Food waste is one of the biggest problems of sustainability in the modern era. Last semester, I did lots of research on food waste for one of my classes, which made me think a lot more about the amount of food I waste in my daily life.
It turns out that about one third of all food produced gets wasted at some point in the consumption process, whether it’s produce that is considered too ugly to be sold in stores, or if it is leftover, unsold food.
Food waste is bad for environmental reasons because we want to limit the total amount of waste we put into landfills every year. Food contributing to that space, and its organic decay, creates greenhouse gas emissions.
There was a case in which some researchers studied a typical grocery store in Italy, and they found that over the course of a year, they wasted 70 tons of food! That’s equivalent to over $200,000 of produce that was just thrown away because no one bought it. Not only does food waste cause environmental problems, it’s a huge waste of money.
There are a number of solutions currently in the works to try and stop food waste in Europe. For example, both Italy and France have imposed laws requiring large grocery stores to donate their unsold food to food banks or other charities. This is a great idea because it gives less fortunate people better access to food and eliminates the waste problem.
Though they are making progress overseas, we have a lot of work to do back home. It isn’t very likely that legislation will be put into place similar to the European laws, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part individually to make a difference. Some of the best ways to reduce the amount of food you waste is to plan out your meals and shopping lists before you go to the grocery store and to not make as many impulsive purchases.