Thanksgiving Waste

Happy Thanksgiving! Today is a time to eat delicious traditional food, surround yourself with family and friends, and be grateful for what you have. Whether it’s the history, the food or the being grateful, this can be considered the best US holiday.

Thanksgiving FactsUnfortunately, it is also a pretty wasteful one. After the friends have gone and the food is too much to eat, a lot of turkey meat ends up in the garbage. In fact, 35% of the holiday turkey, valued at more than $282 million, is wasted per year. On top of the nutritional and financial losses, it also leads to environmental ones.

Organic matter that decomposes in landfills anaerobically (without oxygen), produces methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 21 times more potent at trapping heat inside the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Besides that, it wastes all resources that went into growing the food. For instance, one pound of turkey requires 468 gallons of water to produce, and releases 12 pounds of CO2 emissions. With many US families producing more than one pound of wasted meat, it’s obvious that Americans need to be more grateful and less wasteful.

The Environmental Working Group says that wasting the meat is like driving the car for 11 miles or taking a 94-minute shower. Swapping the turkey waste for a real adventure or a long warm bath sounds like a better option. The choice of which a family can afford depends on the leftovers they produce. Looking at the millions of wasted dollars, Americans can save a lot more at home than through sales on Black Friday.

Let’s eat well, do well and be thankful!

What a waste past 5 weekends Say No To Food Waste helped recover 692 pounds = 314 kilos of surplus food from a local organic supermarket and donate it to those in need. This is a rewarding feeling, especially since agriculture is responsible for 70% of water use and 80% of deforestation. In addition to that, so many natural resources are preserved and greenhouse gases are avoided by having this food feed people and not landfills.

But for many, working in food recovery is synonymous with working with trash. Although there is a huge difference between the two, lots of people choose to avoid such work and refuse to talk about it. This fact always left me in wonder because trash and food waste is generated by people. Especially those who are wealthy, well dressed and work in shiny offices. And if one group of people is an expert in buying, consuming and wasting, shouldn’t that be balanced with a group of people who are becoming good at doing something with this waste so that it doesn’t build up and swallow us whole?

Screen shot 2014-04-09 at 3.16.18 PMBalance is something we as a civilization have found hard to achieve. All of us want something, and that is fine. What isn’t fine is when we tell people that certain jobs are more prestigious than others. That certain people have more rights than others because they dress, talk or look a certain way. That someone’s well paying job is more important than yours, even if that’s untrue in many ways.

What I want to focus on is finding a way to tell the story of people who have been marginalized, ignored and written off by society because their work seems unimportant. It seems not prestigious enough to make front news papers, but it is so vital and important for our day to day lives. This beautiful commercial by a Thai insurance company helps tell the story of individuals who have nothing, but give their everything and make the world a better place. Do you have any other ideas of how to tell the story of these individuals? If so, please comment or send me an e-mail, I’d love to hear it!

Take care of yourselves and thank you for being you!

Food Waste generation stream

 Food Waste is an issue that is becoming a more and more commonly discussed topic. Many NGO’s tries to address that issue, so that it reaches a significant part of our population. In fact Food Waste it is one of the biggest paradoxes of today’s world. By only gathering discarded food from the US and the EU we could feed all 1 billion of hungry people in the world. But of course it is not possible. We need to find some better ways to manage the logistic side of the whole food chain system. This is why it is recommended to first understand what are the streams of food waste generation.

Thanks to a research carried out by AgRecycle, Inc., a company that deals with organic recycling and sells biodegradable soil amendments, we were able to see what are percentages of different food waste generation streams. Unfortunately the data was made on an average from 3 east coast states: Georgia, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The major generation stream is industrial (56.6%) that is followed by Institutions (16.7%), Food/Grocery Stores (9.9%), Hospitals (8.7%), Commercial (5.9%) and Prisons (2.2%). As far as food and grocery stores are concerned the volume was determined from what the stores considered to be waste. Percentage does not include what was donated to food banks and other community organisations.

You realise that most of it is generated on the industrial level. The company explained that what was considered industrial was “Any material that is generated either as a byproduct from the manufacturing of materials or any material that is discarded because of quality concerns.” The second place is given to institutions, which include educational facilities that are the main target group for Food Recovery Network.

