Throwing out leftovers is not just wasting food. Experts say it destroys the planet. But even though the problem is huge, fixing it can be simple.
The United States is a global leader on a number of issues, but sadly, food waste is one of them.
“The food wasted from the United States is equivalent to how much greenhouse gas 37 million cars make,” said Saloni Shah, a food and agriculture analyst at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland.
Each year, Americans waste 30 to 40% of their food supply. The amount of food wasted could fill 730 soccer fields, according to Shah.
“If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after the US and China,” said Shah.
Shah explained that most of the food is wasted at home, but is also wasted on farms, in grocery stores and in restaurants.
No matter where it happens, Shah says it ends up in landfills and rot.
The rotting food sends methane gas into the air. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and much worse for global warming and the environment.
“Food waste is very bad for the climate and also a huge waste of water,” said Shah.
Food waste is not just about food. All the resources used to grow and produce it were also wasted.
“If you throw an apple, it’s like pouring 25 gallons of water down the drain,” Shah said. “And the average American does this 17 times a year.”
A Bay Area grocery delivery company called Imperfect Foods sells food to customers that grocery stores don’t want because it doesn’t look pretty or the packaging isn’t right.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but grocery stores have very rigid aesthetic or beauty standards for what they will buy and what they won’t,” said Reilly Brock, associate creative director at Imperfect Foods.
This can be an asymmetrical carrot or a lemon that is a few millimeters too large or too small.
“There’s nothing wrong with the food,” said Brock. “It looks a little different. Ironically, anyone who owns a garden or says has lemon trees growing, they will recognize our food because our food looks like what you might find at a farmers market or market in your own backyard garden.”
Companies can ship to about 80% of the US population. People can check if it is offered in their area by visiting the company website.
Meanwhile, here are some other solutions to the problem of food waste recommended by the Breakthrough Institute:
- Make a grocery list and stick to it so you don’t buy more than you’re going to eat
- Store one portion in your refrigerator for food that will spoil faster so you will eat it first
- Freeze food to make it last longer
- Compost at home
Making compost at home is like throwing more than 11,000 cars off the road by simply putting food scraps in the trash, not dumping the trash or in the trash.