5 Ways Wasting Food Hurts the Environment (and 5 Ways You Can Fix It)

5 Ways Wasting Food Hurts the Environment (and 5 Ways You Can Fix It)

Five Ways Wasting Food Hurts the Environment (and Five Ways To Fix It)

It’s the secret shame of many Americans: The half-forgotten (or wholly forgotten) perishables in your refrigerator and pantry that have been overlooked, uneaten, and are now turning pretty colors or else giving off the fragrance of a corpse.

Those of us who feel pangs of guilt and upset over wasted food are sadly in good company: Some estimates reveal that Americans waste as much as 60 million tons of food a year (for various reasons, some simply because of extremely high standards set by American stores)! Given the plight of world hunger, this fact is shameful enough, but what many of us may not realize is that wasted food also has a harmful effect on the environment.

So that we might be better stewards of the earth we have been given, here are five biggest ways wasted food hurts the environment—and five ways we can combat this problem and make it better for millions of people worldwide.

1. It Wastes Water

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Water is essential to life, and it’s no surprise it’s essential to food production as well. Whether from irrigation, spraying, pouring, or some other means, water is essential to the growing of agriculture, not to mention the feeding of animals that give us our meat, fish, and dairy.

But in throwing out millions of tons of food, we also waste uncounted millions of gallons of water that was used to plant, grow, sustain, or otherwise produce it.

Fruit and vegetables are among the most water-laden food products, simply because they contain more water. (For example, one bag of apples is about 81% water!) But meat products are the heaviest water users, simply because the animals drink a lot of water—and more importantly, because so much water is needed for the grain that becomes their feed! It takes about 8 to 10 times more water to produce meat than grain.

All told, if the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted worldwide each year is accurate, most estimates place the water “in” that amount to be 45 trillion gallons—or 24 percent of all water used for agriculture. And remember that 70% of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture!

2. It Releases Methane

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When food is thrown out, it eventually makes its way to landfills (which can themselves be a problem for the environment). As that food begins to decompose or rot, it releases methane gas.

Methane, of course, is a greenhouse gas, which many scientists believe adversely affects the earth’s climate and temperature (i.e., climate change/global warming). Here’s why the millions of tons of food wasting in American landfills should concern you:

  • Methane is more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2—about 25 times more effective.
  • Methane accounts for about twenty percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Much methane, as well as other adversely-affective gases, has already been released in the production process. The wasted food is now adding to that.

Less wasted food means we release less methane gas, which is way better for the environment.

3. It Wastes Oil

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This is another “production” side of the waste epidemic. Here’s what I mean:

  • Oil, diesel, and fossil fuels are required to grow, transport, store, and cook food. Think of the harvesting machinery that has to be powered, the vehicles taking the food from the farm to the warehouse to the store, the further machinery that is used to sort, clean, package, or otherwise prepare the food just so it can be bought. Much of this machinery requires massive amounts of oil, diesel, and other fuels to function.
  • To waste millions of tons (in America) or billions (worldwide) each year also means that all of the oil and fuel that has gone into the production of said food is wasted.
  • Moreover, using that fuel in the first place can release harmful amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment, combined with the other harmful amounts released from the decomposing food already in landfills, and all of the future decomposing food that will yet be wasted.

Wasting fuel and oil both at the front (production) and the back (decomposition) end by not eating the food we purchase has a hidden but costly impact on the environment!

4. It Wastes Land

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Land use as regards food falls into two main categories: The land used for production, specifically the crops and grassland used in the actual growing (or raising, in the case of livestock), and the land used for retaining food that has been thrown out.

Unsurprisingly, the irresponsible use of food products has an adverse impact on the physical land itself.

If you recall your high school science classes, you may have heard the terms arable land and non-arable land. This simply means land that can grow crops (arable), or land that cannot (non-arable). This factor is important for evaluating how food waste affects land.

Most of the land needed to produce milk and meat is non-arable (think meadows, fields, etc.). It’s perfect for livestock, but terrible for growing crops. But most of the food wasted worldwide, regardless of the type of land, is meat.

About 900 million hectares of non-arable land are used in the production of the world’s meat products. Moreover, when you count all of the land needed to produce other foods, like the millions of pounds of fruits and vegetables we waste each year, the use of land skyrockets.

This would not be a problem in itself. However, the problem lies in both the waste of the food (so the land is being used for an ultimately pointless purpose) and the fact that land, if not cared for, loses its ability to yield over time—called degradation. Eventually produces far less than can sustain the people living in the region.

