No one can agree on just how much food we’re wasting. But it is so, so much.
The United Nations and its Food and Agriculture Organization say it’s a third of all food produced, while other studies say it’s closer to 40 or 50 percent. After it leaves the farm, a lot of food is chucked because it’s not pretty, or it’s past its expiration date, or it simply falls through the cracks. According to the EPA, food waste makes up 21 percent of the garbage bound for landfills in the U.S.
This is not news — we’ve known for a while that our modern foodprint is massive. What’s noteworthy is that people are actually maybe kind of starting to do something about it.
Today the United Nations launched a campaign to reduce global food waste, which it estimates at 1.3 billion tons a year.
“In a world of 7 billion people, set to grow to 9 billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense — economically, environmentally, and ethically,” said U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The campaign, “Think-Eat-Save,” calls on eaters to take some logical steps — steps so seemingly obvious that it’s sad we need a campaign to promote them. E.g. make a shopping list and avoid impulse buys and “marketing tricks.” Also: Freeze leftovers, donate to food banks, and don’t be afraid to buy “funny” looking fruit and veg (if they even make it to the store shelves, that is).
This is all good stuff, but I reiterate my sadness. This is a problem of the incredibly privileged. According to the U.N., European and North American consumers waste upwards of 10 times what African and south Asian consumers do. Restaurants are particularly bad at this, even though cutting down on waste could save them thousands of dollars.
One campaign probably won’t do much to change our wasteful habits, so long as those habits are generally good for big business, and so long as that campaign is organized by the toothless U.N.
“Think” is a good place to start, but what else can we do? Sit back and celebrate when fancy real estate firms get a pat on the back for turning their food waste into fertilizer for their fancy gardens? Please, please no. Ugh. I’ll be out back fishing bagels from the dumpster, a-gain.