I propose a challenge to you. For two weeks, track how much food ends up in the trash for you or your household. Was the number higher or lower than expected?
I’m guilty of it too. Mostly because I sometimes can’t eat vegetables or fruit quickly enough before they go rotten. (Damn strawberries appeared fine yesterday!)
Once in a while my leftovers look like they were left-under-a-car-and-rolled-over so my appetite is just not there. Oh, and not eating the entire jar of mayonnaise or ketchup in time before the expiration date? Guilty as charged.
But for the most part, I do my absolute best to eat everything I buy from the grocery store. It’s a pride and cost issue for me. There are some alarming statistics around just how expensive it is to waste food and how damaging it is to our environment.
- Home food waste is worth $2,275 per year to the average US family.
- The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tons.
- 1 in 6 Americans face hunger and 49 million struggle to put food on the table.
- All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
- An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.
- 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.
If you assume the average family household is four people and divide $2,275 by four, then that’s about $569 for someone single like me. If I had $569 extra per year I would probably put it towards investing, but there’s a whole host of things that wasted money could do. Car payment, education, vacation, you name it!
We have to stop continuing to waste our money and at the same time throw a life-saving resource away.
Luckily, there is good news!
On September 16, 2015, in alignment with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA announced the first ever domestic goal to reduce food loss and waste by half by the year 2030.
By taking action, the United States can help feed the hungry, save money for families and businesses, and protect the environment.
Led by USDA and EPA, the federal government is seeking to work with communities, organizations, and businesses along with our partners in state, tribal, and local government to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent over the next 15 years.
And there are ways that you can get involved!
The EPA has a whole list of actions individuals can take to put more money in their pockets and better the environment, such as:
- Making a list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time and eat healthier food. If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all.
- Keep a running list of meals and their ingredients that your household already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose, shop for and prepare meals. And take it another step further. Find out which store has the cheapest price for your staple items. If your family loves pasta and you eat a lot of it, find out which store sells it the cheapest.
- Include quantities on your shopping list noting how many meals you’ll make with each item to avoid overbuying. For example: salad greens – enough for two lunches.
- Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have, make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.
- Find out how to store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer inside or outside your refrigerator.
- If you like to eat fruit at room temperature, but it should be stored in the refrigerator for maximum freshness, take what you’ll eat for the day out of the refrigerator in the morning.
Now let’s take it a step further and spread our efforts outside of our home.
I came across something very cool, an app for food sharing! (Please note, I am not getting paid for this endorsement, I just genuinely think it’s a fantastic idea).
Together We Money is all about community and teamwork so this resource is perfect. It’s called OLIO and it’s a free app that connects neighbors with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, instead of thrown away. It could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away.
OLIO can also be used for non-food household items too.
All you have to do is add a photo, description, and when and where the item is available for pick-up.
If you want to find an item nearby just browse the listings, make a request, and arrange a pick-up via private messaging. Think of it as Tinder for leftovers.
How great is that?! In my apartment building my neighbor, Janet, caught me in the hallway and gave me a dozen eggs she wasn’t going to eat. And rarely people will put unused food in the trash room (we have a shelf available) for others to take. I’ve given away a couple of cans of food and unopened salad dressing I knew I didn’t want.
This app is a step further that is more organized and reaches more of the community.
“When we launched in the US, someone posted a lemon tart in Seattle within a few hours and 10 minutes later, two people had requested it. There were only six users in Seattle,” said co-founder Saasha Celestial-One.”
“It just shows that you only need six people to start a food-sharing community. We hadn’t advertised or even told anyone in Seattle; it just happened organically.”
OLILO allows you to meet your neighbors, save cash, and better the environment.