An astonishing 1.3 billion tons of food, totaling nearly $1 trillion at retail prices, is wasted annually worldwide, either because it is spoiled in transit or thrown out by consumers. This global issue is not only hurting our bank accounts, but also costing us precious natural resources. So, what can be done?

Non-Trivial Trivia

How much of the U.S. energy budget is used to get food from farms to tables nationwide?

  • 10 percent, equaling almost $3 billion in 2014, was spent on producing, harvesting, transporting, and packaging our food.

How much U.S. land and fresh water is used for providing food to consumers?

How much has food waste increased over the last 40 years?

What is the cost of our wasted food as a country?

  • More than a third of all food produced goes uneaten, as approximately 20 percent is spoiled or ruined and 10 percent is thrown away, costing an estimated $165 billion per year.

The numbers are pretty staggering, aren’t they? And that’s just a few facts regarding short term effects, but what about long-term consequences?

Back to the Future

Much of our wasted food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for a considerable portion of methane emissions that contribute to global warming. Worldwide, the energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of wasted food generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas responsible for raising Earth’s temperature. In fact, if food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report ‘Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources’.

As a call to action, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stated, “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day.” So, what can be done to curb the amount of food wasted?

Take ‘Initiative’

Reduction of food waste as a movement has gained speed, and as such there is now demand for food waste solutions, from consumers and corporations alike. Initiatives aimed at making it easier to avoid waste are growing in number, and in application.

Take for example CrobMobster, which enables communities in-need and local farmers, producers, and food purveyors with surpluss to connect within a food gleaning and supply-sharing platform. To date, CropMobster has helped save over 1 million pounds, more than 2 million servings, of local food from going to waste in Sonoma and Marin Counties, California.

In order to reduce waste in the home, use Fresh Paper, which is simply a piece of paper infused with organic spices that keep fruits and vegetables fresh for 2-4 times longer. Fresh paper is available at grocery store chains such as Whole Foods and Wegmans. Another handy tool for using leftover food items is Food Rescue, an app launched by Google and Sainsbury’s, a British supermarket chain, which generates recipes based on up to nine ingredients dictated by the user.

Even rotten food is now a commodity. Harvest Power takes food waste, along with leaves and yard trimmings, and through anaerobic digestion and composting, transform them into renewable energy to power homes.

Healthy Habits

It is great that there are now products available to help us waste less food, but there are also ways to do so by incorporating a few simple habits into your daily lifestyle.

  • Plan ahead. Before going to the grocery store, take inventory of what you already have available. If you know what you’ll be cooking, and for whom, buy only enough necessary to feed the crew. Also, take note of expiration dates when shopping so you have an idea of how long items will last.
  • Remember to rotate. When loading groceries into your refrigerator and pantry, use the ‘first in first out’ method. Place new items in the back, and move older or already opened foods to the front. This way, food is less likely to go unused.
  • Save leftovers. If you’re in the habit of tossing leftover food at the end of the meal, consider packing it up and taking it to work or school for lunch the next day, or even save it for a second dinner. This can not only reduce wasted food, but also save you a few extra dollars.
  • Go trayless. Many of us frequent cafeterias where trays are available for carrying food, but next time, consider going trayless. By being unable to purchase as much food at once, you can reduce the amount of food that ends up in the trash. At the end of the meal, if you’re still hungry, you can always get back in line!
  • Donate. If you find yourself with a surplus of food, why not donate it. Millions of people go hungry everyday, and if you can even help feed one more person, you’re making a big difference. Find out how to donate here.

With the fast paced world of today, it can be easy to forget that wasting food is easy to avoid, and that it has dire consequences as well. However, if we all make a bit of effort, we can pave the way for responsible eating, for our health, wallets, and planet.

Share your food saving tips with us @gosirvo!