Monday, October 25, 2010

Waste Not

Some weeks ago I read the book Waste by Tristram Stuart, and went around appalled at what I'd learned, wanting to ask questions everywhere and of everybody about food waste.

It influenced the handout I prepared for 10.10.10 on climate change and the food system. In my thinking it was no longer about whether you overfilled the teakettle when you set it on the burner to heat, but about the impact of over buying, over preparing and the waste that ensues, on the generation of GHGs.

I wanted to go into every food related business and ask hard questions. I actually did ask about composting at my market. And I even had to repress some urges to start dumpster diving. (Because I knew if I dove in, I probably wouldn't be able to get out - limber not being my middle name now, if it ever was...)

And, of course, I started spouting uncalled for remarks, citing glaring statistics.

Stuart has a way of doing the math and then some. For example, waste of grains in their various forms and at all levels in the US and UK would provide enough to supply the additional calories needed by the more than 1 billion hungry on earth. Not that we would ship our leftovers, but that if we waste less through buying less more grain would be left on the world market for others.

I even liked some of the retail gimmicks which Stuart referred to. How about restaurants giving smaller portions for the same price they charge now, but offering seconds to those who really are that hungry? or fining people who don't clean their plates and giving the money to a development organization? And there's the supermarket chain home economist giving tips on how to use your leftovers.

I'm resisting giving the lengthy detailed quotes here, but encourage reading the book. Stuart is UK based, but there is plenty of information about the US food system, too, and helpful charts and appendices. But it's probably not a good idea immediately after reading this to go to an ungreen potluck, or go to a restaurant where all portions are supersized, or even eat at the home of friends who don't share your sensibilities as an ecotarian. You'll be looking at all that food very differently.

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