• Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it. This is his blog.

Lovin’ It

When I was first doing the calculations about the volume of food America wasted every day–the stuff that would eventually become the first sentence of my book–I couldn’t imagine that that Rose Bowl image would end up in one of those cool whiteboard animation projects. Well, it has:

More importantly, the video highlights the wonderful work that Lovin’ Spoonfuls does every day to combat food waste. The group redistributes healthy food destined for the Dumpster to those in need. And in case you’re still looking for a holiday gift, a donation to that non-profit (perhaps in someone else’s name) seems like a lovely idea.

December 16, 2013 | Posted in Food Recovery, Hunger, Stats | Comments closed

Visualizing Food Waste XXIV

I sure love me some infographics. This one, created by the Debt Advisory Centre mostly depicts UK data, with some global facts sprinkled throughout.

A few quick points:

  • Roughly speaking, tonnes = tons  (1 tonne = 1.10 tons)
  • I like how it emphasizes the magnitude of waste stemming from date labels and taking too much.
  • The Wembley Stadium factoid–UK food waste 2006-2010 would fill Wembley–highlights the size difference between Britain and the US. The latter, with 5 times the population, fills a similar stadium every year.
  • Love the helpful tips toward the end, especially #7!

December 11, 2013 | Posted in Stats | Comments closed

Let’s End Hunger

I consider most wasted food to be a lost opportunity to curb hunger. As a result, that should provide motivation to trim the former to chip away at the latter. Now.

In light of the holiday season, SNAP cuts going into effect and the movement for fair wages for fast food workers, it’s high time we consider the State of Hunger in the U.S. And Bread for the World just released their 2014 Hunger Report to do just that.

The report lists our inconceivable hunger numbers–the most recent ones, still from 2012–such as the 49 million food insecure Americans. Yet, it also proposes solutions. And not a moment too soon. Here are four solid steps we can take:

 

December 6, 2013 | Posted in Hunger | Comments closed

GOBBLE Your Way to a Waste-free Turkey Day

Sad news, folks: every Thanksgiving, Americans squander 400 Statues of Liberty worth of turkey, by weight. That’s a lot of forsaken fowl—more than 200 million pounds—and a sign of how wasteful we’ve become.

image courtesy of Wikipedia

It’s time we stop this Turkey Day tomfoolery. First, throwing away 35 percent of our turkey is oh-so-ungrateful. It undermines the spirit of the holiday and ignores the 50 million Americans who frequently don’t get enough to eat. The turkey we waste on Thanksgiving could provide a meal to every American in that category.

Equally important, our food waste—Thanksgiving and every other day—impacts the environment. The cornucopia of natural resources required from seed to supper plate goes for naught when we then waste that food. The water used to produce the Thanksgiving turkey we don’t eat would be enough to supply New York City for more than 100 days. And the greenhouse gas emissions are significant, as turkey production has the sixth largest carbon footprint per kilogram of the top 20 proteins.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget about the time and effort of all of the people involved in producing our Thanksgiving meal, from turkey farmers to family members (and the ultimate sacrifice of the turkeys that didn’t receive a Presidential pardon). Considering all that goes into getting our food to the table, the least we can do is use all of that turkey or get it to someone who will.

The simple conclusion is that we’ve stopped being thankful at Thanksgiving. That’s part of the story. Yet, considering that we waste 40 percent of America’s annual food supply, it’s also that our everyday squandering has seeped into our Thanksgiving routine. We lack not only the will to avoid waste, but often the knowhow and strategies to do so.

On that note, here’s a holiday-themed acronym to help you trim the waste from your Thanksgiving meal:

Gauge how many guests you’ll have and buy a reasonable amount of food. There’s a wide line between abundance and absurdity—try to be on the right side.

Offer food, don’t dish it out. To avoid unwanted foods or quantities, let guests help themselves. Buffets and family-style serving both help minimize plate waste. Meanwhile, we all should avoid taking too much; it’s easy to get seconds—or at least it should be.

Behold the bounty on display. Take it in. Be grateful and recognize that 50 million Americans and 870 million people worldwide don’t always have enough to eat. Eat mindfully and thankfully.

Bacteria enjoy Turkey, too. Don’t let your feast sit out too long—the USDA advises it be no longer than two hours. Refrigerate your food promptly to maximize your food’s lifespan by minimizing the time it spends between 40 and 140 degrees F, the “Danger Zone” where bacteria thrive.

Leftovers logistics are key. In addition to packing up the meal quickly, store leftovers in smaller, shallow containers so they cool faster and spend less time in the bacteria danger zone. Have plenty of containers on hand to send guests home with a portion of the feast. Finally, get jazzed about using those leftovers in new, fun ways.

