Wasting good food has always been frowned upon. There is something uncomfortable about throwing away perfectly good food or even tossing inedible scraps in the bin. But some how we have lost touch with waste being a taboo concept and instead, embraced it wholeheartedly. Every year in America we throw away 96 billion pounds of food. That's 263 million pounds a day . Part of eating and advocating for good food is being responsible with its waste. Food loss and waste amounts to the careless use of resources like fresh water, land, energy, human labor and money, which all translates to the unnecessary emissions of greenhouse gasses.
In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of its methane emissions  .
Food waste is spurred by cosmetic standards that encourage farmers to throw away perfectly good produce because it is not the expected size or shape. We are so used to perfect shiny apples and round red tomatoes that we have lost our appreciation for mother nature's variety and character. We are repulsed by worm holes or bruises as if our food actually came from someplace dirty...
An example was given in this awesome TED Talk by Tristram Stuart of the waste that ensues because of our lack of enthusiasm for the unattractive outcast, the bread heel. When was the last time you ordered a sandwich at a cafe and got the heel? Some places embrace creative reuse measures like croutons and bread pudding, to compensate for our picky standards. But many simply throw out perfectly good and fresh bread every single day. It seems as though the policy and practice behind our current food system encourages the squandering of resources and is down-right unproductive.
According to the UNEP, Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes) .
The good news is that there is so much we can do about food waste! I have taken a new found enthusiasm for composting and also felt inspired after hearing our fellow community Seedspot member, Morgan Coffinger, share her new compost accelerator business Bokashi Evolution. They offer a great composting kit to fit into any lifestyle and strive to address food waste issues with a holistic solution that encourages local action.
We all contribute to this mess but because food is a shared human experience, we all have the power to make a positive impact. A good first step is to simply keep track of your daily food waste. The weight and speed of how fast it piles up is fascinating. Other good tips include things like:
- better planning at the grocery store - only buy what you are going to use/eat.
- make lists (like a meal plan) -- and really stick to them during the week.
- keep stock of staple items to go with fresh produce (like bread in the freezer, pasta in the pantry), and
- manage left overs. As in, make sure you eat them. Give them a creative new twist like incorporating them into a salad or sandwich the next day!
- start composting and snag a composter from your local waste management company. Jen wrote a post for Chow Bella listing where you can get a free or low-cost recycled garbage can composting container for your yard in Phoenix.
Also, go right to the source and support farmers who compost, practice good waste management, and recycle nutrients back to their land, like Singh Farms and Duncan Family Farms (though most all of the small-scale farmers in Arizona manage their waste smartly).
Food waste is a big lessen that there is no such thing as 'away'. Just because we can toss items into our garbage cans at such convenience and watch them get hauled out of sight, does not make that the end of their presence in our lives.
If we chose to interact with our food a little longer from start to finish, find joy in natural beauty flaws, we can change waste into something attractive and productive.
Photo credit to Tristram Stuart and Morgan Coffinger
 check out Dive! the documentary for an eye opening introduction to food waste.