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The Cost of Excess

17 March 2015
Written by Hannah
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Clean your plate was always the motto in our house when I was growing up, not a crumb was to be left behind, regardless of whether or not one was full or liked the meal that was served.  Right or wrong, there’s value in consuming all that we take or produce.

As Americans with wealth and access we are especially prone to overconsumption, but what happens with all that waste?

In the United States approximately 60 million metric tons of food goes to waste annually with a value of $162 billion. What’s worse, more than half of that waste (about 32 million metric tons) ends up in landfills.  Simply managing that waste ends up costing local governments about $1.5 billion a year, according to a recent report compiled by the Waste and Resource Action Program.

Waste is not uniquely an American issue; however, it’s a global problem.  About a third of all food produced is not consumed, which experts estimate costs almost $400 billion a year. The Waste and Resource Action Program’s report notes that if nothing is done, consumer food waste may cost $600 billion a year by 2030. 

Money aside there is an environment impact to food waste too, but how can we help? Many cities across the country have complex and successful recycling and composting programs.  It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged municipal program to make an impact, however.  Just last week our boys came home from school with a flyer to make Wednesdays waste-free.  Children who bring their own lunch are encouraged to pack food in reusable containers and make an effort to be especially mindful on every day (not just Wednesdays) to prepare and consume their food in a way that leaves behind zero waste.

Could it really be that simple--Waste –free Wednesday? Probably not, but it’s surely a great place to start!

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