Enjoy!  Don’t let thoughts of food waste dominate the day. Be sure to also savor the food and the presence of your friends and family. To put it in the words of the great UK advocacy campaign, think more about loving food and less about hating waste.

GOBBLE, GOBBLE, friends!


The following Thanksgiving post is also running today on Food Tank:

November 28, 2013 | Posted in Events, History and Culture, Household, Leftovers | Comments closed

Be Thankful, Not Wasteful

I wrote this as a cross-post for the Think.Eat.Save site, created by the United Nations Environmental Programme. Hope you have a wonderful, waste-free Thanksgiving!

Think. Eat. Save.

Those words are not just a rallying cry, they also offer a succinct strategy for minimizing Thanksgiving food waste. Yet, why even worry about squandered food on a day dedicated to abundance? Well, there are almost as many motives to trim Turkey Day waste as there are reasons to be thankful.

Because appreciating our food is central to the holiday, we undermine the occasion when we take our food for granted. We are doing plenty of undermining, as America wastes more than 200 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving. By weight, that’s the equivalent of 400 Statues of Liberty.

Such waste in the face of America’s sizable but hidden hunger is callous. While celebrating abundance usually means having too much, throwing away 35 percent of our turkey ignores the spirit of the holiday and the 50 million Americans who don’t always get enough to eat.

Meanwhile, as you may have heard, food waste has a significant carbon footprint and turkey is no exception. Of the 20 most common U.S. proteins, the production and disposal of turkey generates the sixth largest per kilogram amount of C02.  Overall, global food waste creates carbon emissions higher than those of any nation but China and the U.S.

Lest you need further motivation, here’s one more bit: Wasting food on Thanksgiving is expensive! America’s uneaten turkey represents a $280 million bite out of our collective pockets.

Given those motivating factors, here’s some practical Thanksgiving advice using our favorite three-pronged strategy:

Think. Plan! Consider how many guests you’ll have and whether guests are bringing food. Consider the one-pound-per-person guideline for a whole turkey and don’t overbuy. Also, factor in whether or not you enjoy having leftovers. Finally—this will be sacrilege for some of you—there’s no rule requiring you to buy a whole bird, or even serve turkey. There are many ways to be thankful.

Eat. Mindfully. Be Thankful. Consider the impact that turkey production has on our planet and don’t forget that your main course was once alive (and didn’t receive a Presidential pardon). Then, take what you’ll eat and eat what you take. Know that your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach, and you can always have seconds. Finally—and this is vital—enjoy your meal!

Save. Your Leftovers. Refrigerate the turkey and other dishes within two hours of cooking to maximize its lifespan. Store leftovers in smaller, shallow containers because the quicker that food cools the longer it will last. Divide up leftovers amongst guests, because it’s courteous and—let’s be honest—you’re not going to use all of that food. Challenge yourself to use up your leftovers—both for your economic and environmental wellbeing. Plan ahead and get excited about a few quirky turkey recipes.

The majority of the above advice is applicable year round. Yet, it’s even more apt on Thanksgiving, when there’s more at stake, ethically and literally. With that in mind, let’s be thankful, not wasteful, this Thursday.

November 25, 2013 | Posted in General | Comments closed

TD for AD: Cleveland’s Gri(n)diron Stadium

The Cleveland Browns will unveil a food-waste-to-energy scheme at this Sunday’s game. The storied, snake-bitten NFL team has installed pulpers to grind food waste on site before hauling it to a nearby anaerobic digester.

This exciting news is part of the USDA Dairy Power program pairing dairy biodigesters with commercial food scraps. According to USDA calculations, if all NFL stadiums sent their scraps to an anaerobic digester (or composting facility), it would divert about 620 tons of food from landfills.

Stadium food waste diversion would be a win-win. It would prevent those climate-changin’ methane emissions and likely save teams money by reducing hauling fees and tipping fees. (Depending on location, teams likely wouldn’t pay as much per ton at an AD facility as at a landfill).

image courtesy of bleacher report

While pulping, or grinding, one’s food scraps is not revolutionary, it’s an encouraging first step. I can imagine one day having small on-site digesters that would eliminate the hauling and power stadiums. Given that the Browns play in EnergyFirst Stadium, that would seem appropriate.

Alternately, the Browns could always feed the stadium scraps to given Cleveland’s infamous group of fans, the Dawg Pound, that rapid sect of Cleveland fans.*

*This is a joke

November 19, 2013 | Posted in Anaerobic Digestion, Composting, Energy, Events | Comments closed

Britain Banning Food Waste from Landfills?

