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I recently revisited a study on one community’s food waste. More specifically, an Analysis of a Community Food Waste Stream (The full study isn’t available for free, unfortunately).

The study tallies the food wasted in upstate New York’s Tompkins County. The county seems fairly representative, as the lead author Mary Griffin told me by email. It has a decent mix of rural and urban, agricultural and industrial (including food production).

Most interesting, to me, is the breakdown of waste down by the source. This is extremely useful, as it’s one of the only sources I know of that gives a sense of how wasteful each part of the food chain really is.

The part that really stands out is this:

…60% of food waste was generated by consumers

But what exactly does that mean? In Griffin’s study, the consumer segment includes homes, schools, prisons, hospitals and nursing homes. But doing a little arithmetic (always a dangerous thing for yours truly), I deduced that homes produce 40% of the county’s food waste.

On the one hand–Damn, that’s a lot!!

On the other hand, if you ever wanted to feel empowered, that’s a powerful statistic.

It’s in our hands. You and I can reduce the amount of food waste our cities, counties and states produce simply by keeping a better eye on our own cupboards and fridges.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 7, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Is that study really from 1984?

    I was going to say, for perspective on more recent Tompkins County data (if any), that composting is especially popular there. The city of Ithaca charges to haul away trash but not recycling, and I’m sure I’m not the only resident who decided to start composting to reduce my trash bill. It’s a hippie town and you can go to free composting demonstrations/classes every month, in season.

    The farmer’s market (a major local institution that runs 4 days a week in the summer) went zero-waste in either 2007 or 2008. Cornell’s dining halls added compost bins around the same time, and most local restaurants did too. (Most use the local company Cayuga Compost.) Meanwhile, it’s a very local-food friendly town, so a lot of the food eaten there doesn’t travel very far.

    Anyhow, just thought I’d mention. I used to live there.

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