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Off the Shelf

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What to Know about Food Waste and Sustainability

In a country with more than a million restaurants, there’s no doubt that we’re a nation of foodies. But there’s a worrying flip side to our love of good food: We throw away more than double the amount of any other developed country.

By cutting this waste just 15%, enough food could be freed to feed 25 million people a year. Here’s a look at America’s relationship with food waste, as well as some ideas to cut down on what you toss out.


How Much Food Does the Average American Waste?

It’s a sobering fact that while 37 million Americans suffer from food insecurity, food waste is one of the largest components of our landfills. Each year in the U.S., 80 billion pounds of food is thrown away. That’s an average of 219 pounds per person and it accounts for 30% to 40% of the food produced. As this food decomposes, it gives off a significant amount of methane, a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Aside from being wasteful and damaging to the environment, it’s also bad for our bank balances. The average family of four throws out $1,600 worth of food a year. In the first 18 years of a child’s life, their family could throw away groceries worth $28,000 – to put that figure in perspective, the median mortgage down payment in the US is $15,490.


What About Grocery Store and Restaurant Waste?

Grocery stores discard an estimated 43 billion pounds of food each year, accounting for 30% of their overall waste and representing $18.2 billion a year in lost value. This accounts for 10% of all food waste in America.

Restaurants in this country toss as much as 33 billions pounds of food a year. America’s famously large serving sizes also are partly to blame – a study by Cornell University showed that 17% of restaurant meals are left on the plate, and 55% of these are left in the restaurant. 


How to Feed Yourself with Sustainable Practices

With some easy-to-implement changes, you can have a real difference on the amount of food you waste, saving yourself money as well as minimizing your environmental impact. Many of us rely on labels and others to tell us when food is best to eat, but you can easily take that knowledge into your own hands by learning a little more about the truth behind those labels and even picking your own home grown produce.

Almost 90% of Americans throw away perfectly good food because they are confused about the dates on the packaging. Much of the confusion stems from packaging which interchangeably uses terms such as “use by,” “sell by” and “expires on.” In fact, the FDA doesn’t require any foods (except baby formula) to feature these dates, but manufacturers include them as an indication of the time period that the food may be at its tastiest. The FDA blames this confusion for 20% of food waste and says that a simple change of labelling to “best if used before” could dramatically cut waste. So be savvy when it comes to working out when things have gone bad – use your sense of smell and knowledge of what food should look like before opening up the garbage can.

Making a change to growing your own food can also have a big impact on the amount of food you waste. You don’t need a green thumb or even need an outdoor space, thanks to Farmshelf’s pioneering indoor farming technology. If you’ve got space for a bookshelf, you’ve got space to grow everything from crisp lettuce to succulent tomatoes and even edible flowers. As well as helping you have farm fresh food at your dinner table, Farmshelf will help you cut back on your waste and on your grocery bills. Instead of buying a whole bunch of cilantro when all you want is a few leaves, you can simply pick what you need when you need it. By growing at home there’ll be no more lettuce going bad at the back of the fridge before you get the chance to use it.

Learn more about indoor farming basics.


Final Thoughts

As we grow ever more wary of how our actions as individuals impact climate change, lessening food waste in the home is a powerful tool. A surprising 76% of us believe we waste less food than the average American, and yet landfills are piled high with discarded groceries. Reducing food waste is a big change we can make to slow global warming. Let’s tackle it now.



Food Waste in America in 2020
The Problem of Food Waste
Food Waste Statistics, the Reality of Food Waste
Are you confused about food expiration dates? You’re not alone
Will this make me sick? The date stamps on food items, explained
50+ Restaurant Industry Statistics Restaurateurs Should Know in 2020
What Environmental Problem Does Wasting Food Cause?
The average down payment is much smaller than you think
Supermarkets moving towards zero food waste
These grocery store waste statistics are a wake up call
Most People Waste More Food Than They Think 

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