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Earth Month: The Rise of Food Waste in America

Did you know that 1.3 billion tons of food are not consumed globally every year?  While that number may seem staggering, did you know Americans are the leading culprit, with 40% of food harvested in Americanever being consumed?  Food waste in America has grown to be an epidemic problem and one that only continues to cause problems.  April, is officially Earth month, and is dedicated to the upkeep and importance of recycling, reusing, and sustaining our Earth for generations to come.  One area that needs to be improved on, not only during Earth month, but during all the months, is the amount of food waste in America.

You may be wondering, just why does food waste in America pose as a problem or even a problem for the world? First, having high quantities of food waste in America, equals to money going directly down the drain. In a 2012 issue paper from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) it was found that, “The average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food”.  Not only are families losing money due to food waste in America, but so is the American economy. 

According to the Scientific American, “Approximately 2.5 percent of the US energy budget is “thrown away” annually as food waste. This is equivalent to the energy contained in hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. In addition, 25 percent of all freshwater consumed annually in the US is associated with discarded food; when you add that waste up globally, it’s as much water as in Lake Erie”. 

Knowing the amount of people in America who go to bed hungry every night, just imagine the difference that could be made from not wasting food.  This number easily adds up and can be seen in another discovery from the NRDC where they found, “Just a 15 percent reduction in losses in the US food supply would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually”. 

Not only does food waste in America have direct effects on the money of everyone, but also has many negative environmental effects.  While many may think they are doing their part, they often forget their food waste.  Did you know food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in US landfills? According to the United Nations Environmental Program, “Food waste’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere per year” making it a leader in global warming and releasing harmful gases.

Making a difference, will take time from many people globally, but together we can make a difference.  There are ways to reduce food waste.  Below are some great tips to reduce food waste in America and take a step in the right direction to keep our Earth in the best condition for generations to come.

  • Buy Only What You Need- Scheduling meal ideas and then buying from a grocery list will help you to not load your grocery cart with items that you and your family will never eat.You should also plan correctly for how many portions you will need of a given meal and not fall into a “sale” trap where you find yourself buying 11 boxes of the same cereal that no one in your family really likes, simply because it was Buy One Get One. 
  • Eat What You Buy- Instead of just stocking the fridge or pantry and letting the food go to waste, actually eat it. It is that simple.  Also eat things in the order you buy them in, or before their expiration date, so you will not have to toss anything. 
  • Leftovers and Freezing- Many times there will be leftovers to meals. Instead of trashing them, eat them as leftovers.  You can also learn great tips for freezing food, pickling food, or even canning food to preserve the food or meal until a later date.  Preparing foods and freezing them until later can be great if you are on the go, have someone watching your kids, or just need a night off from cooking.
  • Just Say No to Trash- Avoid throwing things away in your trash. Made too much supper? How about seeing if you can share with a neighbor or take those extra cookies in for your coworkers.  Not only will it be a nice gesture, but you will be helping the environment and reduce food waste in America.  Have something that you can’t reuse like eggshells? Start a compost!  Composting works wonders on lawns, in flowerbeds, and in gardens!

Food waste in America is a serious problem, and one that should be recognized all year long, not just during April, Earth month.  While food waste in America is a growing problem, it can be one that is combated easily and by simply changing your daily routine.  Think of all the people that instead of going hungry, could have a fresh and healthy meal, if food waste in America did not happen. 


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