Waste (Food) Not: On World Environment Day, and Every Day

Did you throw away food today?

I know that for a lot of us, the answer is an embarrassed, “Yes.”

This year’s World Environment Day theme is: Think. Eat. Save.

As in, save food, don’t waste it.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, every year 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted.

I am one of the last people in North America who should be wasting food. I scrimp on other budgetary items to buy as much local, organic, sustainable, cruelty-free food as possible. I know I spend a higher proportion of my dollars on food than a lot of Americans do. Buying food that was grown nearby and with as little harm to the people and animals involved is my way of reducing my carbon footprint and showing reverence for our sacred Earth.

And given that I put so many resources into buying good, healthy food, I should eat every bite of it. But I don’t, always.

In the past months, I have wasted more food than I care to admit.

Part of this has been lifestyle change. It’s been hard to remind myself while food shopping that I’m spending half the week at home, half at my sweetie’s home an hour away. I’ve started compensating for that by taking food with me to his house, or bringing home some food we buy together on weekends. A small cooler has been a big help.

Part, too, has been the indulgence of telling myself I “don’t want” or “don’t feel like eating tonight” what is in my refrigerator. So I buy something else on the way home, and let my fresh veggies age another day.

I remember being a college student and eating everything in the refrigerator before buying one more thing. Even the wrinkly apples and limp carrots. I also remember a few years ago, when I was severely underemployed and relying on a food pantry. There was no waste, then. Even foods I didn’t like or couldn’t identify, I ate. (More than once, I received a bag of frozen, breaded things with no label. Were they meat? Vegetables? Who knew. Just put them in the oven at 350 and hope for the best.)

My not wasting food today will not directly feed someone who is hungry. But my not wasting food does mean that I buy less. This is better for my budget and better for the planet. Less oil is used to transport my food if I don’t waste it. Less water must be used to grow my vegetables and produce my meat and milk if I don’t waste it. Fewer greenhouse gases are emitted if I buy less, and waste less.

As the United Nations Environment Programme says:

The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food, creating more methane – one of the most harmful greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change. Methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming.

I believe that all our individual actions affect the whole. And, that as as Pagan, I have a religious obligation as well as a social responsibility to use Gaia’s resources responsibly. The more of us who do so, the better our sacred planet is able to sustain us all. So, I’m going to continue to refine my shopping and eating habits with a goal of wasting no food. Attainable Sustainable has five tips that are good starters. I’d love to hear some other ideas, too!

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About Kathy Nance

Kathy Nance is freelance writer and green entrepreneur who lives in the Gateway City of St. Louis, Missouri with her cats, Charlie and Lulu. She has a B.S. with majors in mass communications, sociology and English. She has worked as a newspaper education reporter, feature writer and editor. Her freelance work has been published in general circulation and specialty publications in the U.S. and Great Britain. Before coming to Patheos she was a featured writer for Civil Religion, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interfaith blog. She has organized both large and small public Pagan celebrations bringing together groups from a variety of traditions in the St. Louis area. She leaves offerings to the Fey and to her ancestors, as well as a multi-ethnic family of Gods and Goddesses who so far are content to share altar space. She can be found expressing opinions on a daily basis on Facebook and Google+, or @GatewayGoddess on Twitter.

  • Marlene Dotterer

    I don’t really have other suggestions, just agreement. I try very hard to not throw away food. Having that attitude really does affect your buying habits. I’m always asking myself, “will we eat this before it spoils?” With just two of us, I do a lot of freezing of leftovers, and I make a huge effort to use those leftovers. If I lose it in the freezer for two years and eventually throw it away, I consider that a failure. If I have to throw old lettuce into the compost, I consider that a failure, too. True, at least it got composted, but it would have been better to use it for a meal and not buy something else.

    To me, it’s all part of having respect for the planet and for the food that grows on it. We are part of the ecology and everything we do affects it, for good or bad.


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