Sunday, June 16, 2013

Food Waste is Water Waste

And now it's time for me to state the obvious:

Agriculture consumes a lot of water.

Duh, right?  We all know this.  What's the point, then, in saying it? 

The point of it is that while we all realize this on an intellectual level, we have a habit of not thinking about it.

So what's so bad about that?

Well, nothing, on the surface.  Nothing in general, for that matter.  Problems arise not from the water that goes into growing our fruits and vegetables, but from our own actions once we buy them.

I'm talking food waste.

Wasting food is easy to do.  We may prepare too much, so it ends up getting thrown into the trash. Maybe we buy too much.  It goes bad and begins to grow fuzzy mold, causing us to stare at it with disgust... and maybe a little fear. 



Nobody is actively trying to do anything wrong.  It just happens.

Unfortunately, it happens a lot, and it's something we need to actively try to prevent.  Indeed, as stated in a story from NPR,
"According to the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, inside the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year worldwide is 45 trillion gallons of water. This represents a staggering 24 percent of all water used for agriculture." (source)
But that's not all.  See, those fruits and vegetables that I mentioned?  They're not the ones that consume the most water during their production.  Meat is actually the biggest water user.
"Meat production requires between 8 and 10 times more water than grain production, according to the WWAP [World Water Assessment Program]. Fortunately, we're better about eating the meat we produce. It represents only 4 percent of the total food wasted by weight, and 7 percent of the calories wasted, according to WRI."
Yikes!  Good thing it's low on the list of wasted foods, right?

I never thought to consider the amount of water that was wasted when uneaten food was thrown into the landfill, focusing on landfill waste accumulation and greenhouse gasses, instead.

Yet it's perfectly obvious that this is another major concern.

According to the article, the loss occurs on both ends of the food chain.
 
"In the developing world, farmers struggle with food loss long before it gets to the consumer. But greater access to simple equipment, like silos for airtight food storage and crates for delicate fruits and vegetables, would help a lot, WRI says.
In rich countries, by contrast, most food waste happens further along the food distribution chain — in homes and restaurants, for example. We need to do a better job of redistributing food we can't eat, and serving and ordering smaller portions, according to the report."

On our side of the food chain, the answer is simple.  Pay attention to what we purchase, and don't buy more than is necessary.  Buying too much is the leading cause of food waste. 

And really... Do we actually want to waste all of that extra money on food?
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