Ethical Eating Part 3: Waste Not

Ethical Eating is a series of practical tips and ideas on how to eat in ways that are better for other people and the earth.


“A family of four’s monthly share of American food waste.” View full graphic (Via NYTimes link below)

I don’t have statistics in front of me, but I probably don’t need them to convince you that we (USAers) throw away incredible amounts of stuff, including food. A recent NY Times article examined our food waste, One Country’s Table Scraps, Another Country’s Meal. Turns out Americans waste a pound of food per day per person. 27% of all food available for consumption ends up in a landfill. At my house we’re always cleaning out the fridge and throwing away moldy leftovers or fruits and vegetables that didn’t make it to the table.

Your mother may have told you to eat everything on your plate because there were children starving in (insert third world impoverished country here). Although it seems like bad motivation for children and potentially the source of future eating disorders, it turns out your mother was right. It makes ethical sense not to waste when other people don’t have enough elsewhere in the world. Distance makes it a harder source of motivation, but in a globalized world those starving children elsewhere are a lot closer to your plate than you realize.

Here are some things to think about in trying to reduce your waste.

  • Try to shop smarter. Try to buy only what you’ll eat or buy stuff in bulk that won’t go bad.
  • Consider packaging The less packaging, the less to throw away.
  • What to do with leftovers and/or food gone bad. Try to eat leftovers when you can before making more food. A lot of what we throw away would make great compost. (Post coming soon on composting)
  • Simply reduce the amount of food you eat. On the whole we (USAers) eat more than the rest of the world and it shows. Michael Pollan recommends eating less as part of his Eater’s Manifesto.

The Kitchn has some tips and tricks for avoiding food waste. A good blog on food waste is Wasted Food. The UK has a campaign called Love Food, Hate Waste.

You may or may not have heard of Freegans. These are radicals who live off of other people’s perfectly good waste, food included. They are dumpster diving extremists who call out the rest of us for what we toss in the garbage. You may not take up the freegan lifestyle, but maybe it will make you think about what you toss and look for ways to find free alternatives. This summer I’m going to be working with a local man who started a ministry that supplies all the local food ministries. A lot of the food he gets is from places like Olive Garden and Starbucks that toss all their leftovers every night. So, he takes these leftovers downtown for the homeless. Seems somehow appropriate that the poor should eat Starbucks and Olive Garden for free while the rest of us suckers pay $5 for a latte.

What are your tips for making sure you waste less?

(HT: Eat. Drink. Better. for the links)

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2 thoughts on “Ethical Eating Part 3: Waste Not

  1. Pingback: Waste Not: Compost « What Would Jesus Eat?

  2. Pingback: There IS Such a Thing as a Freegan Lunch « What Would Jesus Eat?

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