The Hidden Costs of Food Waste And Five Strategies To Combat It

4 minutes

Learn about the hidden cost of food waste in America, including steps you can take to limit your food waste.

It’s clear that businesses and consumers alike need to assess and rebalance how we produce and consume goods if we hope to address the growing climate crisis.

Practically every action we take has some cost to the environment, though, so it can be hard to decide exactly where to start. Should we switch to all-electric vehicles? Phase-out single-use plastics? Limit our use of electronics at certain times of the day?

While all of these are crucial areas to explore, there is a very simple place to start: how we approach food. Or, more specifically, how we limit our wasted food. Nearly 61% of food waste comes from households, with 26% from foodservice and 13% from retail environments.

Food waste is a problem that consumers can directly address. But, it requires us first to understand the exact scope of the problem to identify solutions. Let’s explore the significant impact of food waste on society and the ways that you can help stop this problem.

The Financial And Environmental Impact of Food Waste

Food waste directly impacts your everyday finances. The typical American household wastes about $3.50 worth of food every day, with some estimates suggesting the number is closer to $5 a day. That’s upward of $1,300 a year going into your trash can.

But the monetary side is just one consideration. According to the UNEP Food Waste Index 2021, an estimated 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed. US food waste alone is equivalent to 37 million passenger vehicles’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a considerable impact on our environment.

How do the bits and scraps we toss each day add up to such a significant global impact? You have to account for the full lifecycle of your food, the resources it took to grow and package it, and its journey to a landfill (or, even worse, littering our streets) if wasted.

A few main areas of food waste involve the water footprint, (mis)use of land, and even threats to biodiversity and the species that we share the planet with. Here is just a small glimpse at what’s wasted in the US alongside food waste:

  • 21% of the US agricultural water—that’s more water than Texas, California, and Ohio use alone
  • 19% of all US cropland
  • 18% of all farming fertilizer, which contains 3.8 billion pounds of nutrients

How Americans Can Reduce Their Food Waste

How can households limit their food waste?

The FDA aims to cut food waste in half by 2030, and the agency shared a few suggestions for how everyday consumers can limit their food waste:

  • Regularly review your fridge and pantry stock, especially before a grocery trip. This can reduce the likelihood of purchasing the same product(s) that you already have
  • Learn how to properly store your fruits and vegetables (this article can help!), and remember that produce can still be used for cooking even if it is no longer optimal freshness
  • Organize your fridge and pantry space to spotlight items that will waste first
  • When eating out, order only what you can eat, or request smaller portions. Take home, and use, any leftovers
  • Don’t leave perishables out at room temperature for more than two hours.

How Meal Prepping Can Help to Limit Food Waste

Although individual approaches may vary, any efforts to reduce your food waste will help shift our culture to one that is more conscious of its relationship with food.

One simple and increasingly popular, way to limit your food waste is to partner with businesses and services that can remove much of the guesswork and hassle for you. An estimated 128.3M Americans will use an online food delivery service by 2024, and the service(s) they choose to partner with can significantly remove hurdles in the food-saving process.

We’ve built Jupiter to empower you to take control of your food waste. We provide recipe recommendations so that you can make the most of what’s already in your pantry and fridge. Our free meal planning app, Jupiter Lite, helps you decide the right amounts to buy based on your meal plan for the week. And every week you receive a smart shopping list in your email inbox that you can review and update based on your needs. Learn more.

In what ways do you limit your food waste? Let us know any of your tips, tricks, or go-to resources on social media with #MyJupiter.

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