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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do You Throw Away Money?

Back in August, I wrote about hunger in America.  Now I am writing about the overwhelming amount of food wasted in America each year.  Before you skip this post, give me a minute to explain why you should  read on.

We all must eat so a large part of every household budget goes towards food.  When you throw away food you are throwing away your hard earned dollars.  Interested now?  You might not be able to control the price of gas, your mortgage, rent or electricity but your food budget is pretty flexible.  I've been keeping track of how much money I can save by using coupons and buying things on sale.  So far, I'm on track to save about $2000 in one year for a family of four plus four cats and a dog.  Another way to save money on food is to cut out chips, cokes and sweets, or at least cut back drastically.  You can shop for the brands that cost the least and have meatless dinners once in awhile.  The final way to save money is to plan carefully so that food isn't wasted and thrown away.  The whole family must learn the importance of not wasting food.

On Thursday, I'll give you several tips to prevent wasting food, thus saving money.  Food waste has a huge economic and environmental impact so I'll end today by giving you some startling statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources.  I hope it will make you think before you toss anymore food.

Americans throw away 34 million TONS of food each year.  That is roughly equivalent to 8500 average sized cars.  Only paper is a larger component of msw or municipal solid waste but we recycle more paper.  Food waste is the single largest msw component in landfills and incinerators.  We spend about 1 BILLION dollars each year to dispose of wasted food.  At the home level, we throw away about 470 pounds of food for a family of four each year or about $600 worth.  What could you do with $600?

Food waste has a tremendous environmental impact.  Rotting food in garbage cans attracts rodents and smells bad.  Rotting food in landfills produces methane gas which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Much of the food waste could be composted which has many benefits.  Composting improves the soil which reduces the need for fertilizer, water and pesticides.  It is easy to compost right at home by collecting fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells.  You can place these scraps in a fancy store bought com-poster or create one of your own.  I do this everyday and avoid putting quite a bit of food in the trash.

A tremendous amount of food could be redistributed to those in need.  Day old bread is perfectly good but is often tossed unless a food recovery program is nearby.  With so many in our country going hungry each day, we need to do better than throwing away usable food.

So it seems that there are economical, ethical and environmental reasons to avoid food waste.  I hope you'll check back on Thursday for some tips to save food.      

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