You Are What You Waste

I stumbled on this blog post in my ramblings across the world wide web and the headline – “US wastes 27% of food available for consumption” – caught my attention. I thought it might catch yours too.

When I was in college one of the big activities of the Environmental Action student group was a multi-year “Waste-watch” in the campus dining halls. We essentially stood by the trash bins and as students came up to toss their left overs we had them scrape the food waste in one bin and the paper/other waste in another. At the end of the night we would weigh the food waste and post it up in the dining hall – challenging students to do better.

It was at once a public education campaign and a pro-compost campaign, because while we were having students separate their food waste, at the end of the night it all ended up in the same dumpster. At that time my campus did not compost in any way. Now, according to their sustainability report card, St. Lawrence University “Dining services will participate in the university-wide recycling and composting programs to be implemented by 2008.” It only took eight years. However I was glad to see also that “Dining services makes purchases from 26 local vendors, including maple syrup, honey, milk,
eggs, bison burgers, pastries, bagels, sushi, goat cheese, and seasonal produce. Fair-trade coffee
and a handful of organic options are available.”

But composting is an afterthought, a reaction. We need to start planning ahead. We need to stop being super sized and start eating sensibly. Our landfills runeth over, while people starve, and we toss out more than a quarter of the nation’s edible food.

Here is the original piece, via Boing Boing:

You’d never know it if you saw what was ending up in your landfill. As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study — and it happens at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. It works out to about a pound of food every day for every American.

Grocery stores discard products because of spoilage or minor cosmetic blemishes. Restaurants throw away what they don’t use. And consumers toss out everything from bananas that have turned brown to last week’s Chinese leftovers. In 1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten. Fresh produce, milk, grain products and sweeteners made up two-thirds of the waste. An update is under way.

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