Americans waste nearly 1 lb. of food daily

A new study shows that healthier diets are associated with higher amounts of food waste.

Here’s an nugget of information for you to chew on the next time you’re scraping plates or cleaning out the fridge: The average person living in the United States wastes nearly a pound of food every day, which works out to around 30 percent of the average American’s daily calories. Perhaps most curiously, it’s the people who eat the healthiest that throw away the most food.

In a way, it’s not surprising. A healthy diet contains more fruits and vegetables, which are prone to spoil faster than processed or pre-packaged foods. But it does suggest an unfortunate disconnect between what we choose to put into our bodies and our awareness of its effect on the environment, because every time we throw away food, we’re also throwing away the resources that went into growing and making it.

This finding comes from an open-access study published last month in PLOS. Its authors wanted to investigate the relationship between consumer food waste, diet quality, nutrient waste, and embodied agricultural resources, something that hasn’t really been done before. The authors compiled data from the 2015 Healthy Eating Index, the US Department of Agriculture’s What We Eat in America database, and food waste data. The food waste amounts were self-reported by individuals and do not include restaurants. From the study:

“This analysis finds that US consumers wasted 422g of food per person daily, with 30 million acres of cropland used to produce this food every year. This accounts for 30 percent of daily calories available for consumption, one-quarter of daily food (by weight) available for consumption, and 7 percent of annual cropland acreage.”

Twenty-two food groups were studied and, of these, fruits and vegetables represented by far the biggest portion of discarded food (39 percent). The next most discarded group was dairy (17 percent), followed by meat (13.5 percent) and grains (12 percent). Other foods such as oils and salad dressings, eggs, nuts, seeds, potatoes, and soup were under 3 percent each.

So, while American shoppers strive to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet, they also need to figure out how to waste less. It’s a conundrum that the study authors agree must become a priority. From the conclusion:

“Food waste is a critical component of environmental sustainability that, until now, has not been rigorously analyzed alongside diet quality. The current results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste may be critical. Practically, increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be an essential component to reducing food waste.”

Home cooks can benefit from reading up on ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into more dishes, using up produce that’s reaching the end of its edible life, and preserving or freezing leftovers. There are lots of resources available here on TreeHugger (see links below this article). When I think of my own kitchen, there are a few suggestions that come to mind immediately:

– When fruits are starting to go bad, I start baking. Crisps and cobblers, muffins, and pies are all great uses for fruit that is overripe. Make applesauce with bruised apples; just cut out any rotten spots.
– Soup is a wonder food for using up veggies, beans, grains, and leftover canned tomatoes.
– Stock is like soup, except for vegetables that are even further gone.
– Spinach shrinks down to nothing; add it to anything you can, like dal or curry, soup, eggs, smoothies, hot pasta sauce.
– Use that freezer: As soon as you realize you won’t be able to finish whatever you bought, put it in the freezer. Depending on what it is, you may have to blanch it first (green beans) or puree it (herbs, blended with olive oil and frozen in an ice cube tray), but the freezer is a true food-saver.

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Detainee sat in human waste for 18 days in private prison transport van – report

Edward Kovari was arrested in Winchester, Virginia, in 2016 on suspicion of stealing a car in Houston. While his charges were later dropped, a lawsuit filed in Virginia alleges that Kovari suffered inhumane conditions while en route to Houston, a violation of his 14th Amendment rights, reported the Washington Post.

The van, operated by Prisoner Transportation Services, stopped several times in seven states to pick up more prisoners. The normally 20-hour journey took 18 days.

Kovari was shackled tightly in chains, and denied his prescription medication for hypertension. When the van arrived in Houston, Kovari was unable to walk and his blood pressure was above 200, the lawsuit alleges.

Throughout the journey, cramped conditions meant that Kovari could not sleep for days on end. Water was rationed and detainees were occasionally fed fast food. In lieu of bathroom breaks, the prisoners were instructed to urinate in bottles or defecate in their clothes.

Kovari’s calls for medical attention were ignored, and he was threatened with tasing for causing a disturbance, the suit alleges.

Prisoner Transportation Services is America’s largest for-profit extradition company. Picking up as many prisoners in the same journey allows companies like this to maximize profits. Tens of thousands of prisoners are packed into vans every year, and multiple deaths and injuries have occured in these “mobile jails.”

