Food Waste and the Environment

This page is a lesson for Earth Month. How to live sustainably is an important lesson for all of us, and one that we were not taught in society. Hope these videos help you as much as they have helped me. If you want to see more content like this, please subscribe to keep this series going.

The food industry is full of waste. It produces more methane than any other country outside of the United States and China. More than a third of all food in the United States ends up in the trash, rather than being fed to the target customer. Even worse, perfectly good food ends up in the trash at a time when 1 in 8 people goes home hungry, and yet there is enough food in the system to eliminate all hunger if we managed the waste better.

How can we waste less food? Have food that is less taxing on our environment’s resources? Create less waste? And feed everyone in the process, eliminating community hunger? Today we will find that out in a look into how food is being used inefficiently and wastefully, and what some community activists are doing to bring solutions.

Matching unsold food with people who need food

This video introduces the problem of food waste, and takes viewers to a “leftovers” supermarket, where all the produce looks delicious and the prices are free (or by donation.)

What is causing our food waste? MIT and University of California tackle it

If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases, right after China and the United States. This video discusses ways to tackle the 40% of our produced food that never gets eaten. This video discusses the technological and psychological effects that we can use to reduce food waste.

Food Waste Comes With A Side of Single Use Trash

It saves trash from coming into our waste centers, we don’t want all the packaging we’re handed, and it saves money to the restaurants since they don’t have to buy so many spoons and plastic bags. This video also shows the alternative to plastic water bottles – what if we had accessible water filling stations located nearby?

This video discusses how our plastic ends up in China and Malaysia, in dumping sites. It also shows two families and the lack of choices they face at traditional supermarkets – even the vegetables are now wrapped in plastic. The host of the episode tries contacting the supermarkets to get ideas of how to fix the problem.

Non-traditional, envionmentally conscious supermarkets show how they are working to feed consumers without the heavy side of plastic (or any plastic at all.) It also shows how the supermakets have the purchasing power to get food companies to package correctly and environmentally-friendly.

Super markets could lead by example, or they can plastic wrap themselves into not finding a solution.

Plastic Challenge: Can We Eat Without Plastic?

After cigarettes, the next five things found on beach cleanups in oceans are food wrappers, drink bottles, bottle caps, straws, and plastic bags. The ocean is being filled with our uneaten food waste.

America’s food waste – in the dumpster. (Lots of solutions!)

There are 400 pounds of waste per ton, each and every day., It follows a group that has rescued millions of pounds of food for a second life. It describes how if 1/3rd of food was stopped from being wasted and instead redirected, it would stop all hunger in the United States.

Free Fridges

Free Fridge of Philadelphia

This Philadelphia fridge offers food to the community, and has a larger purpose in making sure that hunger doesn’t have to happen.

The Barrio Fridge

Harlem’s fridge, the Barrio Fridge, on 108th St. and 1st Avenue.

Community Fridges in Brooklyn feed those in hunger

Universe City, a Brownsville Brooklyn NYC organization, feeds 100,000 pounds of fresh food each month through locally stocked fridges in the neighborhood so that people can get healthy vegetables that they may not have otherwise afforded.

Road to Zero Waste – Canada’s fridges

Road to Zero Waste discusses the steps for how to make a community fridge. They are trying to tackle the 30 million pounds of wasted food in Canada through a collection of fridges in communities.

Zero Waste Grocery Stores

Zero Waste Grocery Stores (plastic and packaging-free)

This LA grocery store explains how it helps consumers buy groceries without all the plastic packaging. That means that the garbage at home is very minimal, since most trash is food waste.

Visit to Precycle, a zero waste grocery store

Composting Food Waste

Seeing how New York City has built composting programs and how it works.

Only 6% of food gets composted. If we composted food, it would make a change similar to cutting our fuel consumption in cars. This video shows how to get started on composting in your local area even if it doesn’t have a larger composting program nearby. They explain backyard composters and the small “worm bins” that take care of 3.5 pounds of waste a week in a bin the size of a shoe box.

Compost can also be donated or received to nearby neighbor locations using ShareWaste:

Food Based Products – Letting Waste not “go to waste”

Banana waste turned into consumer products, that otherwise would be burned or sent to landfills.

India using Food as Fuel

This single plant takes food trash and turns it into energy. This one factory alone converts the equivalent of 500,000 people’s vegetable intake (wasted) and turns it into energy before that food emits polluting methane into the air. Biofuels reduce food waste and reduce the need to rely on coal for fuel, which allows them to be a part of the solution toward addressing climate change.

Bioplastics – Turning avocados into spoons

Avocado pits are being used to make bioplastics. (I saw these spoons at my university, but our utensils were produced from American Midwest’s corn waste)

Pineapple Plates?? – Plates made from Pineapple waste

This shows a company in Colombia that makes plates from the waste of a nearby pineapple farm. The pineapple farm waste is brought to the factory, where each ton of plates made is using 16 less trees than traditional plate manufacturing.

What can we do?

Fresh, healthy vegetables

We have the ability to solve this problem.

We need to make the incentives there that protecting the planet comes before polluting it.

We need to ensure that everyone has access to food and does not go hungry.

We can give jobs to the ethical transportation of food (stocking community fridges, growing locally, taking food waste and converting it into usable biofuel or consumer products, picking up restaurant leftovers to go to homeless shelters and community takeaways)

We need buy-in from our brands, that supermarkets and restaurants commit to sustainable food waste practices.

We need the technology investment so that we can minimize food waste: a marketplace for leftovers, an infrastructure for getting surplus food to second-hand consumers in need, and converting the agricultural food waste on farms into usable products.

We need governments protecting the community – incentivizing businesses to make sure that no food goes to waste, that it is returned to the community and that everyone is well fed, with the least destruction of the environment.

We need to set health food habits:

  1. Buy less (less food, less packaging),
  2. Reject single-use packaging
  3. Ensure unused food gets distributed to the community
  4. Get restaurants and supermarkets to contribute to a circular food economy
  5. Use agricultural food waste to make consumer products like bio-packaging
  6. Choose foods that are more sustainable (less meat, eat local, start a garden)

1) Buy less (food, packaging)

2) Reject single-use packaging

3) Ensure unused food gets distributed to the community

4) Get supermarkets to contribute to a circular food economy

5) Use agricultural food waste to make consumer products like bio-packaging

6) Choose foods that are more sustainable (less meat, eat local, start a garden)

If you would like to locate your nearest food organization, in the United States, here is the link to Feeding America:

Canada: Australia:

New Zealand: India:

UK: Ireland: Crosscare Food Banks

Consider starting a local project like a Community Fridge, or reclaiming restaurant foods (using health safety) to provide meals to those in need in your local community.

Together we can help the environment, and help our neighbor. Food brings us together.

What’s one step you can take to living more sustainably and ethically with your food habits?

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