According to the New York Times, Americans waste 1.3 billion tons of food every year— this equates to approximately one-third of the total food grown in the United States (Sengupta, 2017). Food waste is an issue that we all contribute to, including farmers, retailers, and yes, even consumers. Before crops even make their way to the grocery store, farmers examine them to ensure that only the most aesthetically pleasing produce make it to the stores. Next, retailers discard products before their “best by” date, to prevent customers from purchasing items that are not considered fresh anymore. Lastly, consumers waste food when tossing expired goods into the garbage. While throwing away a few untouched products may not seem like a big deal, food that sits in the landfill can become detrimental to our planet.
As expired food accumulates in the landfill, it begins to emit methane and carbon dioxide which contribute to global warming. According to a recent article by Jim West, methane is 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide— this increased emission in the air can prove to accelerate the effects of global warming. Currently, landfills produce 12% of the world’s methane emissions, which will continue to increase unless we change our consumption habits (West, n.d.).
While global warming is a prevalent issue, the effects of food waste don’t stop there. When food decomposes, it creates leachate— a brown sludge. Leachate occurs as clean water comes into contact with rotting food in the landfill. As the water permeates through the trash, it becomes contaminated. The unsanitary water enters the Earth’s surface, thus infiltrating our source of clean drinking water. As wasted food continues to accumulate, getting rid of the waste becomes significantly more challenging to solve— thereby depleting the supply of clean drinking water.
Ok, this predicament may seem bleak, but there is still hope if we act now. Here it is— Buy Less! Before you leave your house, take an inventory of the food you have left in your refrigerator and pantry. Once you determine what you still have left to work with, then make a list of what you need. When you get to the grocery store, be sure to only buy the items on your list— don’t deviate. Try shopping a few times a week, therefore ensuring you purchase enough food for three days at a time. After the first few trips to the market, you will be able to gauge how much you need to purchase in order to produce less food waste. Trust us when we tell you, buying less will save you money!
Did you know that one out of eight Americans is food-insecure (Food Waste, n.d)? Rather than tossing food into a landfill, we should be giving it to these individuals who do not have dependable access to nutritious food. By donating to those in need, you can keep unnecessary waste out of the landfill; thus, decreasing the effects of global warming. Donations of uneaten goods to local food banks and shelters can minimize the impact of food waste.
(n.d.) Food Waste. NRDC. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/issues/food-waste
Sengupta, Somini. (2017). How Much Food Do We Waste? Probably More Than You Think. New York Times, volume number. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/climate/food-waste-emissions.html
West, Jim (n.d.). Buildings And Cities Landfill Methane. Drawdown. Retrieved from https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/buildings-and-cities/landfill-methane
Goldberg, Eleanor. (2016). Restaurants Officially Have No Excuse Not To Donate Leftover Food. Huffpost. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/restaurants-that-dont-donate-because-of-liability-are-just-making-excuses-experts-say_n_577d6f92e4b0344d514dd20f