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We’re thinking about food waste all wrong

In which author Matthew Prescott offers a new twist on the problem of food waste.

By Matthew Prescott

You should see my fridge—it’s not a pretty sight. Its entire contents at present? Half a pint of coffee creamer, a cup of chickpeas, two black bean burgers, a red pepper, a jar of capers, three beers, a jug of water, and a smattering of condiments. And I’m a cookbook author! I should have all kinds of delicacies in there, right? Trending ingredients at my fingertips, ready to be whipped up into some kind of Instagram-worthy spread.

Don’t get me wrong: I love to eat, and I cook nearly every day. But I no longer aspire to keep a fully stocked kitchen. Forget the Clean Plate Club, I’m with the Barren Fridge Brigade.

We Americans waste a whopping 38 billion tons of food every year. That’s equivalent to nearly 170,000 Statues of Liberty, or 19 billion Ford F-150s. The only thing more American than apple pies, it seems, is throwing them in the garbage.

With a growing population—including millions who go hungry each day, living on a planet with finite natural resources—food waste is an ethical issue. And it’s an economic problem too, with wasted food costing us an estimated $218 billion per year. That’s a lot of dough down the drain.

But what we toss into trashcans or leave uneaten at restaurants merely scratches the surface of food waste, and if that’s how we think about it, we’re thinking about it all wrong.

An even bigger problem is what we waste while producing the foods we eat—especially foods that come from animals.

In our food system, animals essentially function as middlemen—between the crops we grow to feed them, and the protein they produce to feed us. We funnel nearly 20 pounds of grain and other crops through an animal to produce just a single pound of meat. That‘s right. Twenty pounds in, for one pound out.

And those crops aren’t growing themselves. We’re cutting down entire rainforests to grow food…for chickens. We clear the land, sow the seeds, and use vital natural resources—like water—to grow those feed crops.

It can take over 500 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken, and more than 50 gallons to produce a single egg. A pound of pork takes 718 gallons of water to produce. Want a gallon of milk? That’ll take 2,000 gallons.

All told, this is so wasteful that a recent report produced in collaboration with the World Bank concluded even the most efficient sources of meat convert only around 11 percent of gross feed energy into human food. That means 89 percent of what goes in is wasted.

So what we do? There’s no zero-footprint food, no totally safe sustenance, ethically or environmentally speaking. Be that as it may, there’s one clear answer to these worldly woes: we can all eat more plants and less meat.

Plant-based foods are far more efficient to produce, and far less wasteful. It may take 600 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger, but only 42 gallons to produce a veggie burger.

That’s because plant-based foods cut out those middlemen—the animals—from the equation. In the same way we no longer visit video stores if we want to watch a movie at home or go to the bank to deposit a check, we no longer need animals for protein or other nutrients.

In addition to plant-based burgers and nuggets and milks and ice creams and cheeses—products packed full of protein that mimic the taste, texture and cooking methods of meat—there are all kinds of naturally delicious plant-based options: spicy lentil stew, black bean burritos, roasted eggplant and marinara sandwiches. Seasoned and prepared well, jackfruit is a delicious stand-in for BBQ pulled pork. Not to brag, but I make a mean “crab” cake from hearts of palm. Cauliflower Buffalo wings, anyone?

And we needn’t go whole hog to make a difference. Countless people are going “flexitarian” or trying Meatless Mondays, swapping in these kinds of dishes for meat at the start of each week. Others are eating smaller portions of meat, opting to make it a side dish and give vegetables top-billing. And others yet are trying one or two plant-based meals a day.

So whether in the Clean Plate Club or the Barren Fridge Brigade, there’s a surefire step we can each take to reduce food waste. Remarkably, it starts not with the food we leave on our plates at the end of a meal, but with the food we put on them in the first place.

Matthew Prescott is the author of Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World (which includes the recipe for lemon-ginger blueberry cake as seen in the photo above!). Follow on Twitter @MatthewPrescott for more.

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Meet Lilly, The 9-Year-Old Girl Who Picks Up Plastic Waste In Her Community

By Fattima Mahdi Truth Theory

Lilly is not your average 9-year-old girl. She is originally from London, England and moved to the Netherlands a few years ago. As an avid animal lover, she is on a mission to prevent plastic pollution from harming animals. “When I was learning to count in Dutch, I counted 91 pieces of plastic [that I picked up] and I thought should I be happy or mad or sad about this?”

