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Entries in food waste (2)


10 Ways to Waste Less Food and Energy

You probably know that we waste a lot of food: about 25% globally and about 40% in the United States. Wasted food represents a huge amount of wasted energy as well as a missed opportunity to feed all the hungry people in the world.

Food takes fuel to produce, process, package, transport, and store. Some food takes a lot more energy to produce than other food, so wasting it wastes more energy. But 100% of the energy in food you don't eat is wasted.

  1. Use what you already have first
  2. Make menus and shopping lists to help you buy only the food you will actually eat
  3. Bring home "ugly" tomatoes, "weird" carrots, and the like that may otherwise go to waste
  4. Eat plenty of local, in-season fruit and vegetables
  5. Enjoy other plant-based foods that store well, such as dried beans, whole grains, seeds, and nuts
  6. Choose canned or frozen versions of out-of-season vegetables and fruit rather than buying fresh food from far away
  7. Avoid lamb, beef, cheese, pork, salmon, and other foods with a high Food Wasted Effect
  8. Serve healthy amounts but not too much
  9. When you eat out, bring home any extra food to replace food you otherwise would have bought
  10. Tuck any extra fresh vegetables into stews or soups before they go bad 

Reducing Food Waste Where It Counts: The Food Waste Effect

The most effective way to reduce food waste is to focus on the types of food that are wasted the most and that take the most energy to produce. Most efforts look at one or the other of these factors. Some even downplay the amount of animal products wasted by splitting up the categories and printing the labels upside down or sideways. (NRDC, I'm looking at you.)  My Food Waste Effect multiplies two factors together:

  • How much of a certain category of food is typically wasted as show in chart 1 below
  • The full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for a food, including production, processing, transportation, cooking, and disposal

I hope combining these concepts will help you and other engaged cooks select ingredients that take less energy to produce and to be careful with types of food that are often wasted. By a beautiful coincidence, doing this will be good for your health and budget and good for the planet.

Chart 1: Wasted Food by Category

This chart shows total food losses in households, retail, and food service, from eggs at 2% to fresh fruits and vegetables at 22%. (Source: Journal of Consumer Affairs.) Plant products make up 44% of the food wasted, animal products 39%, and sweeteners, fats, and oils make up the rest. You might be tempted by this chart to switch from fresh produce to canned or frozen. Please don't until you check the next chart.

Food Waste by Category: Pie Chart shows percent meat, dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables wasted

Chart 2: the Food Waste Effect

The Food Waste Effect chart shows the percentage of food wasted

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