Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day 125 of our Green Year: Not wasting food

Living in North America, we may forget that much of the world suffers with nearly no food, and the food they do have is not very nutritious. Some may say that talking about starvation does not have anything to do with going green but Layla and I disagree.
Around the world, pesticides and herbicides are used to get higher yields for crops, trucks and ships take the food around the world and pump CO2 into the atmosphere, and farmers in developing countries cut down forests and destroy habitats to make their fields. This is obviously important since we need to eat, but it came as a shock to me to find out that 50 percent of food is wasted. If we did not waste food, we would not need to use so much land to make food, so many herbicides to grow food and people around the world would have enough to eat.
This does not even take into account the water needed to produce the food, or the greenhouse gases produced when transporting the food. All of this could be decreased hugely if we just did not waste food, and by extension, we would help the environment immeasurably.

If you go to a buffet, most of that food will eventually be wasted. Walking through the produce section of the supermarket and you will see a lot of food that will never make it to the dinner table. Now, the argument can be made that this will all be composted, and that is good, but it does not stop the consumption. If a supermarket buys 100 heads of lettuce, and 25 are bought, they may compost 75 heads of lettuce, but they will still buy another 75 heads. Buying less heads of lettuce would allow the heads of lettuce to be spread across a greater geographic area, resulting in less lettuce wasted.
I used to work at A&W when I was a teenager and they had the policy that if a burger patty was cooked and then kept in the warming box for longer than 15 minutes, it was thrown out. I would try and ensure that I only cooked what needed to be made, but the pressure to keep wait times low for customers, while at the same time using fresh food was a hard balance to maintain. I cannot tell you how many fries and burgers were thrown out, but it would often amount to dozens a day.

It is truly amazing to think that 40 trillion liters of water, enough to provide for 500 million families, is lost every year because of wasted food. To produce one pound of beef, it takes 2,500 gallons of water. If that pound of beef goes bad, it is 2,500 gallons of water that has just been wasted. Yes that water most likely went back into the environment, and therefore is not technically wasted, but if that 2,500 was not wasted it could have been used to provide 2,500 of water elsewhere, thereby reducing waste.

Here are just a few stats about hunger that may help you stop wasting food.
  • In Asia, Africa and Latin America, 500,000,000 people live in absolute poverty.
  • Every year, 15,000,000 children die from hunger.
  • For the price of one missile bought by the United States, a school of hungry children could be fed a lunch every single day for five years.
  • Only 1/3 of the world is well fed, the other 4,000,000,000 people are under-fed or starving.
As a result, Layla and I will not be wasting food. It is one of the main reasons we walk to the store every day and buy only what we will eat that day. It keeps us from buying a bunch of food, 1/4 of which may go bad. How many people say they want to eat healthy, they buy a bunch of fruits but end up eating KFC instead? All that fruit goes bad when someone else could have bought it and eaten it. Now they have to buy more fruit because someone wasted food.

Leftovers will be a big part of our diet here. There are literally thousands of recipes for leftovers that can be made. If you have pasta one night and there is a bit left over, buy some tomatoes, shrimp and pasta sauce and have that pasta dinner again to finish it off. Did you have chicken for dinner? Take the bones and put them into a broth to make a great stew.

Do a search on the net, you will be surprised by how many dinners you can make when you use leftovers. Waste not want not!

In the Baird household, we will be going by the philosophy of 'Take all you want, but eat all you take!"
Oh, one less note. eating less will reduce waste as well, and also help to solve the obesity epidemic that plagues North America.