Combating Wasted Food: Good for the Environment, Good for Your Bottom Line

Here’s a really smart way for businesses – from restaurants to grocery store chains to hotels and more – to boost their bottom lines: Reduce wasted food.

This week we’re holding a week of action on wasted food. It’s all about sustainability – environmentally and economically – and how we meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet the needs of tomorrow.

In 2012, the United States threw away about 35 million tons of food – more than any other type of waste going to landfills. When that wasted food gets to the landfill, it rots, generating methane gas – one of the most potent contributors to climate change. All of this waste also squanders the water, energy, nutrients and money used to transport that food.

At the same time, many Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that, in 2012, 14 percent of households regularly did not have enough food to live active, healthy lifestyles.

That’s where businesses come in. By making small changes in their food management practices, companies can reduce climate change impacts, feed hungry people and save money, too.

Here are some things your company can do:

  • Donate your surplus nutritious food to local food banks and be a leader in reducing hunger. Some businesses can get tax benefits from these donations, too.
  • Compost food scraps that aren’t suitable for people to eat, or use anaerobic digestion. Composting improves soil health and reduced the need for more water, fertilizers and pesticides. Commercial anaerobic digestion can reduce the amount of methane and produce renewable energy.
  • Reduce the amount of unnecessary food that you buy. This saves purchasing costs and disposal fees, and avoids the environmental impacts of unnecessary food production.

Getting started on some of these good practices might seem like a challenge, so EPA launched the Food Recovery Challenge in 2011. Nearly 800 businesses, leading corporations and organizations are already a part of it. When these organizations join the challenge, they work towards sustainability goals, track progress and can be recognized for their successes.
The organizations that have joined the challenge are making great progress, as are many others. The data show that food donations by the retail sector alone increased by 500 million pounds from 2008 to 2009, and composting of food waste increased by 974,000 tons from 2009 to 2012. That’s like taking 266,000 cars off the road for a year.

But we’re going to need a lot of leaders on this issue, who want to give back to their communities and make positive change. If you’re part of a company, I encourage you to sign up now for the challenge. If you’re a consumer, let your favorite local businesses, national brands and other companies you like know that you want them to participate.

Sustainable food management is socially responsible, environmentally responsible and economically beneficial. Food is too good to waste.

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