If your mom was like mine, she probably didn’t let you leave the table until you finished the food on your plate. She may have made mention of other people needing food or the cost of food. In any case, she was preaching against waste.
It’s too bad that Americans didn’t heed that advice. According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), about 40 percent of the food in the United States ends up in the trash. That waste amounts to a staggering $165 billion each year.
Food Scraps and Municipal Solid Waste
Food scraps made up just under 14 percent of the municipal solid waste in 2010, explains the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Americans throw away nearly three times as much food as they did in 1960. In 2010, over 34 million tons of food was discarded.
About half of the country’s fresh produce goes uneaten. This fact is especially troubling in light of the fact that many Americans don’t get enough of these essential food groups in their diet. The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010″ strongly urges people to get adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets.
Food Scraps and Climate Change
The waste means more than losses of foods that could feed others. It is also a drain on resources like water that go toward food that is never eaten. As the NRDC report explains, this waste makes up nearly 25 percent of the total methane emissions in the United States, along with 4 percent of the oil used. The food that ends is wasted is a significant contributor to global warming and climate change.
Whether it’s produce or meat, a great deal of energy goes into bringing the food to your table from the water used to grow it to the fuel needed to get it to market. When your mom admonished you about wastefulness, she was absolutely right. An additional 25 million people could benefit from a mere 15 percent reduction in food losses.
Some waste, of course, is unavoidable. Food goes bad and becomes unsafe to consume. However, you can change the tide with one simple lifestyle change. By watching portion sizes, you can help avoid some of the unnecessary food losses. Both you and the environment will benefit by your green choice.