Earth Day 2018 Special: Part 3 – Food & Waste
Let’s face it; we all waste food. But hopefully it’s something we don’t do too casually or without thought. There are a lot of repercussions when food is not fully utilized, in addition to, as our president likes to say, being “just sad.” Food waste is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases on Earth, as well as a major cause of squandered resources. There are numerous reasons why up to 40 percent of all food is wasted each year, but here are a few causes that can be immediately addressed and considered when we consume:
You may have heard by now of the “ugly food movement” a movement to encourage less disposal of produce that may not meet the aesthetic standards of grocers and shoppers. The problem here is that: a) there is absolutely nothing wrong with oddly shaped produce (things grow funky in nature), and b) whenever an item is disposed of, the water, nutrients, labor and other resources that went in to that item are also disposed of. Sadly, its often hard to find a market for less-than-perfect produce, and therefore it frequently ends up as landfill fodder. Thankfully, businesses and organizations like Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest are working to increase awareness and marketability of ugly food, mitigating lost resources due to over-picky retailers and consumers, making our food system more efficient and leaving less hungry stomachs.
Transporting fruits and vegetables is always risky (which is why a lot of it is frozen, picked before maturity, or sprayed with preservatives). A large part of this risk is due to spoilage or mishandling. Especially in developing countries where infrastructure is far less than ideal, entire shipments may be delayed, spoiled, or contaminated, resulting in a partial or total loss of goods. The same magnitudes of losses can be a result of mishandling. If proper shipping equipment or trained professionals are not utilized, food can be inedible by the time it reaches its resale destination. This is a huge problem, as not only is food (and the precious resources contained therein) wasted, but also because it negatively affects producers pockets when they lose a direct source of income.
Locally grown food has much lower rates of pre-purchase waste due to the simple fact that local produce travels less. This eliminates a lot of the risk of spoilage due to transportation. Food that travels fewer miles is also fresher, making it more nutritious and far less likely to be sprayed with preservatives or frozen.
This is the classic all-you-can-eat buffet dilemma: do you grab more food because you can? Or do you wait until you’ve finished your plate to go grab seconds? This problem is also known as overzealous eyes, when someone wants to see more food on their plate than they can necessarily eat. This leads to that terrible sound of food going into the garbage. This problem is simple to solve; don’t make or serve more than you know you can eat. A big part of this is appreciation for food and all that goes in to making it. Chances are, if you’ve spent your time nurturing a plant, you’re a lot less likely to waste it. That’s why we try to make connecting to, loving, and caring for your food that much easier.
Underutilization, or not making the most of what one has available to them, is another cause of food waste. This can result simply from not making good use of all the foodstuffs that one owns. We’ve all had some veggies or other food product just slip our mind and then before we know it, there’s a rotten vegetable or moldy bread on our hands. Where does it usually go? In the trash. Well, not only is that money thrown in the trash, but if you’re like us here at Urban Leaf, a little bit of dignity went with it. This source of food waste is purely the product of habit, and can be easily rectified. One way to do this is to grow your own food. Whether in a garden or in an indoor hydroponic system, growing one’s own food grants not only greater appreciation of the care and labor needed to produce food, but also instills a respect for freshness and quality ingredients. Through personal experience and anecdotal evidence, it seems pretty fair to say that when you grow your own food, you’re a lot less likely to waste it. More so, when you can eat your food straight off the plant, there’s almost no risk of it spoiling. That’s why at Urban Leaf we try to make it as easy and accessible for everyone to grow their own food at home.
Here’s a few other useful links we came across while putting this blog together: