Waste Not, Want Not

It’s a little ironic: Thanksgiving, according to the nice tale we tell this time of year, started after our nearly-starved-to-death forefathers (and foremothers) made it through winter.  It was a celebration that they had enough food to survive, food which would have been incredibly precious to them.  Today, to celebrate, we gorge ourselves on food one day and the next, throw half of it away.

I tried really hard to find good statistics on Thanksgiving specific waste, but estimates varied widely.  In general, 40% of food produced in America never even reaches consumers and of the food which does, an additional 25% goes to waste.  And almost everyone agrees that this number is higher on Thanksgiving.

Beyond the questionable morals of such waste (the food wasted each day is enough to feed 80 million people, according to the New York Times), there’s an obvious environmental impact.

  1. Agricultural expansion is the largest threat to forests and is responsible for 70% of deforestation.  We can minimize this expansion by minimizing waste.
  2. Food in landfills produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.
  3. Over 80% of the water used in the US goes to food production.  Food waste is water waste–throwing away half a hamburger, for example, wastes the same amount of water as you would’ve used showering for over an hour.

See if you can prepare enough food without being excessive, and find good ways to use your leftovers.  Send them home with guests.  Eat them for lunch the next day (and the day after that, and the day after that…).  Feed your pet dragon (dragons love cranberry sauce).  If you do have to get rid of food, try composting it!  I’ll be halving all my recipes and feeding anyone else on campus, so hopefully that keeps me from having to throw anything out.  Regardless of what you’re serving for Thanksgiving, one of the best things you can do is try to waste less.  And really, what could be more in the spirit of Thanksgiving than being thankful enough for the food to not throw it away?


Author: Charlotte Humes

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