Rising to the Challenge of Keeping Food and Energy from Being Trashed

By Anthony Zolezzi 

When we think about saving energy, what most often comes to mind are the constant reminders we’re given to turn lights off, shut down computers at night or unplug cell phone chargers because of the “phantom drain” of electricity they produce.  But energy efficiency is a far more complex topic, and one that now involves a whole new wrinkle.

I spent the holidays trying to understand the dynamics of food waste, as well as exploring whether there is a potential commercial business that could be built around it. While the business plan I have in mind is percolating, the University of Texas just came out with a study showing that the energy that we lose annually in the United States just though wasted food is the equivalent of a whopping 350 million barrels of oil, or the energy required to run the entire country for a week.

I found this astounding — an incredible statistic from a credible group, especially when you consider the part that agriculture plays in promoting climate change. Imagine throwing away that much “food energy,” representing over a quarter of our country’s total food, at a time when nearly 50 million Americans are reported to be lacking basic “food security.” It’s apparent that figuring out how to solve this two-pronged problem is going to require an enormous amount of energy in itself.

So I’ve gone ahead and assembled a team — the same team that helped small family farms and organic beef producers survive, and has been working on how to make recycling fun, engaging and meaningful — to tackle the twin challenges of how to curtail the trashing of so much food (and energy) while making sure that all Americans are adequately fed. We’re still at a preliminary stage – but would welcome any thoughts or suggestions you might have to help us keep our food, as well as our planet, from being trashed in this manner.

[Image Credit: EcoWatch]

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