Food Waste is the second biggest (34.76 million tons) Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) after paper and paperboard (71.31 million tons). All organic waste amounts up to almost 70 million tons. The biggest problem with food waste is the fact that even that it is one of the top MSW streams it is the least recycled. Paper and paperboard is recovered in 62.5% as percent of generation, while food is recovered only in 2.8% and the rest goes to landfills and release methane, a gas 25 times more potent than CO2.

posted by Piotr Wielezynski

Land misuse, land mismanagment

In this post I would like to tackle the issue of land misuse or as some may call it mismanagement and to show how is it related to food waste and respectively food security. People are used to think of problems in a very superficial way. We are not willing to understand the whole production process. If I would ask an average person where does the food come from, the answer would be probably: “from the supermarket”. An average person may not be conscious of the whole chain that the “tomato” has to overcome to be eaten. At the beginning of this chain there is choosing a right place to grow, cultivate or breed future nutrition.

The main problem that I wanted to highlight is the relation of land misuse and food waste. It is quite logical. In developed countries we are running out of land. In most of those countries around 40% of land is used for agriculture. If around 1/3 of the food produced is being wasted, it means that 13.3% of the land is used for nothing. Not mentioning the fact that somebody’s work is being not respected. But this is another problem. Please check out the total arably land by country on this map.

The next issue related to this is the fact that a lot of food wasted in rich countries has, what Tristram Stuart called, a low resources to calories ratio. These are tomatoes, dairy products and meat that need a big amount of resources as land, water or fuel. On this graph we can see land use in the USA. 41% of land is used for grazing, while forests cover only 22%! “For example, it takes an average of around 31 million kcal of primary energy input to grow a tonne of tomatoes with a calorific content of just 170,000 kcal. By contrast, it takes just 600,000 kcal of primary energy to grow a tonne of bread-wheat, which contains 3-3.5 million kcal, an energy input/output ratio 918 times higher”. (Stuart, T., 2009) This example shows us what have to be considered, if we are thinking of a sustainable development. Each country should plan their food supply in advance taking into account all the resources needed. What is also crucial is to influence people diet habits, behaviors and general awareness. We as consumers have to know, how food that we are eating was made and how we are influencing the whole food system.

Another crucial problem are centralized big farms, from which corporations own a significant part. Regardless its big contribution to world food production there is still around billion people living in hunger, so quick solutions are needed. A recent analysis of adaptation work in Uganda has shown that small-scale agriculture is beneficial. First of all it can be easily and almost immediately implemented. As it is small-scale agricultures are working for them and know that if they won’t work well their harvest will be respectively low. Problems are solved on a local level, so their contribution to the environment is higher. For this project the main issue was soil and water conservation, which has reduced the planting costs by 75%. Moreover, the environment has also benefited from farmers actions. Using fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides soil and water conditions have improved significantly. In addition to that, local farmers have become self-sufficient, what has highly encouraged other people to follow that model.

Maybe it is naïve to think that such actions could be implemented everywhere, but it is good to know that it is possible. Of course it will be extremely difficult or even impossible to break the current food system that is defended by world superpowers. However, people are becoming more and more aware of what is happening around them and I believe that we are slowly moving to a more sustainable food system. Nonetheless there is a lot to be done and following the example of researches such as the above may be crucial for our further development.


1. Stuart, T., 2009, “Waste – Uncovering the Global Food Scandal”
2. Munang, R. and Nkem, J.N., 2011, “Using Small-Scale Adaptation Actions to Address the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa: Going beyond Food Aid and Cash Transfers.”
3. Grywacheski, A., 2011, “Arable Land”


posted by Piotr Wielezynski

$240 billion problem

We have all heard that Americans throw away 40% of all the food in their supply chain on a yearly basis. But, exactly how much is that? Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, says that it amounts to $240 billion a year.

Now, that’s a lot of money, but what could we do with all that cash if we had saved it? For starters, we could end hunger with just $30 billion a year. The UNDP then estimates that$1 billion a year would ensure universal access to basic social services, such as basic education, health, nutrition, access to water and sewage disposal.

Imagine a world without food waste, it sure looks healthy, happy and prosperous. The solution is in your hands, you just have to ask yourself, do I want to make a change?

