Opening my daily Treehugger news email just now, I noticed that headline: ‘Dinner in the Dumpster’. Oh, I thought, how fun! An article about freeganism! In fact, the article at hand wasn’t one about the people who dive headfirst into dumpsters to live on our nation’s (tasty, fresh, and free) grocery store garbage, but rather one about the sheer amount of food we all waste per year. Perfectly good food we throw away. Unopened. Unexpired. Untouched.
Some of the numbers Treehugger serves up:
10% of food purchased in restaurants never makes it to the table before getting tossed.
34% of methane produced in the US comes from organic food waste in landfills.
14% of food bought by US households gets chucked, causing $43 billion in waste per year nationally.
Having just helped clean out – literally, tonight – two years’ worth of food stock accumulation in a three-person pantry/refrigerator before moving to a new apartment, I guess I can believe it. My two roommates and I must have chucked at least two large garbage bags full of perfectly good food before the day was out. Some items had expired, and some were casualties of the kind that just can’t always be avoided during moves (you’d be worried if I could time things so that I used the very last slice of bread on the morning of my move day, wouldn’t you?). But many were items we just never got around to using, or even opening. Two-year-old unopened Teriyaki sauce? Down the drain. An apple that's been lost in the back left corner of the bottom shelf for a month or so? Clunk.
As I settle into my new place, I’m setting a new goal for food purchase conduct. I’ll try to buy for the short term – an item isn’t allowed in my cart unless I really know I’ll cook and use it up in the next week or two. Short term grocery shopping. Maybe it’ll nudge me towards doing more of my shopping at the farmers’ market.