The Problem of Food Waste
About 40% of food grown, processed, and transported in the United States goes uneaten and therefore, wasted rotting in landfills. A recent study says that Americans waste about a pound of food per person each day, with college campuses throwing out a total of 22 millions pounds of uneaten food each year. What’s even more tragic is the fact that we can end world hunger and still have food left over using the amount of food that is being thrown away instead.
Most food ends up being thrown away by consumers simply because we overbuy, fail to store our food correctly, turn away from fruits or vegetables that don’t look cosmetically perfect, or because we get confused by the “use by,” “best by,” or “sell by” labels. The labels that claim to predict when the product will not be consumable anymore is nothing more than the manufacturer’s best guess. Secondly, a fruit or vegetable is still edible regardless of whether it’s asymmetrical, scarred, discolored, or the wrong size. However, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown in the United States doesn’t meet the cosmetic standards of supermarkets, which means that they end up going to waste.
Food waste has also taken an environmental toll. Not only does food waste consume a lot of water and fuel, but it also is accountable for 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. When food is left rotting in landfills, they release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the air.
Things that we can do to help prevent food waste would include proper storage and refrigeration of produce, trusting smell more than the use by labels, and shopping for only what you need (smaller quantities). A more long-term solution would be our transition to eating less meat. Meat requires a lot of water to produce, which will ultimately waste a lot of water.
Unfortunately, the issue of food waste isn’t a problem that the consumer alone can solve. It requires the conjoined effort of consumers, farmers, government, and businesses.
Southwestern helps to reduce the amount of food waste by having servers server portions, not having trays, and composting. The issue with self-serving is similar to overbuying. People tend to put more on their plate than they can eat, which ends up with their leftovers going in the trash. Having servers helps to control your portions. Going trayless also helps to reduce the amount of food waste since the students are only able to carry enough food that fits in their two hands. Composting any compostable products at the end of the day also helps to reduce the amount of food waste being produced, however, not everything in the cafeteria is compostable. The composting is in the process of getting back up and running with the organization, SEAK (Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge), taking the compost to the Earth Tub.
The issue of food waste deserves more focus. With all of the big picture environmental issues going on concurrently, we must educate ourselves on the many ways to aid the environment and not toss them aside.
For more ways that you can reduce your food waste footprint, please visit Save the Food.
You can help reduce the amount of ugly food going to waste and save money by buying your fruits and vegetables from Imperfect Produce.