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The Ugly Truth About Food Waste

October 11, 2010

A new study came out last week that got quite a bit of press. According to Amanda Cuellar and Michael Webber at UT-Austin, Americans spend approximately 2% of our annual energy consumption on wasted food (energy is used to grow/produce/transport the food, which then ends up

(c) MMD 2010

in the garbage)! This was based on a conservative estimate that we waste a whopping 27% of our edible food. Seems like this would be a no-brain way to reduce our energy consumption by quite a bit (2% might not seem like a lot, but is quite meaningful). Of course, the situation is even worse than it appears, as food that rots in landfills gives off methane gas, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide (again, this highlights the need for us to compost all of our kitchen scraps).

This is something that I personally struggle with. I don’t have a knack for planning meals or organizing my food shopping in any particular fashion, but it’s something that I’m working on. My personal heros are the folks behind the blog: “30 A Week”, a Brooklyn-based couple who have committed to eating on $30 a week or less. If you browse through their blog, you can see that this does not prevent them from eating a wide variety of yummy-sounding vegetarian meals — they’re just more creative about it and give it more thought than I usually do. And I’m willing to bet that they throw very little food into the garbage at the end of every week!

Finally, while doing some reading for this post, I came across another blog, Wasted Food, run by Jonathan Bloom. In fact, he just wrote a book on the subject, which I ordered for my Kindle. Stay tuned for a review!

And now I’m off to eat left-overs from last night’s dinner 🙂

Cuellar, Amanda D., and Webber, Michael E. 2010. Wasted food, wasted energy: The embedded energy in food waste in the United States. Environmental Science and Technology 44(16): 6464-6369

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