Photo credit: NW Extension District


According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the term sustainability has emerged because of significant concerns about the unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences of our world’s rapid growth.  Sustainability is based on the simple principle: Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Therefore, sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in harmony, fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.

WHEW!  A mouthful, to be sure.  Nevertheless, issues of sustainability are often overlooked on the individual level.

Did you know that during the United States’ (US) participation in World War I (from 1917 – 1918), the US had a US Food Administration (USFA) agency?  This agency was responsible for food distribution to the US Army overseas and the Allies’ food reserves.  This agency also organized a campaign to encourage Americans to support this effort through individual food conservation messages, media campaigns, and food education programs.

Now, 100 years later, this food conservation effort is still applicable.

Everyone can do his or her part in combating waste of all kinds.  According to the USDA, reducing consumer-level loss is an important step toward reducing food waste in the United States.  USDA estimates that almost 30 percent of the available U.S. food supply was lost from human consumption at the retail and consumer levels.

Every one of us can promote practices to strengthen our natural environment and quality of life.  Even the EPA has some suggestions for reducing personal food waste:

  1. Shop your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  1. Plan your menu before you go shopping and buy only those things on your menu.
  2. Buy only what you realistically need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
  3. Be creative! If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons and beet tops can be sautéed for a delicious side dish.
  4. Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables – especially abundant seasonal produce.
  5. At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for your next meal.
  6. At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.

Reducing food waste – a simple action of sustainability.  Let’s give it a try!  And pay homage to this 100-year-old sustainability campaign that can resonate for the next century.

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