Green Cities

Please Dine Before Dumping

Food brings people together and is fundamental to the functions of our society. Yet perfectly safe food is also one of the largest sources of trash built up each year. About one third of global food production is wasted annually—generating consequences far beyond feeling guilty about throwing away your over-portioned sandwich. According to a study by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the environmental footprint of uneaten food pumps 1.3 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. And that excludes the emissions from agricultural land use; then toss in severe water shortages from droughts, sprinkle on rising prices of crops like corn, and top with high energy costs. With world hunger still widespread and high population projections reaching 9 billion by 2050, tackling food waste will be the next big wave in the environmental movement. So what can we possible do as consumers to leave less food at the curb and keep more for the table? In an effort to re-define “waste”, initiatives like Think.Eat.Save  and new restaurants are sprouting up around the world with the goal of bringing awareness to the issue and creating change. Britain’s Skipchen is one example of such projects turning garbage into gourmet meals. The restaurant serves meals prepared entirely from collected food scraps collected from local restaurants and supermarkets in an effort to reduce the amount of still-edible food on its way to landfills. The menu changes daily based on whatever manages to be recovered, and the prices are set by the customers based on what they deem the meal is worth. Pop-up restaurants similar to Skipchen, like Rub & Stub in Copenhagen, among many others in cities such as New York, Germany and San Francisco, are pushing the boundaries of society’s current perceptions of waste. Just recently, new legislation passed in France requiring all supermarkets to send all un-sellable food products to food banks, shelters and back to farms, instead of straight to the dump. This sends a huge message to other powerful governments that current food waste policy is way past its expiration date. While this new trend of dumpster dive restaurants helps consumers shift their perspective on how food can be used, the structural solution to impacts of food waste on resources like water, land, air, labor and the economy cannot be served on a plate. Big agriculture companies and food over-production, distribution and disposal policies must change if we want to see the food waste numbers decline on a global scale. But how will society be convinced to change its definition of garbage and move toward a sustainable rather than wasting economy? Will a revolutionary new food culture start at places like Skipchen? Or will we run out of water, crops and land resources first? Molly Pfeffer, Intern