Episode 83

Food Waste

00:00:00
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00:51:33

January 29th, 2019

51 mins 33 secs

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About this Episode

Thank you for listening to the Glimmering Podcast! Help support us by leaving a star rating or review in iTunes, sharing our posts on social media, or becoming a patron. Supporters on Patreon will get a sneak peek of Leslie's new podcast!


This is the second episode in a quarter-long deep dive into the general theme of Consumption. This episode is headed up by Laura about Food Waste - a look at the food we don’t eat: why we don’t, where it goes, and how to do better - all through a “Live Justly” lens.

In this episode, Laura talks about how an estimated 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, and according to even the most conservative estimates, Americans waste 160 billion dollars worth of food each year. One of the biggest wastes of food happens at the farm - overproduction, weather or insect damage, and perfectly good crops left to rot because of labor shortages.

At the consumer level, confusion about sell-by dates contributes most to food wastage. We take some time discussing how arbitrary and unscientific sell-by/use-by dates are, and then have a quiz based on real-life questions from Laura's secret food group friends.

Next, we discuss two big areas of injustice happening with regards to food waste.

Human justice: people are still hungry. 15 million American households in 2017 experienced food insecurity. That’s almost 12% of our population. While food banks do valuable work for communities, the root of the problem is a political one. Overproduction is possible because it's so cheap to produce food - because we underpay our food workers from farm to table.

In "The High Cost of Cheap Labor," Philip Martin, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis, concludes that raising farmworker wages 40 percent across the board would add a mere $21.15 to the annual budget of every American household. (Remember, we supposedly waste almost $2000 worth of food per family of four, per year.)

We touch briefly on the atrocity of prison labor. You can find more articles on that in the show notes.

Secondly: Climate Justice. Carelessness with overproduction is causing great harm to the environment. The energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of food that ends up in the trash, generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Then once it is in the trash, food waste in landfills is responsible for 23% of all methane emissions and 4.5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions [source].

Finally, we talk about what we are doing in our household to reduce our food waste; what's happening at a local level; and what needs to happen globally. Packaging waste is a big problem, especially since Americans are bad at recycling properly, and we talk about a new initiative to eliminate single-use product containers for big brands in many households.

Ultimately, it's up to us to do what we can, where we can.

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