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Waste Not; Want Not

Photo courtesy of USCCB

By Katia Reeves
Member of Stewards of Our Common Home

As we approach Thanksgiving we start thinking about all the delicious foods we will eat. We are also mindful to give thanks for all the blessings we received throughout the year. One way to give thanks for our nourishment is to not waste food.

A surprising fact about our food supply (from farm to household) is that 40% of all food in our country is wasted, resulting in 135 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The average American household throws out 25% of the food they purchase. For a family of four, this translates to more than $1,600 a year tossed out in wasted food. (Ref: Palo Alto Zero Waste)

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in our trash, making up 22% of discarded municipal solid waste. When discarded, food ends in the landfill, rots and produces methane gas that is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Developing a culture of care to avoid wasting food is something we can do every day and is an effective approach to reduce our contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing food waste ranks third, in terms of potential reduction in atmospheric CO2 according to a study of the top 100 solutions to reverse global warming
(www.drawdown.org). By the time food gets to us, it has gone through many stages that combine environmental impacts: from converting wilderness into farms, irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers, fuels for transportation, energy for processing, packaging, and more transport.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has set a goal to reduce wasted food by 50% by 2030. It calls for federal action dealing with food-date labels and expanding food-donation laws. A Harvard Law School report revealed that a huge amount of food goes to waste due to confusion about date labels. The 2019-2020 Congress has House and Senate bills to standardize food-date labels.

Some tips of what we can do:

  • Avoid buying food already on hand.
  • Buy fresh ingredients in smaller quantities without packaging in order to better control quantity and ensure freshness.
  • Buy local and seasonal foods.
  • Use leftovers, odds and ends, and the less fresh ingredients for casseroles, frittatas, soups, and smoothies.
  • Use the freezer to preserve food longer.
  • Learn the meaning of “sell-by”, “best-by”, and expiration dates.
  • When eating out, take home the leftovers to enjoy when hunger strikes again.
  • Use everything, waste nothing.

Within the family, and at parish social gatherings, we can explore ways to be good stewards of our common home by reducing food waste.

The Stewards of Our Common Home is a multi-parish group working to educate and motivate Catholics in our Diocese to take immediate action to address the “social and environmental crisis”* of climate change. (*Laudato Sí 139). For more information, contact Marita Grudzen at maritagrudzen@gmail.com.