Environmental Choices: Do not Feed the Fire

Posted on 20 February 2013 by admin

The cost of uneaten and thrown out food.

By: Tegan Mazurek
-Staff Photographer-

Waste not, want not is not only an adage with sound advice, but it is an adage that could save this country. The average American spends about $151 on food each week, yet every year $165 billion of food is wasted. Despite the increasing strain on the American budget, food is still being constantly tossed into landfills. Food prices have been rising since the 1950s and food waste has been on the rise since the 1970s. This waste not only puts a strain on the American wallet, but our natural resources as well.

Uneaten food wastes water, energy, land, soil quality as well as damaging ecosystems with excess use of chemicals. The precious resources used in the process of creating the things we eat go down the drain. According to Dana Gunders of the Natural Resource Defense Council about 10 percent of the U.S. energy budget, 50 percent of U.S. land and a whopping 80 percent of freshwater is used in our food system. All of that effort only to leave about 40 percent of the food created in the garbage. There is absolutely no breathing room for squandering the resources available without serious consequences that are already starting to appear.

But change starts with the individual consumer. There are many changes the consumer can make to conserve the nation’s resources. Many people throw out their food because it is labeled expired, appears inedible or has become stale. The expiration date of many food products allows a great deal of breathing room, said Gunders, and refers to peak quality. Much of the food that has reached that date has not gone bad. It is a good idea for people to know when food expires instead of constantly referring to the date printed.

For food that has gone bad or for scraps of food, composting is a simple way to put the food waste to good use. The nutrients from the food are put back into the soil and recycled. Some cities offer curbside recycling, which not only benefits the environment but the saves the city money. The composted food can be utilized as energy to produce electricity and freeing resources, which would save money and create jobs .

Consumers can also plan more meals instead of going to the store for one huge gathering of random food. Not only can this benefit health, but also families eat the food they buy instead of letting it go to waste. As a family project, a garden can be beneficial to the whole community. You can save money on vegetables and fruit, reduce waste through composting and recycling rainwater and possibly turn a profit on the produce you grow.

While the waste of our food and resources is unbelievably unjustifiable, the collective small changes in consumer habits would protect livelihoods and lifestyles for generations.


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