Day 53: Don’t throw away food

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Gardens in Mali. Source: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Not throwing away food is another simple lesson that is often disregarded. Unfortunately, we frequently take our food for granted, to the point where we’re even throwing it away. But that wasn’t always the case, and it’s another case where looking at the past can help us determine how we should act in the future. Also, like many eco-actions, not throwing food away not only is good for the environment, but it’s socially sustainable.

We are lucky to be living in a time where food is abundant and affordable – or at least, it should be. Here in the United States  1 out of 6 people face hunger. I believe that – I think almost all of us remember a time when things got a little tight and we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from. More serious than facing hunger is malnourishment – about 11% of the world population is undernourished. That means that 11% of the people around the world starve  to the point that they’re not getting enough nutritions. Try to picture that when you’re in line at the grocery market with ten people – if that were a representation of the world population, that means that one person in line is starving and can barely feed herself or her family.

Going back to affording food – most of us in the US can afford it. Some of us have gotten so used to the concept of having food around, and live in communities where the words “food” and “scarcity” don’t go together, that we don’t think much of it when we throw it away. Right?

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Dump in Mexico. Source: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Throwing food away harms the world. It means that a portion of the world’s food was diverted from being “food” into being “trash”. Just think – the food could be saved for a later time or donated to someone in need. Its purpose shouldn’t ever be something other than what it was destined for – nourishing our bodies. It doesn’t mean “trash” just because you don’t want it anymore. Your trash could stop someone else’s hunger.

If you argue that you don’t know any hungry people, then think about what could happen if you saved the food you were about to throw away to eat it at a later time. That means you would have to buy less whenever you went grocery shopping, right? A little less being bought at the supermarket means a little more for the supermarket, which might donate their leftover produce at the end of the day, like these ones in France.  So essentially, your action of saving food could mean giving someone else food at the end of the day.

And, on top of it, throwing food away harms the environment! That means more packaging and food prep went to waste, all that water that went into preparing it got polluted for nothing, and all the carbon dioxide transporting that food went to nothing. It’s not just about creating trash – it’s about what went into the trash.

So how can you avoid situations that compel you to throw food away?

  1. Serve yourself a little less than what you think you’re going to eat. If you’re like me, your eyes are “hungrier” than your stomach. Serving yourself less means that you won’t overdo yourself. Besides, you can probably get seconds if you’re hungry after you’ve finished.
  2. Eat leftovers. If there’s something left in your plate, save it for later. If you’re at a restaurant, ask for a doggy bag. Don’t let it go to waste – eat it as soon as you have the opportunity.
  3. Don’t get picky about eating yesterday’s leftovers. If you cooked a big batch of pasta and have pasta for the entire week, don’t throw it away. Be creative about using your leftovers – you can use a different sauce every day, mix veggies in with it, or freeze your leftovers for a much later use!
  4. If you have leftovers from a big event, ask people to take some home with them. You can’t eat all that cake and cookies, can you? 😉
  5. Don’t let produce get bad – don’t buy too much fresh produce at the supermarket, and remember what you bought so you use it before it goes bad.
  6. Be smart about using products before their expiration date.
  7. Keeping an organized refrigerator helps the above.

Got any more tips? I’d love to hear them! Thanks everyone for embracing going green as we embark the mission of “saving the world” together!

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