It’s hard to argue against keeping food waste out of landfills (where it yields the climate-changing methane emissions). Figuring out how to make that a national reality is just plain hard.

With Vision 2020: The Future of Food Waste Recycling, PDM Group and ReFood have done just that for the UK. As this helpful summary article mentions, the report provides a road map for separating out food waste and the infrastructure for handling it.

A national ban on landfilling food waste is central to the 2020 vision. If it has happened in Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark (and Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont have future bans in place), the authors argue, why not Britain? Indeed, there’s no reason this program can’t succeed, especially with the national and local government support.

I was pleased to see mention of waste reduction as essential to the plans, even if it did feel like a bunch of suggestions for retailers and manufacturers. Equally exciting: pushing the need to educate the public on food waste issues. In particular, the report impelled Britain to teach school children about food waste issues (and that’s where it’s really handy having a National Curriculum).

In case you’re curious, PDM produces “products for use in human and animal foodstuffs, agriculture, aquaculture and industrial applications” and ReFood recycles food. It’s worth noting that, as an AD company, ReFood has a bias and a material interest in a landfill ban on food waste. I don’t see that as a major issue, though, as biodigestion should be a part of any food waste infrastructure.

In the end, this report and the corresponding discussion of a landfill food waste bin could be the start of something big. And it’s hard to call that anything but positive.

November 11, 2013 | Posted in International, Legislation, Waste Ban | Comments closed

Monday Smorgasbord

With Vancouver set to ban food waste from landfills in 2015, local group FarmFolk CityFolk sponsored a 10-week Foodprint Challenge. The pilot program run in conjunction with local retailer Choices Markets sheds light on household food waste.

image courtesy of James Vaughan— —

Britain’s National Pig Association started a ‘pig push‘ to overturn the EU swill-feeding ban. Naturally, this initiative is prompted by and embodies…the Pig Idea, whose feast is coming soon to a Trafalgar Square near you.

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It’s always nice to see the food industry pay more attention to food waste. Or at least say that the deserves more attention. Italics aside, that’s especially heartening coming from the produce industry.

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Covanta has a deal to build a food waste recycling plant in Connecticut. This Anaerobic digester won’t be online for some time, but it seems like a byproduct of the Nutmeg State’s banning food waste from landfills.

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Not to be outdone, the Potawatomi tribe of Wisconsin have a deal to build an AD plant near the tribe’s Milwaukee’s casino. Perfect for the inedible casino buffet remains…

November 4, 2013 | Posted in Composting, Energy, Household, Leftovers, Repurposing | Comments closed

Cooking Off The Halloween Hangover

Pumpkins are edible. I know, I know…crazy.

image courtesy of Food NetworkIt’s hard to think of those orange globes on your doorstep as anything other than decoration, but they’re so much more than decorative gourds, folks.

Pumpkins are a kind of squash, and as such, they can be used in an array of delicious dishes. And what better way to cut through that Halloween hangover (candy or otherwise) than by cooking a healthy (or at least tasty) waste-avoiding dish?

Smaller pie pumpkins are the best–but not the only–kind for cooking. Yet, whatever kind of pumpkin you have, here are some handy pumpkin recipe ideas from our friends at Love Food Hate Waste. If you haven’t carved into your pumpkin(s), get cracking!

If you have carved your pumpkin(s), it’s probably too late to cook them because the rotting process will have started (unless it has been cold enough–mostly below 40 degrees F). I’m all for making Jack O’ Lanterns, but the desire to have a pumpkin with a face that’s edible pumpkin may point to painting pumpkins.

Anyway, for those set on eating their whole or carved pumpkin in pie form, here’s a step-by-step guide. Finally–and it almost goes without saying–don’t forget to roast those delicious seeds!

November 1, 2013 | Posted in Household | Comments closed

Art Against Waste

Images (and actions) speak louder than words. To wit: these neat finalists in a food waste ad contest and Klaus Pichler’s amazing photos.

The Glue Society, an independent creative collective, just added to that growing body of food waste art with their installation More Than Ten Items or Less at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas. The group set up the purpose-built Jon’s Fruit Market at the beginning of the festival, stocked it with produce and then let it all rot.

Visitors could look in the window to see sprouting onions, rotting strawberries and browning bananas. Brilliantly, the store displayed the amount of food that the average Australian household wastes annually.

Like most art installations, this one was ephemeral. But its impact hopefully lives on in visitors’ minds. And it does seem like an easily replicated idea (hint, hint).

In the meantime, here are more pics celebrating this wonderful bit of concept art:

October 30, 2013 | Posted in Events | Comments closed
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