• Cooper Hamilton

Food waste - A much bigger deal than I ever thought

Have you ever heard the statement that Americans waste enough food every year and all that wasted food is enough to feed all the people in the world who do not have food to eat? It is one of those ideas you are reminded of when your parents want you to feel guilty for not finishing your dinner. Thirty seconds after your parent saying it, the thought is out of your mind and you are on to your next activity. This might not be the same for everyone, but I have a feeling that many people have experienced this same thing. I have gone my twenty years of life hearing that same statement and brushing it because it is hard to imagine what your singular impact can do to help change the current situation.

I read an article for one on my classes today that completely changed the way I thought about this situation. The article was a report put out by the National Resource Defense Council and the focus was on food waste. The article goes into great detail and has amazing figures, but the one fact that has stuck in my head is this: "Food waste accounts for the equivalent of 21 to 33 percent of U.S. agricultural water use. In fact, throwing out just one hamburger wastes as much water as a 90-minute shower!"

This fact made my jaw *figuratively drop. Imagine having a cookout with your friends and you overbuy on hamburger patties leading you to throw out two hamburger patties. This would be equate to the same wastefulness as running the shower for three hours straight!!!

This tangible example of comparing one hamburger to minutes in the shower put the food waste situation into something I could seriously grapple with and understand.

For those who cannot comprehend, like my father, how one patty equates to a 90 minute shower just think about this: in order to raise the cattle that produced the burger, you have to break it down and look at what the cow ate. The typical cow being raised for meat production is on a corn or soy diet; that corn or soy needs water to grow. The cow itself needs water to survive. The process of turning a cow into a hamburger patty also includes a good chunk of water. Combine all that together with the water used in the operation that creates and transports the fossil fuels to run this system, and you've got a hamburger patty that used a 90-minute shower's worth of water to get onto your BBQ.

Now let me clarify this: I am not advocating for people to stop eating hamburgers; I just ate a hamburger the other night and it was amazing. I just think it is easier to comprehend what it means to throw away food if it is put into much easier context. Obviously, meat consumption uses up a lot more resources than most foods, but it is still important to recognize what goes into the food you are eating and the food you are throwing away.

Whenever you decide to throw something away, regardless of how insignificant the item is, just stop for a second and think about what went into making that product.

Here is a link to the article if you want to check it out: