Why is Food Waste a Problem?
About a century ago, most people were living on farms, growing their own foods, caring for animals, and doing their best to keep food on the table. People were lucky if they were able to store and keep food for the winter to feed their families. Because of this, food waste wasn’t really even an idea, or a thought. In fact, the idea was to waste nothing at all, use every part of the animal, every part of the vegetable. Food was looked at as something you don’t take for granted. So, the question is why is food being wasted now, and why has it become such a problem?
Flash forward a hundred years, here we are with what seems like an endless food supply right at our finger tips, this reigns true in U.S. especially. With this “endless supply of food” we have evolved into a species that has a wasteful thought process. If a vegetable is slightly brown, or a cheese has a tiny bit of mold, we simply throw it away without thought. We are trained to believe that if something is blemished, or past it’s sell by date that we should be throwing it away and going to the store for a replacement. This practice is not only hard on our wallets, but most importantly the environment.
Why wasting food hurts the environment
The idea of food production being bad for the environment goes hand in hand with the reasons why anything we mass produce is bad for the environment. Clothing, cars, electronics, beauty products…all of these things are produced using natural resources (which we only have so many of them available). Besides using natural resources, our waters, lands, and atmosphere is being polluted by the by-products coming off of these things.
The idea is simple, the more that is wasted -> the more that needs produced -> the more the earth is being polluted. This is especially dangerous with our food supply, because if the earth continues to be polluted and destroyed, we won’t be able to grow or produce a food source!
Produce Industry vs. Meat Industry
Food production in it’s most basic understanding can be broken up into two different industries, meat and produce. Eating produce is much more sustainable because the food is grown from using the sun’s energy. Plants take only a small amount of resources, and they also give back oxygen, and when composted enrich soil making them the lowest impacting food production there is. Not only are they giving back to the environment, they also are filled with nutrients that our bodies need to be at optimal health.
On the other hand, the meat industry holds a lot of concerns for the environment. As this industry grows, and so does our wasteful habits, the need to produce and care for these animals grows. If you have never thought about the meat industry, it’s time to get the bigger picture.
Let’s say there are 1,000 cows that are being raised for slaughter at one facility. To house these animals, the farmer will need to cut down acres and acres of trees leaving nothing but desolate land. Now these animals are spread out in different quadrants on 100’s of acres. These animals need to be fed, and they certainly aren’t going to be sustained on grass, (if there is any grass for them to feed on). So, the farmer will have to buy feed, and the feed is mass produced using a huge amount of resources. Once the animals are fed, you know what happens next, manure. Manure releases a toxic greenhouse gas called methane. Methane is destroying the earths ozone layer, and is an incredibly big reason why the earth is going through climate change. Not only is the air polluted, but surrounding water, crops, and land are destroyed by the manure seeping into the ground. This is just a glimpse into this wasteful, unethical industry.
How YOU can make a difference
The impact of food production is directly correlated to our wasteful sense of living. There are so many things that you can do everyday to slow the impact of these problems on the environment, here are some ideas.
Eat Less Meat
You may not be wasting meat that you purchase at home, but the meat industry in itself is an incredibly wasteful practice. From land, water, oxygen, and energy, meat processing needs to be lessened if we want our earth to have any kind of chance of survival. So plainly, don’t buy meat at all. But, if you are going to buy it do your research and get it from a small, local, family owned farm. It’s best to not support large companies that are taking down forest’s to house thousands of animals.
There are so many reasons that families buy food products the way they do. It could be for convenience, bulk buying to save money, disregard to how much you really need, or maybe buying a large package of something you have never tasted before. Regardless of what the so called “reasons” may be, it’s time to start planning out your buying list. You can do this by setting aside some time every week and picking out recipes and exactly what you need to create a meal. You can determine portioning for each person, and instead of buying a whole bag of peppers maybe you only need 1 or 2. It’s all about making conscious decisions before heading to the store so you aren’t making irrational ones once you are there. If you only have 1 other person that you are cooking for, try searching “meals for two” or buying cook books that have portions already figured out for you. This is a great way to be sure you aren’t wasting any ingredients.
Invest in home delivery meals
While this idea may strike you initially as bad for the environment, it actually has quite the opposite affect. These delivery plans offer healthy perfectly portioned meals with absolutely no waste at all. The boxes that they come in can be recycled, and most companies are starting to develop greener packaging within the kits. Although this may not be the absolute best option, it is still a better choice then wasting lot’s of food. You can read more about The Best Delivery Meal Kits of 2021 at buyersguide.org.
Grow your own food
Having your own food source is certainly the best way to eliminate food waste issues. But, it’s not easy. Having your own garden takes dedication and the motivation to can, freeze, and preserve your possible over-abundance of food. You can even give it away to friends, family or neighbors!
Meal prepping is not only a great way to sustain a healthy diet, but it’s also the perfect way to ensure you are not wasting any food. So often we buy ingredients to make something as simple as salads for lunches, and we end up making one or two and then get lazy and the food just sits and goes bad. Instead, prep your salads for the entire week, using up all the ingredients you purchased to make them. You’ll have no excuses, and no waste!
Why is food waste a problem?
I hope that this article sheds some light on the root reasons of food waste issues. Supply and demand is a real reaction, and the only way to slow it down is to reduce our wastefulness of products. It is possible to change, but we all need to do it together.