By Breanna Giovanniello ’16 (Environmental Studies and Geography Major from Cold Spring Harbor, NY)
Seattle is attempting to divert 60 percent of its waste from landfills by the end of 2015. To help them achieve this goal, the city recently announced its plan to fine residents for putting compostable food in the trash bin starting this past summer. Seattle has a long history of improving its waste stream. In 2005, Seattle prohibited recyclables from the garbage and began curbside food waste collection. In 2009, they required all residential properties to either subscribe to food and yard waste collection or participate in backyard composting. The city has an ambitious climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting vibrant neighborhoods, economic prosperity, and social equity. Seattle demonstrates a strong commitment to actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience. Should we be using Seattle as a model city for the rest of the United States?
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption (approximately 1.3 billion tons) gets lost or wasted annually. This food waste not only adds to landfill waste (the world’s largest producer of methane gas), but it also amounts to a major squandering of resources including water, land, energy, labor, and capital. In developing countries, food waste occurs at the early stages of the food value chain due to the harvesting and storage techniques utilized. However, in medium- and high-income countries food is wasted at later stages in the supply chain. In the United States, 30% of all food that is produced is thrown away each year. That adds up to approximately $48.3 billion worth of food. This food loss is completely avoidable so what can we do to trim our waste?
We don’t have to jump to imposing fines on those who don’t compost, like Seattle, but we should be more aware of our impact. Three years ago, Frank Dining Hall switched to tray-less dining, which has helped to significantly cut down on food waste. What else can you do to reduce food loss?
- Buy smarter: don’t buy more food than you can eat before it goes bad.
- Rethink your portion size: restaurant servings are much larger than necessary so take your leftovers to go instead of leaving it for the trash.
- Don’t forget about those leftovers: if you’ve spent money purchasing it or time cooking it, don’t forget to eat the remaining portion of your food.
- Compost whatever remains you might have. It’s tough to have zero waste, but that doesn’t mean we have to send it to the landfill.
We should strive to become a society of sustainable consumption and think about using resources more efficiently, which includes keeping food out of the garbage!