Not everyone is as passionate as the environment as Lilly is, for those who don’t see plastic pollution as a pressing issue, Lilly has one question. “Have they ever seen the way animals suffer when they eat this plastic?” she says.

Lilly is Youth Ambassador for the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Child Ambassador for HOW Global, a charity organization that brings water to forgotten children. With the full support of her family, she has also founded Lilly’s plastic pickup, an initiative that raises awareness about plastic pollution. She has already organised several cleanups in her community, recruiting friends and neighbours to help her with her mission. “I’m trying to do something to convince my friends to save the entire planet!” she explains. In addition, she has also asked her local McDonald’s to switch to paper straws and lids, and even persuaded a car company to stop releasing balloons. “One time we saw a picture of a baby puffin wrapped around in balloons and it made me very cross.”

“My real inspiration is grandpa because he loves the environment and does nature lessons at my school,” says Lilly. “I love my family because they support what I do. A little thing like picking up plastic can make a big difference!”

Lilly’s advice is simple:

  1. Spot it
  2. Pick it up
  3. Put it in the bin

So, what are you waiting for? You can do your bit for the environment by picking up rubbish in your community today.

Image Credit: Lillys Plastic Pickup

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Researchers have recycled clothing waste into an "aerogel" supermaterial that can help stop wound bleeding

Image: Researchers have recycled clothing waste into an “aerogel” supermaterial that can help stop wound bleeding

(Natural News)
Cotton-based fabric waste has a multitude of uses that range from being recycled into polishing and wiper clothes to automotive insulation. Though, as researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have discovered and demonstrated, this type of waste could be turned into cotton aerogels that have their own practical applications.

The cotton aerogels, which are comprised of cotton and cellulose and coated with chitosan, are a marked improvement over the paper waste aerogels that the team had previously worked on. According to Dr. Hai Minh Duong, an associate professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the cotton aerogels possess various desirable qualities such as being ultralight, highly compressible, and stronger. All these properties combined make them more suitable to mass production.

“It is highly compressible, hence storage and transportation costs could be greatly reduced. Furthermore, these cotton aerogels can be fabricated within eight hours — this is nine times faster than our earlier invention and about 20 times faster than current commercial fabrication processes. They are also stronger, making them more suitable for mass production,” said Duong.

Of the cotton aerogel’s uses, Duong and his colleagues have found the material to be highly effective at controlling bleeding and insulating heat. (Related: Using cannabis, scientists discover inexpensive way to dramatically boost battery storage potential.)

Because they’re biocompatible, each aerogel pellet can be integrated into existing hemorrhage control devices with little issue. Once administered, the cotton aerogels can expand to up to 16 times their original size in less than five seconds — all without compromising their structural integrity. Moreover, the rapid expansion and absorption rates of the cotton aerogels make them more effective at controlling bleeding than cellulose-based sponges.

“The unique morphology of the cotton aerogels allows for a larger absorption capacity, while the compressible nature enables the material to expand faster to exert pressure on the wound,” explained Duong.

As for their potential as heat insulation, the team worked together with DSO National Laboratories to come up with a thermal jacket for military canteens. The resulting product was a 200-gram insulating material that could maintain the near-freezing temperatures of crushed ice and liquid water for over four hours. The jacket’s insulating capabilities were noted for being at par with that of vacuum flasks and better than commercial insulated water bottles. However, the jacket is lighter and much cheaper to produce than either of these bottles, making it more advantageous for soldiers engaging in strenuous physical activities.

Beyond these, the team sees the cotton aerogels having numerous other commercial and industrial uses. “The heat insulation property of the novel cotton aerogels can be applied to various consumer products, such as cooler bags to keep food items fresh,” said Dr. Nhan Phan-Thien.”We also foresee tremendous potential for other high value applications, such as pipeline insulation and transportation of liquefied natural gas which needs to be stored at a low temperature.”

The team has already filed a patent for their creation, and is in the middle of seeking out companies to work with. Should the cotton aerogels gain the backing they need for commercialization, they could very well pave the way for future aerogel technologies. Aerogels are some of the most advanced materials in the world. Unfortunately, their high production cost has put off most industries from making use of them. This is a fact that the NUS team, and many others around the globe, are attempting to change.

