Waste Not

» June 6th, 2015

Last February the Waste and Resources Action Program—a British anti-waste organization—reported that one-third of the food produced globally is never eaten. That’s roughly two billion metric tons of edible waste that ends up in landfills, where it emits about seven percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Environmentalists have taken notice and the problem—food waste—is now a serious environmental concern. “If more and more people recognize their own food waste,” writes Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, “we can take a bite out of this problem.”

As Bloom suggests, reformers have largely placed responsibility for reducing food waste in the hands of consumers. More often than not we are rightfully admonished to eat the whole metaphorical hog as an act of ecological redemption.

“Leftovers can be turned into completely different meals,” writes one reader of Bloom’s blog, Wasted Food. “To better utilize food,” writes another, “use the whole animal” (the reader suggests bone broth). “STIR-FRY,” says a third, who claims to “live in a forest.” Throw in the prevailing advocacy for eating “ugly fruit” and the intrepid dumpster divers and you have a landscape of waste warriors crusading to achieve meaningful reform by piling our plates with food items we’d normally toss (or have already tossed).

The most conspicuous example of this eat-the-leftovers approach to reducing food waste recently came from celebrity chef Dan Barber. For a stretch of time in March, Barber cleared out his famous Blue Hill restaurant and replaced it with a “pop-up” creation—called WastED—that served food scraps salvaged from commercial kitchens. For $85 a meal, patrons could sample an array of dishes cooked with recycled culinary debris, including pickle butts, carrot tops, offal, and skate-wing cartilage. Exchanging spare ribs for kale ribs, diners were able to experience a culinary novelty while doing a good deed for the environment. It was the American way of reform epitomized: Fix the problem by buying something that makes you happy.

Read more here.

5 Responses to Waste Not

  1. Joanne Gura says:

    I think a good thing to do would be for grocery stores and farms and anyone else who sells fresh fruit and veggies and dated meat and poultry to give it to places like Feed America, Harry Chapin Food Bank, soup kitchens and the homeless…we have no shortage of people starving in this world…we put such garbage in our processed food, and yet they get so defensive about giving old bakery food or fast food to people who can’t afford it…it would be a win/win…we need to become a country that cares about its people again…been a long time..

  2. Lisa LeBlanc says:

    Hit it out of the park again, Mr. McWilliams.
    As a current member of the socio-economic disadvantaged (don’t let the computer access fool you) and having been raised by those who had suffered through socio-economic disadvantage, I was imbued with a simple yet efficacious philosophy: Waste not, want not.
    We were apparently frugal before it became fashionable. Raised by my grandmother, this was a woman who could feed a family of six off the same 7-bone roast and it’s leavings for the better part of a week; her culinary expertise was phenomenal, not only for it’s plentitude (known as ‘stretching’, back in the day) but for it’s absolute deliciousness.
    The initial meal was the roast, surrounded by mounds of cut potatoes, carrots, celery and onions, slow roasted for hours until the meat literally fell off the bone. ‘Reduction sauce’ was either corn starch or flour-based gravy.
    The final meal – lunch on Sunday – was a rich, savory concoction of virtually every leftover out of the fridge rendered into soup.
    I have remembered and utilized every lesson learned in her kitchen; a thing must be considered a threat to human health before it’s tossed, and egg shells, coffee grounds and fruit & veggie peels feed the garden.
    How insulting that these creatures simply visit a neighborhood a vast majority of the population lives in, grace us with their haughty (and largely pointless) ‘discovery’, then slink away.

  3. Elaine Livesey-Fassel says:

    As always your comments are insightful and inspiring. Every Sunday 12-1pm L.A.Cal. time, I listen to Maria Armoudian on Scholars Circle NPR ( KPFK-FM ) which this week re-aired a discussion with Rafe Sagrin ( who died in a recent accident) – Learning from the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorism Attacks, Natural Disasters and Disease’ which alluded to the WASTE about which you refer, and another discussion with Fritjof Capra re. The Systems View of Life’ – also so pertinent to this conversation!

  4. Catherine says:

    Plastic wrapping makes sense based on what you said, but I must admit I thought the punchline was going to be more along the lines of ‘eat lower down the food chain’, given that animal products are by their nature much more wasteful than plant foods, through their vast land and water use – not to mention the animal waste problem of 70 billion etc. Perhaps for another article? I’d love to have something along those lines to help people think down that path rather than concluding that the solution is to ‘eat the whole animal’.

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