Statistics have revealed (page 47 in link) that when looking at food waste at the production stage, about 99% of the waste occurs on land with extremely high levels of degradation—which puts undue stress on land that has already worked hard to produce food for us!

5. It Harms Biodiversity

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“Biodiversity” is simply a fancy word for the diversity of life in an ecosystem or environment—the full spectrum of life across different species and kinds of organisms. This is a hidden but real cost of food waste: it decimates biodiversity in a number of ways:

  • Deforestation, especially in tropical areas, destroys natural flora and fauna (sometimes to the point of extinction), in the name of creating more land for food production.
  • To increase production of livestock, natural land is turned into pastures, which besides the aforementioned deforestation also impacts biodiversity by the increase of livestock; the more livestock graze and range on an area, the less natural and diverse the area becomes.
  • Marine fisheries are a large culprit in the decimation of marine ecosystems and natural habitats, often resulting in “overexploited” areas or stocks (indeed, the ten most caught species of fish all have been labeled as “overexploited”). Fish are caught with little thought given to how the rapid depletion of population will impact their environments. These fish then get thrown out by the consumer, or rejected by stores for not meeting certain standards, or rot in the truck because of lack of modern refrigeration (in developing nations).

Other ways food production may impact biodiversity have either not been studied or the links between the depletion and the production are not yet clear. Still, it’s one thing to impact the land to create food that is then scrupulously used. It is another thing entirely to impact the land so drastically (sometimes unnecessarily) for food that will be largely wasted.

How can people combat this problem of wasting useable food? Here are five of the most common ways:

1. Use Restraint

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Americans especially have lost this ability (but really, anyone in a reasonably wealthy country can succumb to it). But making the effort to plan meals, to keep detailed and thoughtful shopping lists, and avoiding buying things on impulse will go a long way to not even bringing food into your home that will end up being thrown out.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Disobey the “Sell By” Date

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These are not federally regulated in the United States and do not mean anything about the food’s safety for consumption (unless it’s baby food, in which case it should be heeded). Rather, it is a notation from the manufacturer that denotes the food’s peak quality. “The “use-by” date is more important: eat food by that date or find out if it can be frozen.

3.  Really Use Leftovers

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Some of us are good at doing this already. There are many ways to be creative and ingenious with the things you served the night before. You can turn one meal into a completely different one if you simply know a few things about recipes and common ingredients.

4. Don’t forget scraps

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Did you know there are lots of ways to creatively use the scraps of vegetables and other products (think celery leaves, the tops of beets and other veggies, chicken bones, etc.)? You can use them for flavoring, soup stock, even whole meals. You can read this article and this one for tons of ideas for incorporating the oft-forgotten parts of food.

5. Do Your Research

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Do you have a leftover amount of an ingredient for a recipe? Instead of throwing out what’s left, research ways to incorporate it into further meals (like here, here, or here).

Here are further ways to avoid wasting food.

Conclusion

Food waste is a real problem, and it doesn’t have to be. While the loss of food due to poor harvesting or other methods in developing countries is its own issue, the millions of tons of wasted food in our nation often, though not always, lie with the consumer. Creative, careful, and thoughtful shopping, cooking, and consumption will go a long way to responsibly using the food we have and can even make a path to fullness for the millions of people worldwide who are hungry.

What Do You Know About Clean Water?

What Do You Know About Clean Water?

What we do not know can hurt us badly…or help us immensely. We know things about life and how to live. We are also aware of things we do not know, but would like to know. Finally, we also do not know what it is we do not know; and therein lies the challenge for each of us. What do you know about clean water?

For those who live in rural areas as subsistence farmers in Africa, Latin America, or around the world, life is measured in terms of the seasons, adequate rainfall, and political stability. Life’s blessings lie in the numerous relationships that exist among family and community. For the world’s poorest of the poor, life is fairly straight forward; food, shelter, and some degree of health. That health is almost always measured in terms of clean and safe water. In the cities we find increasing numbers of people purchasing packaged water. Yet even here the standardization and consistency of clean water is woefully lacking.

There have been an increasing number of studies showing that up to eighty percent of illness and hospitalizations in the emerging economies are directly related to contaminated water. Millions of people still source their water from open wells, lakes, rivers, ponds, and unclean storage tanks. The question for us becomes how we can be a sustainable solution without creating more dependency in the supply and delivery of water filter systems.

