From the same Marketplace episode as the hunter/gatherer debacle, I learned that humans are currently wasting an unbelievable amount of food. Yes, I knew humans waste food, especially in America. But how much?
“Imagine going to the grocery store, buying three bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and not bothering to pick it up,” she says. “That’s essentially what we’re doing in our food system today.”
Truthfully, this number is higher than our real household usage, as this includes food left to rot in the fields because it doesn’t have the right shape, color or marketability. So in practice our homes waste less than 40% of our food. But running with that figure for a moment, the real shock is the cost of this food per home. We waste $2000 worth of food each year.
If my boss offered me a $2000 annual raise I would probably ask to give her a hug. For most of us, that is a lot of money! And quite frankly, money we can’t afford to throw away. Even if that figure is twice what we are really, on average, wastig, that still means we are wasting a thousand dollars a year.
This summer we cancelled our TV subscription. Why? Because, although the monthly cost wasn’t unbearable for us, we realized we were spending about $800 each year to have television channels in our home. And that $800 can be put to much better use! Which makes this idea of food waste even more egregious. Even with a conservative estimate, our average household food wasted is more than the cost of cable television each month. How is that okay?
It is convenient that we have these food conversations around Thanksgiving, a day that has come to represent nationally endorsed gluttony every fall. All of the wasteful leftovers that end up in the trash can give us a few moments to reflect on the ridiculousness of the whole process. But usually by Christmas day we have forgotten again and by New Year’s Eve our gluttonous ways are back in full swing, filling our bellies, and trash cans, with unbelievable amounts of food.
Jesus tells a parable about talents, where those who use the talents (an amount of money at that time) to produce more are recognized and given more responsibility and honor and the servant who simply buries the talent until his master returns is called foolish and lazy. “Don’t waste your talents” we reply, “but do something meaningful with them!”
I suspect that the master in Jesus’ parable would also tell us not to take our talents and send them down the garbage disposal. So with that in mind, I commit to being a better steward of my money, of buying food more responsibly, of buying only what I need. I commit to being less wasteful with my food in the hopes that, by buying less and wasting less, I can recover the wasted talents of my salary and send the to more useful things.
After all, Sunday marks the beginning of a new Christian year, a season that begins with the expectations and waiting of Advent. Let this be a new year’s resolution of sorts, but rather than being something I may set aside by the end of January, I fully intend to do the hard work to really change my life behavior.
Image from Ecowatch.