Let’s Feed People, Not Landfills

By Felicia Chou

I’ve seen a lot of mold in my life. Bluish-green spotty ones, cottony white ones, even bright orange ones. I’ve been seeing them more often when digging around in my fridge, which is now a thriving spore-iffic ecosystem. And with Thanksgiving is coming up, I’m sure there will be even more leftovers.

So maybe sometimes I forget that I’ve had a bag of tomatoes sitting in the fridge since August. An extra bag of tomatoes in the landfill isn’t going to make a difference, right?

Dr. William L. Rathje found decade-old hotdogs and guacamole in recognizable condition buried in a landfill. Without the proper sunlight, air, and water, my tomatoes could sit in an airtight landfill for who-knows-how-long without biodegrading. In 2010, 33.79 million tons of food waste ended up in landfills. That’s 67,580,000,000 pounds worth of food we’ve dumped in one year. Imagine how much more might end up in landfills this holiday season if we don’t cut down on food waste.

So what can we do? At the grocery store, only buy what you know you will finish eating. Keep a list of food items in the fridge so you always remember what you already have, even if it’s hidden in the back and you can’t find it right away. If you have extra food after your Thanksgiving feast, finish up the food in the upcoming days, or share them with your neighbor. Your local food bank and other food rescue programs are happy to take wholesome, uneaten food for those who need it. And finally, you can compost your leftovers to nurture your garden.

If I had to choose between wasting food or burying it in landfills in non-biodegradable limbo, versus saving money by not buying unneeded food, donating wholesome food to those who need it, or having an awe-inspiring garden, I’d prefer the latter. Just imagine the amount of food we could keep out of landfills if all school cafeterias, grocery stores, restaurants, and other major food producers could reduce, donate, and compost as much as possible.

So while I clean out my fridge (composting all the inedible “food”), and pledge to only buy what I can finish from now on, think what can you do this Thanksgiving to cut down on food waste?

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery since 2008. One of her fondest Thanksgiving memories was chasing a wild turkey down the city streets of Taiwan. She has no idea where the turkey came from, and what it was doing loose on the streets, and what it was doing in Taiwan.

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