Two-thirds of American household waste is due to food spoilage

Two-thirds of American household waste is due to food spoilage

Sustainability – 1.   The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed.  2. Environmental Science: The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting it.

This Earth Day, think about the dictionary definitions of sustainability, especially as they relate to consumer choices.  Take food, for instance.  As a nation, not only are we becoming super-sized but so is our food-related waste.  In August 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that Americans are throwing away 40 percent of their food supply in the U.S. every year.  The reasons for this problem are multifaceted.  Nevertheless, consumers are a major contributor to the problem.  Key findings include:

  • The average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food (I’ve started to tally up my own family waste and believe me, it adds up!  Leftovers not eaten in time, half a can of evaporated milk, brown lettuce, wilted carrots, yellowing broccoli, etc…)
  • In average American households, two-thirds of household waste is due to food spoilage
    • 40 percent of fresh fish
    • 23 percent of eggs
    • 20 percent of milk
    • Citrus fruits and cherries top the list for fruits, and sweet potatoes, onions, and greens are commonly wasted vegetables
  • Much of household waste is due to over purchasing, food spoilage, and plate waste.
  • One-third is caused by people cooking or serving too much  (Package size, serving size, and dishware size all influence how much each of us eats).

Wasted food also translates into wasted natural resources because of the energy, water, and farmland necessary to grow, transport, and store food.  Additionally, food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills.

Every one of us can be a facet in solving this increasing problem.  Each person can waste less food by:

  •  shopping wisely
  •  knowing when/how food goes bad
  •  eating produce that is perfectly edible even if it’s less cosmetically attractive (much of this is thrown out)
  •  cooking only the amount of food you can reasonably eat
  •  eating leftovers (consider them a bonus for lunch tomorrow)

Norman Vincent Peale says, Change your thoughts and you change your world.  Can the same thinking apply to our behavior?  If each and every one of us made a small behavior change, it could help change the world.

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Heidi Copeland
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