America, a new study suggests, wastes 40% of its food supply annually. Published in the Public Library of Science, the research indicates a dramatic increase over the last decades, up from 28% in 1974.
(T)he PLoS study's 40% is an estimate of waste in the entire food system. This means that all the waste that occurs between the field and processing plant, that plant and the store, the store and our homes, and our refrigerators and our mouths is included.
Researchers found that this wasted food represented an incredible cost in resources. According to their calculations, one quarter of the United States' annual consumption of freshwater and an estimated 300 million barrels of oil are used to produce food that is eventually wasted.
Wasted food is contributing to climate change too. The report notes that food left to rot in landfills contributes methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere.
Like solving our energy challenges, our challenge in reforming the food system involve eliminating lots and lots of waste, which will end up meaning improving efficiencies and thus cutting costs.
CV Notes readers know that humanity's unsustainable food production systems are causing environmental, economic and health problems such as the crisis in global land use and humanity's doubling of the global nitrogen cycle.
To see evidence that the abuse of land, water, fertilizer and toxic pesticides used to produce all this food is not necessary -- that as the article states, "we produce more than we can eat, but we eat far more than we need" -- falls into the 'friggin' silly humans!' department.
Is there a silver lining to this cloud? Actually, yes: these findings indicate that as with upgrading our energy systems, improving efficiency of both food production and food consumption are key low-hanging fruits for reducing humanity's footprint on the biosphere.
What do we do to eliminate food waste, and how do we benefit from our efforts?
- First off, we don't overbuy foods, so don't get much spoilage in our refrigerator (which saves us plenty of money -- very important in this economy).
- Second of all, we save our leftovers in tupperware and are very frugal about finishing them off (which also helps us cut our food costs).
- Third, what food waste is left from our meals goes into the compost, which becomes FREE fertilizer for the garden, which helps us grow...our own fresh, tasty, organic, ultimately local and FREE vegetables, fruit and herbs!