Table of contents
- We Can Help
Food waste has become a contributor to climate change, energy consumption, and the growing impoverished and food-deprived population. People’s lack of consideration is the base of this issue, and if we continue, these problems will progress and eventually reach to an extent of which is unreturnable. This is considered the dumbest environmental problem, as the solution to this problem is easy – people need to realize what they are doing to their environment and change how they manage their food.
The amount of food in this country that goes to waste is quite alarming, and the reasons behind this are absurd. According to the Department of Agriculture, thirty to forty percent of all food produced in the U.S. goes uneaten, every year, and these numbers are booming. The average family of four wastes some $2,000 worth of food a year by carelessly throwing out food that they bought too much of, therefore leaving it to expire. However, households are not the only culprit in this situation. Major contributors to this issue are restaurants, farms, produce markets, and grocery stores. Entire fields of unharvested produce are quite often abandoned by farmers. Nearly one-third of all food grown in cropland is left to rot if farmers believe it isn’t up to consumer’s standards, which sums up to over $100 billion. Most grocery stores and produce markets follow suit – food believed to not be up to customer expectations gets tossed. These foods usually consist of those that are odd sizes, misshapen, damaged, or discolored, though these characteristics often have nothing to do with the quality of the produce. Also, stores often rely on the sell-by dates to gauge when they should be discarded. The meaning of the dates stamped on food items is unknown by the public, as they assume it seems the item inedible. These dates are the estimated freshness peak of the food, and the food is usually good for days after, but because customers turn away, grocery stores instantly take them off the shelves, sometimes even before the sell-by date. As it turns out, companies get worried when the stores don’t discard as much food, as it is seen as the store being under-stocked, thus customers aren’t getting what they want. This event ends with the companies ordering mass amounts of food with the expectation that products will always be available and customers won’t feel the need to run to competitors. This event happens in restaurants as well. Whatever food is leftover, sent back, unused, or unpopular gets thrown out, even if untouched or perfectly edible. The amount of food wasted doesn’t cross the minds of the higher ups, and they continue to treat customers with massive plates of food. These careless decisions have significant consequences. When loads of food are thrown out, it ends up in landfills, and as it all lays, there, it begins to produce methane, a greenhouse gas with high global warming potential. Food waste also depletes us of resources used to make these foods available. About a quarter of water and cropland in the U.S. is wasted. “When we toss food, we are not just wasting calories; were also squandering the energy used to grow crops and raise cattle, as well as the energy required to ship, refrigerate, and package food” (Outrider staff, n.d., p. 5). All irrational decisions made about food are doing so much damage though it is incredibly easy to fix, therefore the title, ‘The Dumbest Environmental Problem’, is fairly accurate.
We Can Help
The significant effects on our environment are no longer going unnoticed. New ideas are being put into place to avoid worsening this damage. In the past few years, different places around the world are stepping up – in France, stores are no longer allowed to toss edible food, and in South Korea, people must separate their food from their trash so they can keep landfills food-free. Though these rules may not work well in the U.S., we still are finding ways of cutting down. Some states are actually restricting the amount of food waste to be sent to landfills, and many businesses are working to lessen the amount of food wasted on their part. The Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency are striving to cut food waste in half by 2030. Organizations such as Feeding America, Food Finders, and City Harvest try to collect as much excess food as possible, donating much of it so food banks and making it available to those in need. Some businesses are opening up to the idea of donating their excess food, limiting their waste, and changing their elimination processes. Some stores have opened solely for the purpose of selling misshaped, discolored, weird produce that wouldn’t sell in most grocery stores. Since opening, around 40 million pounds of produce has been saved by these ugly markets. “If we could scale these solutions, the food wed save could feed millions of hungry people, conserve resources, and make a big dent in one of the biggest sources of climate change” (Outrider staff, n.d., p.14).
Food waste is a high- priority problem, as it depletes our environment of resources and greatly contributes to climate change. The worst part about this problem is that, compared to other environmental problems, this one is particularly easy, and can be solved in quite a few different ways. Businesses should be changing their food elimination process to produce less waste, as well as order enough food without going far beyond what is necessary. Even if the amount of waste isn’t decreased much, donating the excess to local food banks would provide a large amount of people in need with food, and limit the amount that would end up in landfills. This holds true for common households as well. People need to accept that the decision made about food are harmful and can continue to cause much damage if nothing changes.