Recognizing Leaders in Food Waste Reduction this Holiday Season

By Mathy Stanislaus

In just a few days, households across the nation will celebrate Thanksgiving, a cherished tradition of spending time with family and friends and sharing a meal. Many households, after enjoying abundant Thanksgiving meals, throw wholesome food into landfills. Did you know that food is the largest part of our everyday trash – more than paper, plastic, and glass? Reducing food waste results in significant environmental, social and financial benefits to our communities.

Food rots quickly in landfills and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Not only does wasting nutritious food exacerbate climate change, but we miss the opportunity to feed the millions of Americans that live in food insecure households. Additionally, throwing away food squanders money – an average family can spend up to $1,500 on food that is never eaten. Communities can save money, feed those in need and lessen environmental impacts by implementing strategies to prevent and reduce food loss and waste.

Innovative organizations recognize the benefits of sustainably managing food and are making real in-roads to prevent and reduce wasted food. This year’s top Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) national performers kept tons of food from becoming waste in 2015. Their creative practices range from targeting food recovery at farmers’ markets, creating food waste eco-leader volunteer programs in high schools, and adding infrastructure to better manage the distribution of perishable produce. These are a few great examples of what businesses and organizations can do to reduce food loss and waste across their operations.

The efforts of this year’s award winners, as well as the actions of all FRC participants and endorsers, will help us meet the national goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030 and aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The federal government, led by EPA and USDA, is calling on leaders throughout the public and private sectors to heed the Call to Action to meet the 2030 goal. To do this, we need help from every sector, organization and household across America. The FRC participants are leading the way and I encourage others to institutionalize these best practices.

What can you do? Businesses and organizations can assess their food waste and related management practices to find out what’s being thrown out and why by utilizing our tools to determine the best ways to implement reductions in their everyday operations. Individuals can make small shifts in how they shop, prepare and store food to reduce waste (e.g., use up overly ripe produce in creative recipes such as smoothies or compotes). Start by considering a new tradition this Thanksgiving of sending your dinner guests home with a container of nutritious leftovers so they don’t go to waste.

Read about this year’s Food Recovery Challenge results and winners:

Learn more about what you can do at home to reduce food waste:

Find creative ways your business or organization can reduce food loss and waste from the Call to Action by Stakeholders:

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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This Week in EPA Science: Thanksgiving Edition

By Kacey Fitzpatrick

Research Recap Graphic Identifier: Thanksgiving EditionWith Thanksgiving comes a long list of to do items: last minute grocery store runs, finding the perfect pumpkin pie recipe, cleaning the house before guests arrive, and of course roasting that turkey.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget what this holiday is really about! That’s why for this special edition of Research Recap, we’ve asked our researchers what they’re thankful for in the field of environmental science.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  • “I’m thankful for having my dream job where I get to work on exciting research projects to help support our environmental protection mission.”
    Terra Haxton, Environmental Engineer


  • “I am grateful for having been given the opportunity to be part of the greatest environmental protection organization in the world. We are not perfect, we are not always appreciated, and we often do not even recognize our own achievements. But we are the front line of environmental protection.”
    Heriberto Cabezas, Senior Science Advisor, Sustainable Technology Division


  • “I’m thankful for having an interesting job.”
    Paul Lemieux Associate Division Director, National Homeland Security Research Center


  • “I am thankful for the resources and organizational support to pursue research and development of green infrastructure technologies in urban core areas of the United States, and have the opportunity to interact with citizens and generally demonstrate our work in communities.”
    Bill Shuster, Research Hydrologist


  • “I am thankful that when I turn on a faucet, reliably clean water comes out! It is easy to forget all the science and engineering happening behind the scenes.”
    Gayle Hagler, Environmental Engineer


  • “I am most thankful for living and working in a country that has dedicated scientists, citizens, and programs that wonder over the environment and are always striving protect it from past and future harm. “
    Felicia Barnett, Environmental Engineer


  • “I’m thankful for my EPA colleagues who are smart, hardworking and excited about their research to understand and improve the world around us.”
    Jana Compton, Forest Ecologist