Gastronomy Industry #3

Our consumption-oriented society produces a lot of waste, as was already shown in previous posts. Even though there are still a lot of measures to be undertaken, there are many good initiatives that already exist, which contribute to the reduction of food waste. In this post I would like to mention some general information about food recovery, organizations that are involved in this issue and an example of an existing law regulating food waste in gastronomy industry. In the end I will explain what are green restaurants.

Food recovery, which is sometimes also called food rescue, is basically a process of retrieving edible food that otherwise would be thrown away and giving it to people that actually need it. How does it actually work? Grocery stores, food vendors and of course restaurants donate the “rotten for them” food to organizations that afterwards distribute it. Even if there are many of, so called, food banks, food pantries or soup kitchens organizations, the problem of food waste is still not solved. I have already mentioned it in my previous posts. It is actually people ignorance that is the main problem. Normally people throw food because they do not need it anymore. They don’t think that somebody else might need it. However it is becoming a more serious problem with restaurants, which operate with much bigger amounts of food. But even restaurant owners who see all the waste they produce do not think about the possibility of using it for some good purposes. What I want to highlight is that food rescue organizations should encourage restaurants to donate their waste. This is the only way to make a change. The most frustrating issue is that even though there are many initiatives promoting these behaviors, we can still see landfills full of food.

As I have already mentioned, there are a lot of organizations dealing with food waste and there are as many different structures as many organizations. I am going to present you two organizations that I consider to be from two opposite poles. Feeding America (1) is a big organization uniting other organizations and food banks. People can donate food or money via Internet (of course food has to be sent by mail or delivered personally due to a lack of technology). Seeking information about Feeding America I was thinking, why do we need a “giant” national organization, while all the food banks are local? Unfortunately every little issue, measure or step in our world, no matter the purpose, has to be regulated and controlled from the top. If not, it would give rise to many lawsuits, create conflicts and “finger pointing” at others.

In England there is an organization called “Love Food, Hate Waste” (2). They believe that most of the food waste is caused by our strong love to high consumption. Many campaigns are being organized to teach people how to cook less and in a more efficient way or how to use food waste to prepare a fresh delicious meal by giving recipes. Basically this organization is educating people, how to consume less, eat fresh food i.e. something that for our grandparents was a normal way of life. I really like this kind of initiatives because it shows people how to live and I strongly believe that only by showing through example can we make a change.

Sometimes restaurant chains are looking for excuses not to donate food. They defend themselves by saying that someone may get food poisoning or other disease and then sue them. In America in 1996 a law called The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was issued to legally protect companies, restaurants or grocery stores. Everything seems perfect, doesn’t it? But again, there was a problem of information diffusion. Restaurants don’t know about it, so they still keep their food waste locked in garbage bins. Maybe the problem is that the law is imposing food donations, but on the other hand such a solution could be seen as limiting liberties. In Europe such laws still do not exist.

An American NGO Green Restaurant Association (GRA) (3) is giving the Green Restaurant title since 1990. There are seven categories by which the restaurants are being judged:

1. Water efficiency
2. Waste reduction and recycling
3. Sustainable furnishing and building materials
4. Sustainable food
5. Energy
6. Disposables
7. Chemical and pollution reduction

Each day more and more people are interested in eating in such places and GRA is a database for customers. It is a connection between restaurant clients and the restaurant itself. In my opinion such initiatives are very important, because they not only give prestige to a certain restaurant but also influence customers and employees. A Green restaurant owner, Jim Solomon from the Fireplace Restaurant, said: “I realized about a 45% return on my investment in one year and cut approximately $1200 off my annual operating costs. Not only am I pleased with the financial results of my decision, I also know that my association with GRA has inspired employee morale.” Even though he sounds like a real businessman that does not care about nothing else than his business, it seems like the GRA goal was achieved. It encouraged people to “go green” and to contribute to making a change with the gastronomy industry’s food waste problem.

Those were some of the measures that are being undertaken to reduce food waste. All of them are good initiatives, but more effort is needed. In my opinion we should put more weight on word of mouth. It is still the best solution know to men for a good marketing strategy. By showing example and telling people about it we may spread the information wide enough. The next entry in this series will be dedicated to developing possible solutions to food waste reduction in gastronomy industry.


  1. Feeding America –
  2. Love Food, Hate Waste –
  3. Green Restaurant Association –
posted by Piotr Wielezynski