Waste Not, Want Not: The Food-Energy Link

By wasting less food, we can feed hungry people, save energy and money, and send less to the landfill.

| May/June 2011

  • A City Harvest volunteer picks up waste food from restaurants and delivers it to residents in need via a City Harvest bike cart.
    Photo Courtesy City Harvest
  • A hybrid-electric City Harvest truck unloads a fresh produce delivery.
    Photo Courtesy City Harvest

Though most of us acknowledge that we live in a wasteful society (and work to reduce wastefulness in our homes and lives), a new study highlights our nation’s astronomical levels of food waste. More than a quarter of the food produced in the United States ends up in the garbage, according to the study from Environmental Science and Technology journal, based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, though many experts think that figure is probably too low, at that rate, we’re also throwing away the approximately 350 million barrels of oil required to create that much food.

Fortunately, there are several ways we can work to curb food waste and improve these bleak statistics. Part of the solution may be found in agricultural policy reform. The government’s complicated subsidy system encourages a massive overproduction of food, which is responsible for much of the waste. (To get a handle on the U.S. agricultural subsidy policy and its effects, farm.ewg.org and dtnprogressivefarmer.com are tremendous resources.)

But some of the solution can be found in our own kitchens. Today’s Americans toss food down the drain and into the garbage can in ways that would make our thrifty grandparents shudder. If we learned to plan meals and stock pantries more effectively, we could divert much of that waste in our own homes.

Kitchen Conservation  



By shopping and cooking wisely, we can reduce the amount of food waste we produce in our own homes, thereby reducing the amount of fuel required to produce and send new food to our grocery stores. (Bonus: We save money, too!)

• Eat seasonal, locally grown and produced foods as much as possible to reduce the energy required for storage and transportation.



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