On average, Americans waste 25 percent of all the food they buy. While most people think they’re not wasting much food, studies show that Americans waste much more food than they think they do.
“In collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, King County’s Solid Waste Division (SWD) has developed the Food: Too Good To Waste program to bring awareness to the environmental and financial impacts of wasting food and to offer residents helpful tips on reducing food waste,” said Karen May, the program’s manager.
Food waste makes up the largest percentage of what ends up in King County’s Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, and the greenhouse gas emissions in King County that result from food consumption (from farm to plate) are second only to emissions from personal transportation. King County is one of the first communities in the country to tackle the issue of consumer food waste – a worldwide problem with significant financial, environmental and social impacts.
“It’s not just wasting food and money, but also the natural resources that were used to produce, package and transport food from the farm to our plates,” May said.
For example, food waste uses 25 percent of the nation’s freshwater supply and enough energy to power the entire country for more than a week. While composting food scraps helps reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills, May said it’s much better to avoid wasting it in the first place.
The SWD launched a pilot program in 2012 with a group of Fall City Elementary School students to collect food waste data and test the effectiveness of key program messages. The students and their families collected food scraps and recorded how much their family wasted and incorporated tips and strategies for reducing food waste in their homes.
The program hit the streets this year; with public outreach booths at selected farmers markets to educate people about the impacts of food waste and how to prevent it May said the program has received an enthusiastic response from King County residents.
“Visitors to our booth are saying ‘this is a great use of county funds,’” she said.
The booth’s catchy table-top displays and take-away resources have been attracting many visitors and inspiring in-depth conversations with outreach staff about the issue of food waste and how to waste less. It’s a popular topic – everyone can relate to food!
The SWD is working with a group of residents to take the new Food: Too Good To Waste Challenge to encourage residents to find out how much they are wasting and to take steps to waste less. Over a four-week period, the residents will track the food they toss at home and trying simple strategies to waste less while saving money. The first week will be to gather a baseline of food wasted; and the next three weeks will ask the household to try the campaign’s recommended strategies (any or all) to see what works for them.