Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | May 16, 2011

Clean Plate Club = Green Plate Club

More often than I’d like to admit, my husband and I fail to get through a bundle of lettuce before it wilts, or we forget to communicate about the expiration date on some cheese in the back of a drawer. Then, we do the walk of shame straight from the fridge to the compost pile or garbage can. It is a frustrating waste of money. It turns out  that our mistakes have some pretty serious environmental consequences, too.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations came out with a study this week that showed a full one third of the world’s food is lost or wasted.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the U.S.  “food waste is more than 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream. Less than three percent of the 34 million tons of food waste generated in 2009 was recovered and recycled.” Not only does wasted food “have huge economic impacts, it also has huge and immediate environmental impacts. When food is disposed in a landfill it quickly rots and becomes a significant source of methane — a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a major source of human-related methane in the United States, accounting for more than 20 percent of all methane emissions. ”

Well, this information has convinced me to become more mindful about stewarding our food. Here are some suggested resources that have helped me and might help you too.

1. Increase mindfulness and action on food justice in your church.

At the Lord’s Table: Everyday Thanksgiving  is an NCC Eco-Justice guide for study, worship, and action. Eat mindfully–mindful of the farmers and rural communities, the rich soil and clean water, and God’s plentiful provision–without which our tables would be empty. Doing so instills thanksgiving and calls us to right relationship with all of creation. Explore and celebrate the blessing of every bite with this guide for study, worship, and action.

Cool Harvest Program from Interfaith Power and Light. About one-fifth of climate change pollution comes from the food industry. That’s more than from all transportation combined.  The Cool Harvest program will support you educating your community about this issue and in facilitating dialogue and action.

2. Consider joining a CSA or going to the farmer’s market more often.

Local Harvest can help you identify local food sources such as farmers markets and Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. Eating local food reduces your carbon footprint because it didn’t have to be shipped, trucked, or flown to your market.

3. Exchange ideas with friends and family about how they preserve and re-use food.  Some good tips I’ve heard include:

– Take a shelf out of your fridge to discourage food accumulation and to better see the food you have.

– Keep a running white board list on the front of your fridge that tells you what’s in there and when you bought it.

– Cut up wilting veggies to make soup or wilting fruits to make jam. No time to make soup or jam? Stash produce in the freezer. (Just don’t forget they’re in there. (See previous tip!)

– Buy less food more frequently, based on what you know you’ll use.


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