Food Waste: More Information to Ponder
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I included some food waste facts in my Challenge for Growth Prompt #10: Ending Food Waste post. Below you will find a quote from Gandhi, an abundance continuum from Jean I. Clarke, and some more relevant facts.

1)  Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

2)  Jean I. Clarke created an abundance continuum.  It looks like this:  “too little … enough …   abundance …  too much”

3)  “As of 2013, half of all food is wasted worldwide, according to the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME)”

4)  “Food waste that goes to the landfill breaks down anaerobically and produces methane; methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.” (Environmental Protection Agency) from End Food Waste Now

5)  “Every ton of food wasted results in 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)” End Food Waste Now

6)  “A single restaurant in the U.S. can produce approximately 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste in a year, according to the Green Restaurant Association.” End Food Waste Now

7)  “Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).” Food and Agriculture Organization

8)  “Hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, yet the world is producing more than enough food. Recovering just half of what is lost or wasted could feed the world alone.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

9)  “Around 100 million tonnes  in the EU. If nothing is done, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020.” Another source Reported: “Each year, 22 million tonnes of food is wasted in the European Union, according to a new study, of which 80 per cent is avoidable.”   (Both studies are reported.  I do not know how to account for the discrepancy in numbers.)

10)  “With an estimated 70 billion pounds (~32 million tons) of food waste in America each year, we must work together to capture more of this valuable resource for the nearly 48 million people in the United States who feel the effects of food insecurity.” Feeding America

Personal reflections:

Not wasting food has long been a value of mine but I am far from perfect about it.  It will be a life goal I think.

I am lucky to live in a city, Seattle, where recycling and composting of food and yard waste has been available for years.  Nowadays, if city residents put food or recyclables in their trash cans, they may be fined.  The city’s food and yard waste is sent to Cedar Groves where it is turned into garden compost.

I also compost some of my food waste in two worm bins.  One is a big outdoor wooden bin, and the other is a Worm Factory bin that can stay inside my house or on my back deck.  Vermi-composting creates high quality fertilizer.


Worm composting


Letting Go and Lightening Up


For years, I taught a workshop that included a guided imagery experience where participants, in their mind’s eye, emptied every room in their house and placed the contents of those rooms outside onto an ever-growing pile of belongings. I also had them visualize how big a nomad’s pile might be if he did the same thing.

Can you imagine creating that kind of a pile for yourself, i.e. removing every item from your living room, bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, dining room, basement, garage and every other room in your house and turning it into a mountain of belongings?  How big would your pile be?  Do the same process for a nomad. How does your pile compare to the nomad’s?

Next, I had the participants add all of the earth’s resources they believe they use in a year’s time to their piles, and asked them to “see” the nomad doing the same.

What would your pile look like if you added all the food you eat, the trash you discard, as well as all of the water, oil, natural gas, gasoline, wood and other resources you use in a year to your other belongings? See the nomad doing the same thing. How does your pile compare to the nomad’s?

Through that guided imagery, I hoped to give the workshop participants a sense of the “weight” belongings may add to their lives. I also wanted to give them a taste of the difference between wants and needs. Many attendees left that workshop with plans to organize a garage sale as soon as possible!

Does seeing your mountain of belongings give you a sense of being burdened or weighed down? How many of your belongings are wants and how many are needs? How many of your wants are very important to you?

I have lived in the same house in Seattle since 1973. You can imagine how much “stuff” I could have accumulated in 42 years. I have always valued experiences over material belongings though, so have used my financial resources to take trips to India rather than buying a lot of material possessions.

Even so, over the years my shelves, drawers, and closets filled.  Around eight years ago, I decided I was going to give away anything I hadn’t used in the last five years, unless I planned to use the item in the near future. One of the articles I gave away at that point was a loom I had purchased in 1974. I hadn’t used the loom since my children were born. For decades, I told myself I would start using it once my son and daughter grew up and left home. They both moved out in the 90’s and I still hadn’t use the loom, so in 2007, I added it to my “to go” pile. I did a major purging of stuff that year.

Several years later, I felt compelled to go through my belongings again. This time I wanted to create an empty shelf every place in the house where shelves were located. I loved the sense of relaxation and peace I felt when I gazed at those open spaces. The shelves stayed empty until I decided to take in a roommate; at that time the empty shelves were needed for the roommate’s possessions.

Last year, I again felt pulled to reduce my belongings. The desire was so strong I wondered if something was about to happen.  Was I going to be moving? Was I preparing for my impending death? (I have no terminal disease but fantasies can take any form!) I still don’t know the “why” but even as I write this post, my yearning to further decrease my possessions is stronger than ever.

Now I am giving away anything that I haven’t used in the last two years unless I have a strong desire to keep it.  Once again, I have become a regular at the Goodwill drop off station!

I am loving the sense of lightening-up I am experiencing as I continue to let go of personal belongings I no longer need or want!