Is dining out unsustainable?

wasted-food-250x166

I feel I am becoming more and more concerned about trash, and have to do penance anytime something is thrown out.

My current “aha” is food waste- and dining out is a big part of it!  As a parent, in the currently unstable economy, most people know that moving to a “home cooked” philosophy makes for the best remedy for better health and nutrition.

Unfortunately, as a student ans stressed out mom, this last month has had me put cooking on the back burner, and instead focus on my studies, and just getting through the day?

But besides nutrition, at what cost is my behavior impacting the environment?

food-waste

According to a study done by the EPA, Food Waste is becoming the #1 material in land fills. http://culture.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/nov/27/for-restaurants-food-waste-is-seen-as-low-priority/

“Food waste is huge,” says Schwab, a senior analyst in the waste division at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Food waste is now the No. 1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators.” In a recent interview with NPR, Schwab explained that food waste from restaurants makes up 15 percent of all the food that ends up in landfills. And all that food doesn’t just take up space and attract pests — it’s also changing the climate. “Because it rots so fast, basically it starts to generate methane really quickly,” says Schwab. Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And reducing methane emissions from sources like landfills is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s biggest priorities in the fight against climate change.

NPR also reports that apx three cents of every dollar consumers spend on food away from home ends up in the trash. And that doesn’t even include the food left on your plate or the slimy lettuce forgotten in the fridge.

In my family, we try to be very aware of what we have in our fridge or pantry- most of my friends are hard up when they come over, just because of our lack of “perceived” options- but that’s only to force us to eat everything we buy, and not waste!

The figures are staggering, and will definitely make you want to thin twice before stopping off at that local fast food joint!

Here’s a few collected on July 13, 2009, by Green Eco Services: http://www.greenecoservices.com/food-waste-in-restaurants/

I Just Gotta Tell Ya

  • A single restaurant disposes of more than 50 tons of organic waste every year.
  • Food waste is 76% organic and can be recycled
  • Meanwhile cost of food has increased 8%
  • 27 percent of all food is thrown out, which works out to a pound of food every day for every American.
  • Full service restaurants waste more food than fast food eateries. Food scraps make up 66 percent of restaurants’ trash, compared to 52 percent at fast food places.

Why don’t restaurants donate food the the needy? It seems they cite liablity and other issues. I wonder if they are just lazy and don’t want to take the time.

But at the restaurant level, what can be done? (Perhaps donation to food banks!)

Earth Talk magazine reported on the issue recently: EarthTalk® E/The Environmental Magazine, http://www.foodreference.com/html/a-restaurant-waste-511.html

Dear EarthTalk: I work at a fast food place and I am appalled by the amount of unpurchased food we throw away. The boss says we can’t give it away for legal reasons. Where can I turn for help on this, so the food could instead go to people in need?
— Ryan Jones, Richland, WA (11/14/2010)

Many restaurants, fast food or otherwise, are hesitant to donate unused food due to concerns about liability if people get sick after eating it—especially because once any such food is out of the restaurant’s hands, who knows how long it might be before it is served again. But whether these restaurants know it or not, they cannot be held liable for food donated to organizations, and sometimes all it might take to change company policy would be a little advocacy from concerned employees.

A 1995 survey found that over 80 percent of food businesses in the U.S. did not donate excess food due to liability concerns. In response, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which releases restaurants and other food organizations from liability associated with the donation of food waste to nonprofits assisting individuals in need. The Act protects donors in all 50 states from civil and criminal liability for good faith donations of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as meeting “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other condition.”

Unused or even partially eaten food waste can
also be utilized even if it’s not edible by human standards. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture approves of food businesses giving or selling food
waste to local farmers for use in composting or as animal feed. If such food
contains or has come into contact with meat, it should be boiled for 30 minutes
to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the animals that eat it. Many
states have complementary laws on the books regulating the donation of food
waste at the local level.

Diverting food waste to feed hungry people or for animal feed or compost is a winning scenario for all concerned parties as it not only provides relief to overburdened landfills but also helps meet social welfare, agricultural and environmental needs. Also, those restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that donate food will likely reap the additional reward of saving money on their actual waste removal bill as their trash bins and dumpsters won’t be filling up quite so fast.

Get Involved

Feeding America- Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization. Feeding America supports a network of 206 food banks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Before September 2008, Feeding America was named America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network. The organization adopted a rebranding effort in order to help better educate and engage the public about our role in the fight against hunger. The new brand will allow them to build the support they need to feed 1 million more people each year, to significantly increase participation in federal nutrition programs, and to inspire the public to take action.

CONTACTS: CalRecycle, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov; Mama’s Health, http://www.mamashealth.com; North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, http://www.p2pays.org

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881

Bibliography

Barclay, E. (2012, 11 27). For restaurants, food   waste is seen as low priority. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from NPR:   http://culture.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/nov/27/for-restaurants-food-waste-is-seen-as-low-priority/

Cathy. (2009, July 13). Food Waste in Restaurants. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from Greenecoservices.com: http://www.greenecoservices.com/food-waste-in-restaurants/

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Is dining out unsustainable?

  1. emassey09

    I definitely believe that dining out is unsustainable. Being Americans we love our huge portion sizes and having our “eyes bigger than our stomachs”. Which in fact most of the food goes to waste anyways. I know that I barely take food to-go when I still have food left on my plate at a restaurant, it horrible I know, but true. So I just think about the tons and tons of food that gets thrown away when we have so many starving people in the world. Not to mention having worked in the restaurant industry, its a real eye opener when you have actually see how much food has been thrown away at the end of the night.

    Reply
  2. erinrussellsustainability

    I never would have thought that food waste would be such a problem! When you think of things that hurt the environment, you think of plastic that doesn’t biodegrade, littering, cutting down too many trees, polluting the lakes and oceans, and the gas pollution our cars and our factories put into the air. I would have thought, well, at least food waste degrades back into the earth. I never thought that in such huge amounts it could produce that kind of methane gas! It is also really sad that in a world where there is so much hunger there is so much wasted food. There really should be a solution to this. The solution to hunger is food. The solution to reducing the methane gas and space taken up in landfills is not wasting so much food. It seems pretty simple to put two and two together, but it never is as simple as it should be.

    Reply

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