Climbing the Mountain of Food Waste

For the past five weeks, I’ve been pointing out the scary side of food waste. But guess what folks? We can do this!

In the spring of 2014, my worldview changed a bit, at least with respect to how I consider and talk about environmental challenges. The catalyst for this change was my reading of a book authored by Paul Hawken. For those who know the Ray Anderson story well, this might be sounding familiar....

My experience wasn’t nearly as groundbreaking as Ray’s reading of The Ecology of Commerce, but it was still important to me. The book that I read was Blessed Unrest, a 2007 book with the tagline “How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming.”

I learned an immense amount from Blessed Unrest. Paul writes about the diverse and expansive network of organizations, both large and small, that pop up around the globe to work on the social and environmental challenges of our time. More is happening to heal our planet than we realize, and the agents of change are people like you and me.

My crucial takeaway from the book was a bit different, however. After turning that last page, I had a newfound conviction that the strongest power of the environmental movement is found in the expression of an underutilized virtue: hopefulness.

I imagine we can agree that environmentalists have been rather “doom-and-gloom” in their messaging since the first Earth Day in 1970. We have some big challenges, many of which were largely ignored until the environmental community began shining a much-needed light on them.

Ultimately though, I believe hope does more to drive action and create change than shame and despair. Attitudes like “we can do this!” will always win out over the “what’s the point?” crowd. Blessed Unrest showed me the importance of always remaining positive and sharing messages of hope. That’s what this week’s post is all about.

For the past five weeks, I’ve been pointing out the scary side of food waste. But guess what folks? We can do this!

Here are some ideas:

  • If you can afford to, intentionally buy more expensive, higher quality foods like organics. As the Food Foolish guys write on page 125, “When food is inexpensive compared with disposable income, it’s more apt to be wasted.”
  • Only let you and your family eat out when you’ve finished all the leftovers from the week. If restaurants are a reward, you’ll probably end up enjoying them even more.
  • If you do eat out, support restaurants with proper portion sizes and avoid buffets.
  • Track how much food you end up wasting at home each week and consider charging yourself a “tax” based on it. Change often starts with measuring the scope of the problem, and if that problem hurts your wallet, you’re more likely to do something about it.
  • If you can’t eat it, compost it. But make this a last resort.

And those are just some of the things you can do as an individual. For more on how our broader food system can be better about food waste, check out this graphic from the World Resources Institute.

Remember, all of our problems are solvable. Every single one. So never give up hope.