About a year and a half ago (summer of 2013), I took a class in Writing for Science. It was a wonderful class taught by a wonderful Professor who incidentally is a journalist at the New York Times as well (Claudia Dreifus.)
One of the first assignments she asked us to work on was an Op-Ed piece with a scientific theme but for the general public. I chose to write on Food Waste in NYC and the impacts.
Since that day till today, the topic hasn’t left my side and because of it I am on my way to becoming an expert on Global Food Waste. Hopefully I will soon graduate (literally too) from being a ‘Problem Finder’ to a ‘Problem Solver’.
Food is one of the universal threads (along with water and air) that unites us all. Thus, we each have our food stories and food prints and for the most part food waste print.
How global and relevant is the issue of food waste? Take a look at this great link that lists some stunning food waste facts related to the USA.
For anyone interested in this topic, here are a few shocking statistics which will hopefully either inspire or shame (or both) you into taking some steps in your own personal food journey.
• The amount of food consumers waste in the U.S. per year would feed a person for about 50 days.
• Globally, one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost, about 1.3 billion tons.
• Counter intuitively, industrialized and developing countries actually waste about the same amount of food (half a billion tons, approximately).
• In industrialized countries, a lot of waste is at the retail and consumer level; in developing countries it’s mostly at the post harvest and processing level.
• In North America and Oceania, 50 percent of the fish and seafood initially caught is wasted.
Reference: Global Food Waste Report from FAO)/http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/74192/icode/
With the above in mind, I would like to dedicate this blog piece to the various steps I took personally in the last few months to improve my food waste foot print.
1. One of the first changes I made was to be more aware of what I bought. That included buying less fruits and vegetables (because these rot more easily) and then also displaying purchased produce in a manner that is more visible. Consumers tend to waste a lot by both buying more than they need and then not using the purchased produce. It took a while to get the hang of buying the appropriate amount than more than needed but it was worth the mind training.
2. The second change was based on a wonderful product I discovered through greenbiz.com. It’s called fenugreen and is available at most whole foods grocery stores.
Their website touts it as a product made of “sheets infused with organic spices that keep fruits & veggies fresh for 2-4x longer, naturally.” Similar products are available from amazon.com (search for Peak Fresh Re-Usable Produce Bags) and that’s what I ended up buying for less than $10.00. With this handy product, I was able to save many $$s worth of produce from going waste.
3. The third easy change I made was to get a compost bin for food that did spoil or was uneaten. Since we make juice at home and cook vegetables too, we also add produce peels and other such roughage to the compost bin. The model that I purchased cost less than $20.00 and doesn’t leave any smell and is very easy to use.
I live in New York City and was lucky enough to find a local urban farm nearby that accepted my food waste offerings every week. There are plenty of sites available online and offline as well providing information on where to take your food waste to have converted into compost.
4. The last big change wasn’t directly related to controlling my food waste but did help reduce it. It was to become a better cook. That way if anything was spoiling or needed to be cooked in a hurry, I could cook instead of toss it. For example, so many take out orders come with huge quantities of rice that almost invariably get thrown out. But by adding vegetables and trying out new rice dishes, I was able to save and reuse that food. Cooking in general is coming into the limelight and that’s a good thing. One wonderful project related to cooking from last year which was widely popular and very successful was the “Good and Cheap” cookbook created by NYU student, Leanne Brown. It is a free online recipe book and has been downloaded over 200,000 times since she posted it on her website in early June. Learn more about her and this project here.
Hopefully reading this or similar articles will inspire you to create your own recipe for tackling food waste. Good luck and eat well!