  • “I am thankful for our chemical safety for sustainability research team that has accelerated the pace of chemical screening and the transformative advances in our high throughput and computational exposure science research.”
    Tina Bahadori, Exposure Scientist and National Program Director


  • “I’m thankful to be working with colleagues who are passionate about their research.”
    Paul Mayer, Ecologist


  • “I’m thankful for the opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary and multi-organizational research community where we strive to understand how human exposure to various types of stressors (both chemicals and non-chemicals) affects human health and well-being. And how we can translate what we learn to help others in their decisions.”
    Nicolle Tulve, Research Physical Scientist


  • “I am thankful for the grace, vibrancy and inherent resilience of the natural world. The natural systems of our environment have a great capacity to adjust, recover and retain so much beauty, and for this I am grateful.”
    Jordan West, Aquatic Ecologist


  • “I’m thankful that I get to work with some amazingly brilliant people who are deeply committed to improving the environment and dealing with some of the major issues we have on the horizon, e.g. climate change.”
    Betsy Smith, Associate National Program Director for Systems Analysis, Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program


  • “I’m thankful for being part of the EPA family that provides the scientific foundation for decisions that protect human health and the environment. I am also grateful to work with highly talented and dedicated individuals!”
    Valerie Zartarian, Senior Exposure Scientist


  • “I’m thankful for having a wonderful family, living in a nice city and working with all of the great people at EPA in Cincinnati. I’m thankful that so many thoughtful people at EPA are looking out for public health in the United States.”
    Jeff Szabo, Environmental Engineer


  • “Being able to say, without irony or sarcasm, that we are doing the people’s work.”
    Ted Angradi, Research Biologist


About the Author: Student contractor Kacey Fitzpatrick is thankful for her new job writing about EPA research for the Agency’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Happy Meleagris gallopavo Day!

By Jeffery Robichaud

It is nearly Thanksgiving and that can mean only one thing.  Well yeah of course, people camped out overnight in front of Big Box stores to save twenty bucks on a Blu-Ray player…but I was thinking Turkey.  This time of year Turkey is big business, and I always seem to get a call from my folks that involves them asking did you get your Turkey yet?  Everywhere you look there are stories and facts about turkeys.  Heck as I type this, my wife and kids are heading over to pick up their race packets for the “Turkey Trot”. 

But rather than pay homage to the bird that many of us Gobble up, I thought I’d talk about its not so distant cousin and pass the wild turkey around the proverbial table.  My family and I live on top of a ridge with woods and a creek behind us and darned if we don’t get visited by wild turkeys about this time every year.  They like to hang out in the neighbor’s yard and meander back down the hill.  We only see them occasionally, but they must be frequent guests because our high strung dog barely raises his head anymore. 

Over the past several months we’ve had several blog posts about our Conservation Focus Areas which incorporate concepts of vertebrate richness and conserving natural areas that are important for sustaining species diversity.  When I looked into the range of wild turkeys I was actually pretty surprised.  In fact spotting them in my backyard here in Missouri isn’t quite that rare of an occurrence.  According to the National Wild Turkey Federation the estimated 5.3 million Eastern Wild Turkeys can be found pretty much everywhere in my home state of Missouri (and as I can attest even in that white spot around Kansas City where none are shown).

But I can’t leave my blog without sharing with you your compulsory Turkey Trivia.  Last week my family and I were in San Diego for a bit of a vacation.  While on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Tram ride our tour guide was filling our heads full of facts.   Traversing a stretch without animals, she shared how groups of animals are called by different names… a pride of lions, a band of gorillas, a herd of elephants, and my personal favorite…an asylum of loons.  All of which got me thinking, what do you call a group of turkeys?  Come to find out it’s a either a gang or rafter of turkeys.   Seems fitting to call them a gang since my two boys and their gang of friends often strike me as nothing but a bunch of turkeys.  Now you too can impress your friends by checking out some other names for groups of animals here, and be ostentatious at your turkey day gathering by sharing that it is an ostentation of peacocks.  Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author: Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  On Thursday he will be rooting for Washington since Dallas is only a game behind his beloved Seahawks for a wildcard spot.   

