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Waste Not, Want Not


10 Ways to Reduce Costly Food Waste by Amber Lanier Nagle


M


ost of us regularly discard food items—week-old cooked pasta, stale cereal, half a loaf of moldy bread, suspicious leftovers and other foods we fail to eat before they perish. But consider that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that 40 percent of all edible food products in the United States—comprising 34 million tons—is wasted each year.


Food waste occurs at all levels of the supply chain. Farm fresh fruits and vegetables are often left unharvested because their appearance does not meet aesthetic standards imposed by grocery stores, and pieces bruised or marred during shipping and handling are routinely discarded. Many res-


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taurants serve supersized portions of food, even though much of it is left on plates when customers leave, and thrown into dumpsters. Plus, many shoppers buy more than they need. With a little care and a more enlightened system, we could help prevent much of the waste and better address hunger in the United States. Researchers estimate that Americans could feed 25 million people if we collectively reduced our commercial and consumer food waste by just 20 percent.


From an environmental stand- point, wasted food equals wasted water, energy and chemicals. Produc- ing, packaging and transporting these food items generate pollution—all


for nothing: a zero percent return on our dollars. Food waste represents the single largest component of all municipal solid waste now going into landfills. Although it is biodegradable when properly exposed to sunlight, air and moisture, decomposing food re- leases significant amounts of methane, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2


).


Ten tips make it possible to re- duce our “food print”. Shop smarter. Preplan meals for the week, including non-cooking days and leftover days. Make a shopping list and stick to it after inventorying the pantry, fridge and freezer. Buy produce in smaller quantities to use


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