Responsibility – this month’s Pursuit – has offered the opportunity to be more mindful around how we live, from the foods we eat (and what we waste) to the products we put on our bodies, use around our house and the companies where we choose to spend our dollars.
I have taken this to heart and do try as much as possible to make more conscious decisions, which does take effort, but effort that will pay off in the long term for the greater good.
From a food perspective, do we realize that when we talk about sustainable food systems, we, as consumers, are at the core? Sustainability starts at home! It’s time to get serious about food waste.
Just the Facts
The numbers may vary but the facts are real. And are pretty scary. It’s estimated we waste between 30 and 40% of the food supply or nearly 40 million tons of food in the United States every year, which is equal to 80 billion pounds of food or approximately 219 pounds of waste per person.
Put into dollars, an average family of four typically loses $1,500 to $1,600 dollars annually to uneaten food and food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash, which is a burden on our environment and of course also creates an even bigger gap around food insecurity.
What Can We Do?
First, more is caught than taught, so if you’re a parent, lead and model better behaviors like some I’ll share below.
Start by taking inventory of what’s available – your pantry, freezer, refrigerator – anywhere you store food. Check it and make a list of options. I like to make a game of it and think how long we can go without a grocery delivery or trip to the store by eating just what we have available in our house. We recently did this and came up with literally weeks’ worth of meals. Between the beans, pasta & grains in our pantry, fish, chicken and beef in our freezer that were ultimately pushed so far down under other items they were forgotten about and the frozen veggies & fruit we always stock so we have options, it was mind boggling how much we had that was untouched.
Get creative, see what you can make with what you have and use what’s already on hand. We had fun coming up with options with our kids and when all was said and done, we were able to go over 2 weeks without a trip to the store outside of one very small order of some fresh produce.
When you do go to the store, go with a list and buy quantities of fresh produce, dairy or meats with a plan in mind. Make a menu ahead of time so you’ll know exactly what you’ll be using; resist the temptation to buy more than you and your family can eat in a week or two and enjoy leftovers!
If a vegetable does start to “go” can you roast it before it does or maybe add some soon to expire spinach in a smoothie? Heck, if you catch fresh produce before it does go but you know you won’t eat it, freeze it. Stop that process before it goes to waste.
Consider Food Banks
While in our small spheres, food waste might simply mean we have too much and throw it away. While that’s not great for the environment (food waste doesn’t actually break down in landfills like we’d hope but instead produces methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas). If food waste was a country, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases it generates, it would be the third largest behind China and the US in its contribution! In our own house, we recently put in a compost bin outside to use for the small amount of produce we grow in our own yard. Consider this yourself for the scraps that can be of benefit when used to support your own garden adventures.
Where to Start
Begin by examining your own eating habits, food shopping and preparation and then look around. Regardless of where we live or our place on the “farm to fork” chain, we have the responsibility. Consider some of the strategies I mentioned above and see how you can take the challenge and spring into action! Every small step helps and if everyone in the Rhone community took just one baby step, that can have a big impact.
Outside of food, we’ve really started to explore where we spend our dollar and like I mentioned earlier, took a close look at the products we use in our house, on our bodies and the waste from them. According to Oceana, an estimated nearly 18 billion pounds of plastic leaks into the marine environment from land-based sources every year (9% of which was recycled)
In an effort to reduce as much single use plastic as possible, we’ve switched a few products in our house – including laundry detergent. We switched from our traditional single use plastic jugs company to a company called Dropps, which actually won EPA Safer Choice product of the year and eliminated single use plastics with their compostable, carbon neutral cardboard packaging and their dye free, plastic free pods making laundry a cinch…and a clean one, at that.
Another cool company we’ve been using is Grove Collaborative, which creates innovative natural products and offers a curated selection of healthy home essentials, like cleaning supplies and personal care products, so you can do your shopping right there. They’re the first and only plastic-neutral retailer in the world and are committed to becoming 100% plastic free by 2025 (in addition to being on track to plant 1 million trees by 2022! Love that initiative and putting our dollars behind them and their cleaning concentrates that come in plastic free bottles will keep your pad in tip top shape.
Lastly, in addition to what we use in our house, we’ve changed what we put on our bodies (which is ultimately in our bodies). Grove has some products our kiddos love – hello shampoo bars (for no more single use plastics) and for my wife and I, we’re obsesses with a cool company called byHumanKind that makes refillable deodorant, toothpaste and floss, among others. Why does this matter? First, it’s the first “natural” deodorant that both my wife and I have found to “work” – because we want to do as much as we can, but don’t want to stank while doing it. Second, consider just how much plastic ends up in landfills from standard single use hygiene products out there with toothpaste tubes, floss containers and the like. In their first two years of business, based on products sales and what that’s replaced in the market, they’ve estimated they’ve kept over 45,000 lbs of single use plastic out of landfills. Every bit helps! Try ‘em and let me know what you think.
Are we perfect with all of this? Hell no – far from it – and we’re surely not preaching from a mountain top for others to follow suit, but every time we do take one positive action, we know it’s better than the alternative and it is far from a “stretch” when it comes to how it’s pushing us to make change and be more responsible.