Experts say 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is never eaten, and that’s a statistic that they say only grows during the holidays.
The National Resources Defense Council says Americans throw away nearly 200 million pounds of turkey every Thanksgiving, and that’s just the meat. Charles Ruffing, director of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, says that’s a big problem.
“Think about all the water and energy to produce that food that never gets consumed. That’s all a waste," Ruffing said. "The food itself going to a landfill takes up precious space, and anaerobic conditions in a landfill it generates methane gas which is a potent greenhouse gas.”
He says there are easy, common sense steps anyone can take to combat the problem. Ruffing says that starts at the grocery store, making the portions you buy more precise. He recommends using the Defense Council’s online "Guest- imator."
“The best way to eliminate food waste is not to purchase it, cook it and then throw it away,” Ruffing said.
But Ruffing says portion control has to continue at the home. Literally, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
“You can always go back for more, but everything you take that you don’t consume is going to be waste,” Ruffing said. “Keep things labelled in the refrigerator so they don’t go to the back and end up there, and in three weeks you throw it out.”
But he says you don’t have to wait for the holidays to be more sustainable. Ruffing says going into the New Year, everyone should strive to make every meal with as little waste as possible.
“This is a time of abundance and we can be thankful for that, but we can plan over the next year to maybe investigate a compost service, or maybe make a commitment to sharpen your shopping skills so you’re not over purchasing," Ruffing said. "And make a commitment that can last beyond the holiday season and move toward solving the problem longer term.”