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Reach for the Blue label on Black Friday

Una Song

By: Una Song

Every family has their own ways of celebrating the holidays, and my family is no different. At our Thanksgiving dinner, we will have all the usual fixings: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.  But being Korean, we’ll also have kimchi (pickled cabbage), jap chae (a noodle dish with vegetables and beef), and mandoo (Korean version of wontons).

Another Thanksgiving tradition of mine is seeing an action movie with my cousins after dinner and then shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. When I was younger, we would go to the department stores and look for the best deals on sweaters, ties and scarves. Now I find myself increasingly spending more time looking for electronics.  I am not alone.  According to the Consumer Electronics Association’s Holiday Gift Guide, technology gifts like tablet computers, smartphones, digital TVs and cameras, and video game systems once again top many wish lists.

Those who want to do good by the environment can choose electronics that use less energy by looking for EPA’s blue ENERGY STAR label as they do their holiday shopping.  The ENERGY STAR label helps consumers easily identify products that are energy efficient, and it can be found on over 65 product categories, including TVs, computers, printers and other electronics.

Hot products like soundbars and speaker systems for MP3 players are great gift ideas and they are covered by the ENERGY STAR program.  Products that have earned the ENERGY STAR provide the same functionality as standard models, but use less energy because they are more efficient in all usage modes:  sleep, idle, and on.  If every TV, DVD player, and home theatre system purchased in the U.S. this year were ENERGY STAR qualified, we would save more than $260 million and prevent more than 3 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 300,000 cars.

So when you start making your shopping list this year, look for the ENERGY STAR logo and do something good for the environment this holiday season.

Una Song works for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program and is focused on marketing ENERGY STAR consumer electronics.  She looks forward to the Thanksgiving food coma every year.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Let’s Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is in just a few days. Hard to believe that it’s already here. Sometimes it seems like ole Turkey Day gets sideswiped by the gift buying and holiday madness the day after. It’s almost as if Thanksgiving is a part of the countdown to holidays in December. People can sometimes forget to slow down and actually remember what it’s all about. A time to give thanks.

One of the traditions in my family growing up was to write down what we were thankful for. We would write simple things down on slips of paper and place them into a pilgrim boat craft made by one of the grandkids long ago. After stuffing our faces and sitting around the table enjoying each other’s company, we would pass the slips around the table and everyone would read one out loud. Granted, several of the slips ended up being more humorous than anything. Sometimes it turned into a game to figure out who wrote what, but we all smiled and laughed and said ‘aw’ at heartfelt responses. We were together. And we all were thankful for that. And while this year we are all spread out across the country and not reading our paper slips, I know that we still have a lot to be thankful for, including one another. Not to mention, our stomachs were thankful for all of the food that we stuffed ourselves with.

As you begin preparing your feast in a couple of days, I thought it might be prudent to bring up some facts about pesticides. It is important to note that infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks from pesticides because their internal organs are still developing and maturing, they eat and drink more than adults in relation to their body weight, and certain behaviors like crawling on the ground or putting objects in their mouths may increase a children’s exposure to pesticides. Pesticides can harm children by blocking absorption of nutrients from food and can also cause harm if a child’s excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Under the Food Quality Protection Act (1996), EPA evaluates children’s exposure to pesticide residues in and on foods they most commonly eat. The EPA ensures the pesticide residues on foods are safe for children. To learn more about why children may be especially sensitive to pesticides you can visit this website. Some consumers are purchasing organically grown foods to reduce their exposure to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Other ways to reduce pesticides on food include washing, peeling and trimming food, and selecting a variety of foods. You can learn more about what organic means to you and your family by clicking here. You can also purchase food from local farmer’s markets to reduce harmful emissions into the air. So as you begin your preparations for Thursday, take the time to eliminate risks for pesticides. That’s one thing you and your family can always be thankful for.

About the author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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