops.

When food becomes a commodity only corporations profit because only they can eat money. Everything else suffers—the soil, the air, the water, the people.

Stop Over Buying Food

43% of food waste occurs in individual households; 40% in restaurants, grocery stores, and foodservice companies. Very little is said to be wasted by manufacturers, 2%. But that 2% doesn’t seem to include the food that 80% of Americans wasted because the manufacturer said it should be discarded after a certain date. False identification of wasted food promotes more food buying.

As individuals, we may not be able to stop the bombs in Ukraine but each of us can stop wasting food. The waste per person annually equals close to 8,000 healthy Brussel sprouts, 1,000 tomatoes, or 250 heads of lettuce. We all know what wasted vegetables look like.

When you think about buying that broccoli and eggplant, think about the Buy Nothing Project. Are you going to use it?

The Enormous Scale of America’s Food Waste

To find a local Buy Nothing group search “Buy Nothing” on Facebook. Rotten food can’t be shared as part of the gift economy, but most of us know that we are not going to be eating something before it is actually inedible.

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