The Hidden Consequences of Food Waste
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that solving our waste problem requires we look at the whole system, not just our own contribution to it. Sometimes that feels big and daunting, but it also offers many more opportunities to bring about positive changes.
Food waste is especially unforgivable. Millions of people are malnourished or going hungry, not only in developing countries but here in the US, while grocery stores, restaurants and homes are throwing away tons of perfectly edible and nutritious food every day. But the problem is not just the food that’s wasted when leftovers go in the trash. It’s also all of the greenhouse gas emissions, water, biodiversity loss and soil & air pollution that was generated to create that food only for it to be tossed away uneaten. To understand the full impact of wasting food, we have to look at where that food comes from and where the wasted food goes.
Let’s unpack this a bit, starting with snack foods. Not so long ago, big food manufacturers discovered that palm oil could be used instead of butter or trans fats in a vast number of baked goods and other foods. This was very convenient as trans fats had started to get a bad name. You’ll find palm oil (or one of its many aliases) in all kinds of food from Quaker granola bars, to Betty Crocker cake mix, to Fritos chips and Dunkin’ Donuts.
Palm oil comes from tropical countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and parts of Africa. As we’ve tried to ditch the trans fats from our diets, demand for palm oil has shot up and these countries are now chopping down thousands of acres of lush tropical rainforests, to clear the way for palm tree plantations. Indonesia has lost over a quarter of its forest since 1990 – an area the size of Germany – which is a tragedy for the indigenous communities and tigers, orangutans and other endangered species which need the forest to survive. Companies have made progress towards buying more responsibly produced palm oil but deforestation still continues, so we should all be mindful of wasting food that may have cost more than just the dollars we paid for it. You can sign this petition to help encourage food companies to stop destroying rainforests for palm oil.
Read full story: Huffington Post