In Hawaii, we celebrate just about everything with food, delicious dishes often accompanied by heaping servings of rice. Yumm-O!
As much as I love to cook and to eat, it is a hard fact to swallow how much food we waste, not to mention all the resources required to produce that wasted food. However, reassessing our habits with food and food waste can make for household savings, benefits to health, and reduce what we send for municipal disposal.
According to researchers for NRDC, “an average family of four in the U.S. throws away $175 of food per month. In fact, around 40% of edible food (not counting peels, bones, etc) in the U.S. gets thrown away.
Consider the following estimates of resources dedicated to food that never gets eaten:
25% of all freshwater
4% of all US oil consumption
$90 billion in losses to the US economy (over $40 billion from households)
$750 million a year just to dispose of the food
31 million tons of landfill waste.”
This food waste takes up space in our dumpsters and landfills. Across the U.S., food scraps are approximately 14% of the household waste we discard. On Oahu, a 2006 City study showed that approximately 15% of trash delivered to HPOWER is food waste.
As another NRDC researcher reports, “food waste is of concern to environmental agencies and municipalities because in landfills food waste is a primary cause of methane gas emissions, a very potent greenhouse gas.” Additionally, when food is sent to the incinerator at HPOWER, it becomes “a cause of nitrogen oxide emissions, which is also a greenhouse gas…Moreover, since food waste can contain as much as 70% water, it is not a high Btu fuel, and therefore is not well-suited for combustion,” especially when you are trying to create energy.
To change the impact of food waste on our monthly bills and our municipal waste steam, there are a number of solutions to consider.
For one, as you are assessing your trash output this week, take a closer look at food waste, including that serving of rice you tossed out after a take-out lunch. How much of this type of waste was (at one point) edible, not trimmings and peels? How can you reduce food waste at the source by reassessing your grocery buying, cooking, and eating out strategies? We’d love to hear your ideas below or in a journal post.
Second, a great option for disposing and repurposing food waste is at-home composting. Composting turns your food waste into black gold for your garden and reduces what you send to the dumpster.
I admit it. I was once a skeptic about composting in my crowded, apartment filled, bug and lizard populated part of Hawaii. But the process has actually been easy, not smelly at all, and rewarding. Composting has significantly reduced how often we take out the trash and eliminated most trash can odors.
Inspired to learn about composting? There are multiple compost how-to journals on the Kanu website. Try these for starters!
Start a Compost Bin - Yes, you can! by Kasha Ho
Compost Pile Surprise! by Cathy Kawano-Ching
Easy Composting System by Tyler Mongan
What to do with whole food starting to go bad? by Olin Lagon
Now, make a commitment here: I will compost my family's food waste.
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