The War on Food Waste – We can all Win

Photo Courtesy of Thurston County Solid Waste


Submitted by Thurston County Solid Waste

Photo Courtesy of Thurston County Solid Waste
Photo Courtesy of Thurston County Solid Waste

The topic of wasted food is on everyone’s minds. How could it not be when Americans are throwing out 25% of their edible food? The percentage gets closer to 40% when you include retailers and restaurants, but the take-away  is that, in the developed world, consumers and retail/restaurants share roughly equal responsibility. And wasted food impacts lots of different things that are important to Thurston County residents.

For starters, the American family of four is wasting roughly $1600 a year, on average, for food they don’t eat. That’s $130/month! With the economy making a very slow crawl out of the depths, no one can afford to throw that money away with their rotten tomatoes. Remembering that one in six people are unsure of where they’ll get their next meal makes that affordability even more important.

Food is costing more too, in part because of the increasing use of natural resources needed to produce that food – things like farmland and irrigation water. Every year, America is wasting an amount roughly equal to the annual flow of the Mississippi river to irrigate just the food we waste. So…we’re paying more for the food we eat, and for the food we throw out, because it costs more to grow and water it.

Add to this natural resource cost, the fact that when we waste food it decomposes and creates major greenhouse gases. If “Wasted Food” were a country, it’d be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases after the U.S. and China. Yes, really. Shocking, right?

What’s even more crazy-making is how easy making impactful changes can be. Sure, it takes a little effort, but this is not sacrifice-your-lifestyle stuff.  Instead, positive change is as easy as: making a quick menu plan at the start of the week, sticking to your grocery list, preparing and serving less (allow seconds), eating leftovers, and using your freezer more.

Photo Courtesy of Thurston County Solid Waste
Photo Courtesy of Thurston County Solid Waste

If you knew that doing a handful of things might save your family hundreds of dollars, help your community and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases, wouldn’t you do it?

Some Thurston residents already have! Here’s what some say about the experience:

  • When I bought and prepared less, I could SEE what was in the fridge and was more likely to eat it.
  • It was great. We learned a lot!
  • This program has helped me to be more mindful of the quantity of food I am buying. I now go the grocery store with shopping list in hand and do a pretty good job of sticking to the list. Even though my trips to the grocery store have increased (average about 2 trips per week), total dollars spent on groceries has decreased. I’m glad I took the time to take this challenge. Thank you!

Taking the challenge is easy. Give it a try and see for yourself.  The packet download is free at If you want your church, workplace, school, or club to know about the financial, social and economic impacts of wasting food, and how they can waste less, contact us at and we’ll come give a free presentation on this topic. For more tips, ideas, recipes and news about innovations and research, join our Waste Less Food Facebook page where you can also sign up for The Clean Plate quarterly newsletter.


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