Reducing Food Waste

Reducing Food Waste

Edible food is thrown away by the ton every year in the United States

Reducing Food Waste

Food is discarded by the ton every day in the United States. . . 80 billion pounds a year.  Not only is this  morally unconscionable when more than 50 million Americans are food insecure, but it is also an environmental catastrophe. There are things each of us can do to help reverse this growing problem.

D. S. Mitchell

 

Huge Loss

As a Sierra Club member I receive the organizations quarterly magazine. ‘Sierra’ The Magazine of the Sierra Club (Winter/2021) published a short article by Paul Rauber on the topic of food waste. The article was eye opening for me. After all, I try to do my part; I carefully separate my recycling, buy local, refuse excess packaging, advocate for organic, yet I am guilty of wasting food. Apparently, I am a small part of the problem, but when multiplied by millions, we have a huge problem of food waste in this country.

At the Supermarket

In my youth I worked as a checker at a major west coast grocery chain. I remember the waste was high. We contributed large amounts of product to local food pantries, slashed prices on expiring produce, dehydrated some items for bulk sales, but we also filled the dumpster out back with a large amount of food waste. Statistics in Rauber’s article indicate that grocery stores alone throw away 3.5 million tons of food each year, mostly dairy and produce. But it isn’t just grocery stores filling the dumpsters that are causing the problem.

Environmental Impact

In 2020, farmers plowed under millions of tons of vegetables and ranchers killed thousands of heads of livestock because restaurants closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and there was no market for the food. Whether its the asparagus you let die in the crisper or the broccoli your toddler refuses to eat; it all ends up in the landfill. Of course, as already noted, there is a moral failure when there is hunger in a country as rich as the United States, but it is also an environmental catastrophe. Rauber states in his article, “Discarded food is the single largest component of U.S landfills. There it becomes the country’s third largest source of methane.” Methane is a greenhouse gas that develops as our wasted, uneaten food rots in the landfill.

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Carbon Positive Landscaping

Carbon Positive Landscaping

Carbon Positive Landscaping

Carbon Positive Landscaping

By D. S. Mitchell

Past Behavior

I have been planting native species plants and using water conserving drip irrigation for at least a decade. But I want to take it to the next level. I opened the March/April 2021 issue of Sierra magazine and found an article that motivated me to get busy. To be carbon positive, just means  your landscape/plantings remove more carbon dioxide than they generate.  Planting a tree that will grow large can remove hundreds of pounds of carbon from the atmosphere over its lifetime. Conversely, adding a concrete patio can add hundreds of pounds of carbon to the atmosphere. Lydia Lee’s article offered some great suggestions on how to create a truly green landscape.

Do a Carbon Audit

There is a free carbon calculator at climatepositivedesign.com/pathfinder, just enter details about hardscaping, plants, and maintenance equipment into the free carbon calculator. For example, stone pavers score poorly because of the intense amount of energy required to cut and transport them. You can also download the Climate Positive Design Toolkit,  which lists 50 strategies for improving your landscapes footprint, such as planting bamboo.

Avoid Concrete

Concrete is essentially artificial rock. Using concrete for a walkway or a patio dramatically increases your garden’s environmental footprint. Concrete is created with cement which during manufacturing needs to be heated to 2,500 degrees F. It would be better to use decomposed granite or gravel when creating paths and patios. A new product, Trugrid (truegridpaver.com) is a permeable paving system that holds gravel in place. The product is made from post-consumer recycled plastic. It even allows rainwater to drain into the ground rather than run off.

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