garbage can and food waste

Good Nutrition is Good for the Planet

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As promised, I wanted to share this idea from my Nutrition and Sports Certification course. In a section on what good nutrition is, this was one of the headings: Good Nutrition is Good For the Planet. I expected that they would be talking about organic fruits and vegetables, supporting local farms, knowing your farmer when it comes to meat, or even seasonal eating, all of which are great ideas I support. But, let’s be honest, they aren’t practical for everyone. But no. They were talking about something else.

Food Waste is Bad for the Planet

From an article in the Atlantic:

Americans waste an unfathomable amount of food. In fact, according to Guardian report released this week, roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting “one-third of all foodstuffs.” Wasted food is also the single biggest occupant in American landfills, the Environmental Protection Agency has found.

Good nutrition is about creating an energy balance in our body. We need to eat enough to give us energy and feel good. We don’t want to overeat, because that actually has a negative effect on our energy. If we are carrying too much extra weight (which are energy stores) then we feel tired and run down. If we don’t eat enough, our body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to function well.

If we are eating at a balance, then we purchase the roughly right amount of food. And if we are doing that, then food doesn’t end up going to waste.

From the USDA:

How much food waste is there in the United States and why does it matter?

In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. This amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change:

– Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills.

– The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society – and generate impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.

– Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.

Most of the food waste mentioned above is not at the consumer level. More, it comes from the fact that as consumers, we want “perfect” produce. Food that doesn’t look photo perfect doesn’t make it to the grocery store shelves. There has been a movement to change this, however. I have noticed that my local Meijer now has a bin in the produce department with “ugly” produce. I’m not talking about the marked down produce the store sells on clearance, this is packaged produce, like lemons that are sold under the “ugly produce” heading.

But let’s be honest, who among us hasn’t decided to eat salads for a week, and then ended up throwing out goopy, slimy lettuce that sat in the bottom of the refrigerator? The more conscious we are about what we eat, the less likely food we purchase will end up in a landfill, which is good for the environment and for our pocketbooks. For an American family of four, the average value of discarded produce is nearly $1,600 annually. (The Atlantic)

Things happen, of course, the best-laid plans occasionally go astray. Plans come up and meals get postponed and perfectly good food goes bad. But I love the idea that the more in tune we are with what we really need, and what makes us feel the best, we can start to dial in our grocery consumption. The more we can do that, the less we spend, and the better it is for the planet.

This is why I love this course that I am taking. Honestly, I would have never thought about that. I do try to eat organic and I do know my farmers, but the idea of nutrition reducing waste interests me. I would like to see if I can start to plan a little better and do my part to reduce waste.


 

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