Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Americans Drop Forty Percent Of Food In Dumpster

Despite record-breaking drought and a faltering economy, a new study indicates that Americans are throwing away as much as forty percent of their food each year

Flickr - Food Trash Photo by Rich Evenhouse

Photo: Rich Evenhouse at Flickr

Those boxes just might be forty percent full!

Feast With Famine?

Despite a summer of unprecedented drought and a faltering global economy, according to a study released earlier this month, Americans are wasting nearly 40 percent of their food.

The Natural Resources Defense Council — a non-profit, non-partisan environmental advocacy group — said that Americans throw away about $165 billion of uneaten groceries each year. This averages out to about 20 pounds of food per person each month, a figure that has jumped 50 percent since the 1970s.

The study also asserts that feeding America accounts for 10 percent of our national energy budget, 50 percent of our land usage, and about 80 percent of our fresh water consumption. The study further warns that food waste, the single largest source of solid waste in American landfills, accounts for a quarter of methane emissions from waste disposal.

What Can We Do?

The study suggests solutions at every step of the supply chain and food preparation process, from the farmstead to your dinner table.

Grocers and manufacturers, for example, could dispense with “best by” dates that don’t actually indicate expiration. Some dates are merely suggestions for freshness and flavor, or may be used for marketing only. These labels are not regulated in the US, but in the UK, many such “sell by” dates have been legislated away. “Best before” dates are allowed to stay, as they give consumers a suggested window of optimal freshness, and “use by” dates indicate when the food product is actually most likely to expire.

To reduce household food losses, the study recommends that consumers plan more efficiently and learn a little more about how to recognize expired food. Making and sticking to a grocery list, avoiding impulse purchases, and preparing smaller portions are all recommended techniques to reduce wasted food in your home.

Read More:

  • Americans Toss Out as Much as 40% of Their Food, Study Says – LA Times
  • Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill – NRDC
  • Still Tasty: Your Ultimate Shelf-Life Guide – StillTasty.com
  • Fact Sheet: Food Product Dating – USDA
Jain Waldrip

Jain Waldrip loves food, nature and talking endlessly. Her foodie interests reflect her Texan roots and her sordid vegetarian past. She is proud of having inherited her father's sense of direction, so she therefore navigates only by using restaurants as reference points.

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