Taking a Bite out of Food Waste
According to the United Nations, we as a planet waste approximately 1.3 trillion tons of edible food per year. Today is Earth Day, and if we want to talk sustainability, we can’t leave the issue of food waste off the table.
Chances are if you’re reading this article, you already know that some of our planet’s most critical issues can be traced back to industrialized agriculture. It takes a lot out of mother Earth to yield massive amounts of food, and when we waste what we grow, we’re making her job (you know, supporting life) even tougher. In 2010, 31% of the food available to Americans went uneaten. To put this waste into perspective, researchers estimate that 1 in 7 truckloads of food delivered to the average American supermarket is thrown away.
Consumer-level waste is a final gut-punch to mother nature. Wasted food alone requires over 25% of total US freshwater and 300 million barrels of oil to produce. The disposal of wasted food accounts for 14% of solid trash in the United States. When this waste is left to decompose, it produces staggering amounts of methane, which has 25x the global warming potential of CO2.
At Dig Inn, we’re doing all we can to eliminate waste from our food chain. By purchasing produce directly from local farmers, we majorly cut down on transit time, keeping our vegetables fresher, longer. Whenever possible, our chefs make use of ingredients that are usually wasted. We make pesto from kale stems and flavor dressings with leftover citrus rinds. Our current menu features broccoli leaf, a nutritious green that’s typically tossed. This vegetable-forward culinary approach collapses the notion of food waste as an inevitability. Low-waste cooking allows for the development of new flavors, and makes it possible to feed more food to more people. Any stumps and stems that can’t be salvaged are neatly bundled at our commissary and sent to greener pastures, er, composting facilities. We’ve also made food waste a priority at the restaurant level. In New York, we partner with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, and in Boston with Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Both are nonprofit organizations that help us bring any end of the night leftovers to shelters, kitchens, and homes. Rather than feeding the cycle of pollution, we’re able to serve up delicious food to those who need it most.
While restaurants and grocery stores have the biggest impact on the future of food waste, we can all hold ourselves accountable, too. When you go to the grocery store (or better yet, farmer’s market- remember that long-distance transport thing?) purchase the amount of food you know you can eat before it goes off. Party of one? Skip the bulk bags. Save your food scraps and compost them. If you’re an urbanite, you can drop them off at your local Greenmarket. Have a bunch of bananas ripening past repair? Make banana bread. Share it. Food shouldn’t be expendable. Every bite grown, harvested, and prepared provides us with the opportunity to nourish our minds, our communities, and yep, our planet too.