Fast facts on cotton

  • Although a biodegradable natural fiber, cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging and demanding crops in the world.
  • About 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and 10 percent of pesticides are utilized by the cotton industry. Organic cotton is available, though it’s much pricier than regular cotton.
  • A single cotton t-shirt can demand as much as 700 gallons of water.

Feel free to go to to read up on more news stories regarding the environment.

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Zeolites improve crop growth in soil contaminated by industrial waste and heavy metals

Image: Zeolites improve crop growth in soil contaminated by industrial waste and heavy metals

(Natural News)
Soils that have been contaminated with heavy metals are not optimal for pretty much any kind of crop. However, a new study revealed that making one simple change could turn things around. Researchers from the Agricultural University of Tirana have discovered that the simple addition of natural zeolite can serve as an effective method for the remediation of heavy metal-contaminated soils. They found different rates of changes depending on the rates of zeolite, but overall it appeared that the results were mostly positive. They have published the details of their research in the Albanian Journal of Agricultural Sciences.

Soils that have been exposed to and contaminated with heavy metals can give rise to similarly contaminated plants. As such, these types of soils pose a great threat to human health. Typical cases of heavy metal contamination are seen as dangerous for the higher risk of exposure to materials such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Based on many previous studies, these kinds of heavy metals have a number of adverse effects on human health, so they need to be avoided at all costs.

In most cases, the best way to avoid the negative effects of soils that have been contaminated with heavy metals is by opting to grow your own crops on your own land. Land which contains soils that you control and that which you can monitor for possible heavy metal contamination. Of course, that’s not always a possible course of action. So what’s the next best thing that you can do? Soil remediation comes to mind.

Although there are a number of known methods of remediation for contaminated or unhealthy soil, the researchers tried to test the efficacy of adding natural zeolites in particular to see if it had any effect, whether it be positive or negative. What they found after gathering their data for analysis is that zeolites can improve the condition of soils, to the point that plants even grow a little bit further than they’re expected to.

In case you aren’t familiar with them, zeolites are a large group of land-based minerals that can be described as microporous, and officially consisting of hydrated aluminosilicates of barium, calcium, potassium, and sodium. They are commonly found as secondary minerals in cavities in basic volcanic rocks, and are often used as commercially available adsorbents and catalysts.

This particular research study focused on the growth of ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum L.) based on varying rates of zeolite in heavy metal-contaminated soils. According to the researchers, they found the lowest germination performance in the sample of soil with the highest zeolite application rate of 10 percent, which could be due to the effect of zeolite on electrical conductivity of the experimental soil. It also resulted in a significant increase of plant height in the second cutting for that particular batch.

Meanwhile, plant root and shoot dry weight also increased based on the amount of zeolite application, going up as the rate went higher through the following rates: 0, 1.25, 2.5, 5, and 10.

Due to the results of the experiments, the researchers concluded that the application of zeolite can be an effective plant growth regulator in soils that have been contaminated with heavy metals. What’s interesting is that zeolites have been found to contain certain heavy metals themselves. All zeolites contain lead, and they are largely made of inorganic aluminum. This research shows that while zeolites may be questionable when ingested, they can offer a number of environmental that shouldn’t be ignored or overlooked. All they need is proper application in order to be effective.

Read more on the latest ways of soil remediation in

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How design for disposability and convenience will bury us in waste

This is a series where I take my lectures presented as adjunct professor teaching sustainable design at Ryerson University School of Interior Design in Toronto and distill them down to a sort of Pecha Kucha slideshow of the essentials.

Building up to and during the Second World War, aluminum production capacity in the States was vastly increased to churn out airplanes. Dams were built to generate electricity specifically for making aluminum (which is sometimes known as solid electricity because it takes so much to make it).

After the war, there was more aluminum production capacity and electrical power than anyone knew what to do with. There were huge numbers of planes to recycle, the production facilities were idled, the electricity was going unused. How would they use up all that aluminum? Bucky Fuller tried building houses but that didn’t take off. Something had to be done.

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HomeBiogas Transforms Food Waste And Animal Manure Into Renewable Energy

By Fattima Mahdi Truth Theory

You can now make make renewable energy in your backyard with HomeBiogas – a biodigester that turns kitchen leftovers into natural fuel and produces rich liquid fertilizer as a by-product of the digestive process.

