JeffCO H20:Waste Not

food-waste-thanksgiving When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably imagine a huge, delicious meal enjoyed with friends and family.  Many holidays and celebrations seem to revolve around food.  After all, food is one of the basic necessities for human life.  But in spite of its importance to our very survival, Americans throw away about 133 BILLION pounds of food – worth $162 billion – each year.  For the average American family, that adds up to discarding about 20 pounds of food per person per month, which means we also are throwing away about $2,200 per household each year.  Whether you overbought at the grocery store, food wasn’t properly stored, or you have some picky eaters, unwanted food usually winds up in the trash where it is transported to a landfill.  Food waste is the largest component of landfills, which in turn are the largest generators of methane, a greenhouse gas. food_scraps_pile On top of that, the land, water, energy, and other requirements of growing and transporting food to the consumer where about 1/3 of it winds up in the trash is a huge waste of resources.  These steps involved in getting food to your table, which include fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation, emissions from vehicles, and power generation, can degrade water quality.  So what can be done to reduce the amount of food we throw away and the natural resources we waste or harm by doing so?  A good starting point is to plan what food you want to serve for the week, buy only what you know that you will use, and properly store the food until it is consumed.  Search for recipes that can incorporate often wasted items such as slightly wilted vegetables (try adding to soup) or overripe fruit (whip up a smoothie) to make meals your family will enjoy while using up all the food you purchased.  When serving a meal, only put what you know will be eaten on the plate.  You can always come back for seconds!  Carefully and properly store leftovers.  For food which has no further use (some fruit and vegetable cores and peels, coffee grounds, egg shells), starting a compost pile which will yield a rich organic soil amendment for your garden is a great option.  Wasting good, edible food is especially disturbing since 1 in 6 Americans live in households where access to food is not always secure.  Some places of worship, food banks and shelters can accept unopened, unexpired food – ALWAYS check with the agency first before you drop off any food.food_waste



Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203