One-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. The FDA estimates that 30-40 percent of the American food supply is wasted. This amount of waste has a significant impact on food security, resource conservation, and climate change. In 2015, more food in the United States reached landfills and combustion facilities than any other single material in our everyday trash.
That same year, in alignment with Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) announced the first-ever domestic goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030. Since then, led by the USDA and EPA, the federal government has been working with communities, organizations, businesses, and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss and waste in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation’s natural resources.
Sure, saving money is one of the first reasons that may come to mind when you think of why you shouldn’t waste your food, but throwing away food isn’t just a waste of money. Hunger remains one of the most urgent development challenges, so throwing away edible food is an excess when almost a billion people go hungry. Additionally, food waste has a significant impact on the environment. The food that ends up in landfills quickly generates methane and contributes to making the third largest source of methane in the United States. Food losses also represent a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy, and inputs, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions in vain.
Most of us don’t realize how much food we end up throwing away each day. From uneaten leftovers to old or damaged produce, the EPA approximates that 94% of the food we discard ends up accumulating in landfills. Below is the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, which prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food. The top levels of the are the best ways to prevent and avoid wasted food because they create the most benefits for the environment, society, and the economy.
The EPA encourages anyone managing wasted food to reference the Food Recovery Hierarchy. Using this as a baseline, we’ve outlined below some of the best and easiest tips for how you can reduce food waste in your own individual life:
- Plan your weekly meals in advance, make a list with quantities of each item required, and don’t buy more than you will use
- Look in your refrigerator and cupboards before you go shopping to avoid purchasing things you already have
- Avoid clutter in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. Keep things neat and visible to avoid forgetting items and allowing them to spoil
- Learn how to properly store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer
- Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping and freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time
- Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time for use throughout the month
- Keep in mind that even if you have produce that’s past its prime, it may still be suitable for cooking (ideas include soups, baked goods, smoothies, casseroles, or sauces)
- Save, and actually eat, leftovers
- When eating out, only order what you can finish and always take home the leftovers
- If you can’t reduce wasted food, divert it from landfills by donating leftovers to a food bank or composting food scraps rather than throwing them away
By managing your relationship with food sustainably and reducing your individual waste, you will save time and money, help reduce emissions, and conserve energy and precious natural resources. By following these simple tips that require little effort, you can cut your food waste and help contribute to a more sustainable future.
If you’re interested in finding other ways that you can help work towards a sustainable future, check out our Products page to learn about our eco-conscious energy and natural gas solutions.