Yesterday we examined the simply abhorrent problem of food waste in the United States and around the world. Melanie Hingle sums it up:

While some food waste occurs in the growing fields or during the transport of food, the majority occurs at the household level. This means that knowing even a little bit more about the life of your leftovers – for instance, keeping track of your trash for a week to determine how many edibles you’re tossing away – can make a big dent in your household waste. It also can have collateral benefits for your wallet. Who doesn’t want $1,500 more per year?

Here’s the bigger picture. Less food waste means reduced water and energy use, and decreased emissions, all of which contribute significantly to the security of our nation’s food supply. Your actions directly support your community, and can improve the health of your neighbors.


Improving the health of our environment in the twenty-first century is arguably mankind’s greatest challenge. It also presents the greatest public health and economic opportunities this nation has ever seen. With food waste, as with action on climate change, there are some considerable obstacles to overcome, which National Resources Defense Counsel implores will require an “all hands on deck” mentality from government, business, and consumers:

The first is that food represents a small portion of many Americans’ budgets, making the financial cost of wasting food too low to outweigh the convenience of it. Second, there is the plain economic truth that the more food consumers waste, the more those in the food industry are able to sell. This is true throughout the supply chain where waste downstream translates to higher sales for anyone upstream.


Economic and political realities aside, finding solutions to these problems starts with each of us. Dana Gunders wrote the book “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook”:

We don’t all have to become jam producers or kimchi makers to cut back on the food we waste. We just have to take some simple steps, like making strategic grocery lists or putting leftovers in plain sight in the fridge. I have my go-to strategies, but I am certainly not perfect. I still waste food – I just try to waste less.


Elizabeth Royte writes in National Geographic that waste down the food chain — from farm to fork — is being addressed by producers and consumers everywhere. Just improving food storage techniques, at low cost to farmers in developing countries, has been shown to make a big dent in the amount of food that is grown and then wasted. In the U.S., consumers and businesses are getting smarter too:

Dismayed by the amount of food their customers waste, TGI Friday’s now offers smaller portions. By removing trays from their cafeterias, scores of U.S. colleges have cut by 25 to 30 percent the amount of food that students take, and waste…

Farther up the food chain, orchardists are working with juice companies and packers to develop more secondary markets for less-than-perfect fruit…

Innovation is saving eggs too. For years, Walmart found it expedient to dump an entire carton of eggs if one was cracked, rather than replacing the egg with one of equal freshness. Now the company is launching a pilot program that uses a laser system to etch individual eggs with product information, enabling workers to easily sub in a new egg with the same specs. If adopted across the nation, Walmart suggests the system could save roughly five billion eggs a year from premature scramble.


Becoming mindful consumers can go a long way in decreasing wasted food in our own homes. Next week we’ll see how eating with mindful awareness saves not only calories eaten, but also food wasted.