The off-grid system “generates clean energy without any electricity and allows you to properly treat your household waste! The system produces up to 2 hours of cooking gas every day solely from your food scraps or animal waste.”

How does it work?

Credit: HomeBiogas

HomeBioGas is an Israeli startup that has worked with a number of NGOs to install the system in underserved rural areas in the Middle East and Africa. Ami Amir from HomeBiogas marketing and business development explains that the most exciting project involved providing clean cooking gas and lamp light to very poor Bedouin communities in the Palestinian Authority.”

The eco-appliance is available in over 70 countries and is shipped in a box for DIY setup that can be assembled in about 2-3 hours. You can pre-order HomeBiogas 2.0 for $520, with the product available for shipment from May 2018.

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World Renowned Chef Opens 5 Star Restaurant To Feed The Homeless & Fight Food Waste

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Finally, thanks to the internet we are becoming aware of just how much food is being wasted on a regular basis. Supermarkets are throwing out astronomical amounts of unsold food that is actually perfectly fine to eat. When the amount of homeless people who don’t always have access to food, and the many families that are struggling every day to put food on the table to feed their children, is this really the option that we have come up with? To simply throw the food in the garbage because it cannot turn a profit?

In the U.S. alone, $165 Billion is wasted on food every. Single. Year. When the UN estimates that solving the world’s hunger problem would cost a measly $30 billion in comparison, we can clearly see that something is very wrong here. The unsold food from the supermarkets might not be the answer to solving world hunger, but it certainly paints a picture of where our priorities are, and at least shows us that this has to change. Two men were arrested in the United States in 2016 for taking this food and trying to feed the hungry.

Thankfully, as awareness towards this issue continues to be raised we are seeing a number of groups organizations and even countries doing something about it. France has made it illegal for supermarkets to throw away unsold food, forcing them to find other, more beneficial options for their perfectly fine food. Others are taking that food that would otherwise be garbage and feeding the hungry.

World renowned chef, Mossimo Bottura, for example has opened up a 5 star restaurant called Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan, Italy in 2015 that accepts donations of unsold food from supermarkets and utilizes volunteer work from professional chefs who want to donate their time to help feed the poor and hungry. Why should the homeless people only be fed soup when there is so much more food available that would otherwise be thrown out? These chefs prepare gourmet meals and the guests are served rather than having to wait in line. Bottura says this is as much about treating those less fortunate with dignity as it is about feeding them. Check it out!

Refettorio Ambrosiano has served more than 16,000 meals, and saved 25 tons of food surplus from the landfills. As Bottura says, this is a revolutionary idea! Hopefully other chefs and restaurateurs will be inspired to follow suit and encourage their local supermarkets to donate to initiatives such as these.

Check out Bottura’s book of recipes Il Pane E Oro, here, and donate to this cause to end food waste and feed the hungry.

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Huge food company to eliminate food waste, halve plastic use

Obviously, cutting food waste is both a moral and environmental imperative. Still, when I read Paul Hawken’s Drawdown, I was surprised to see reducing food waste listed as the #3 solution to climate change, right after greener refrigerants and scaled up wind energy. Yet it continues to get considerably less attention than renewable energy or fancy electric trucks.

Things, however, might be changing. And just like the recent flurry of corporate commitments on single use plastics, we’re beginning to see similar efforts to cut back on wasted food too. The latest comes from Cranswick, one of the largest food companies in the UK and a specialist in fresh, frozen and deli meats as well as pastry products. According to Business Green, the company is promising to become a “zero food waste” company by 2030 at the latest.

But that’s not all, as part of a plan that Cranswick is calling “Second Nature”, the company is also promising to purchase 100% renewable energy starting next month, to halve its plastic use by 2025, and to also achieve 100% recyclable packaging by the same date. This is good stuff, and builds on energy efficiency efforts which have already seen a 20% reduction in energy consumption per tonne of product manufactured since 2008.

Specifically, it’s worth noting, a plan like this will have an out-sized impact because much of Cranswick’s products are meat- or animal-products based. And as Derek previously noted, meat waste is the worst waste because its production is so much more energy and resource intensive in the first place.

Now, I wonder if Cranswick is also down with efforts to promote more plant-centered diets too. They wouldn’t be the first meat-centric company to start looking at that possibility.

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