One exciting development has been finding a filter better in quality and characteristics and at a lower price than what we have ever been able to provide before. It is called the Village water filter. You can learn more from their website: www.villagewaterfilters.org

A couple years ago I returned from a trip to Belize. Six months later one of the Rotarians I had met on that trip phoned me from Colorado. He asked, “Do you remember the question I asked you when we met and the answer you gave me?” I had no idea, thinking I must have really stuck my foot in my mouth. He said, “I really liked your answer and I want to help you achieve your vision!” He was a retired dentist and he went to work developing a hollow fiber membrane water filter that requires no electricity, no replacement parts, and no chemicals, at over 50% less than what we had been paying. Today, we can bring clean and safe water to more people at less cost than ever before. This happened not because we knew about how to do it or even tried to invent something new but because someone else had an idea, a passion, and a collaborative spirit. We thank God for that person and every person like him who gives us a donation to bring this product to the least, lost, and lonely, to those who are the champions making the last mile delivery, for those of you who speak for those who do not have a voice, and for you who read these emails and just lift a prayer, say a word of encouragement, and support Business Connect. We have an amazing team with us and surrounding us.

Until next time,

Lou Haveman and the Business Connect Team

Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting

Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting

Why are job creation and access to clean energy so important to us here at Business Connect?

 

Protable Solar Generator – 250whrA market transformation from inefficient and polluting fuel-based lighting to solar-LED systems is well underway across the developing world, but the extent of net job creation has not previously been defined. An article written by Evan Mills from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California/Berkeley, Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting, finds that current worldwide employment associated with fuel-based lighting represents approximately 150,000 jobs.

New jobs will accompany the replacement technologies. A survey of major solar-LED lighting companies finds that 38 such jobs are created for each 10,000 people living off-grid for whom stand-alone solar-LED lights are suitable. Applying this metric, the number of new jobs already created from the current uptake of solar-LED lighting has matched that of fuel-based lighting and foreshadows the potential creation of 2 million new jobs to fully serve the 112 million households globally that currently lack electricity access, are unlikely to be connected to the major grid, micro-grids, or are able to afford more extensive solar systems.

A likely greater number of additional jobs and employment income will be indirectly created or preserved via indirect employment, re-spending of energy savings, conservation of foreign exchange, enhanced literacy, and improved working conditions. In contrast, central grid expansion is unlikely to provide any net increase in jobs. The case of solar-LED lighting demonstrates that policymakers have tools to increase the pace of in-country job creation in the context of sustainable development, while minimizing job displacement, and improving the quality of employment. These tools include stimuli for domestic manufacturing or assembly of products; supporting peripheral businesses and services, such as training, recycling, financing, and impact assessment; and removing market barriers that slow the uptake of emerging technologies.

This might be more information than you need to know but it solidifies the reasons why we are focusing on creating employment opportunities in the developing world through our robust distribution network. It is a win-win situation in our eyes, more jobs and more clean resources that will help children that have to now study by a toxic kerosene lantern. Access to solar lighting will allow women to save needless hours spent gathering firewood — and spend those hours on opportunities for themselves and their families.

So what can you do about this? We’re glad you asked! Join our team, sponsor a student or entrepreneur, help us fundraise or make a tax-deductible donation through our partnership with Partners Worldwide. We need you as a Champion today and tomorrow for a better, cleaner world.

#CreatingHope

Take Action. Inspire Change. #MandelaDay

Take Action. Inspire Change. #MandelaDay

Take Action. Inspire Change.

 

Water filter training in Maratane Refugee Camp3Today is the Nelson Mandela International Day, launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on July 18, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Mandela made for the next generation to create change and take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”.

It is more than a celebration of his life, it is a global movement to honor his life’s work and act to change the world for the better.

The campaign call to action is simple: Take Action. Inspire Change. Make every day a Mandela Day and celebrate the potential that each individual has to transform the world. We are inspired by the example that Madiba has set for us: each of us taking responsibility for ourselves and acting on the responsibility we have to others.

To become part of the Mandela Day movement, all that is required is an action that helps change the lives of people for the better. To ensure that their actions have lasting benefits, they should with and within communities, always strive to leave behind not only physical changes but also a sense of empowerment, helping to build pride amongst those communities so that they can take charge of their destinies and change their circumstances. The cumulative actions of people, even if it is one small step at a time, can become a transformative momentum.

You can help us here at Business Connect celebrate Mandela Day by sponsoring an entrepreneur. For $300, we will help a budding entrepreneur by providing a basic inventory of clean resources that is needed to start a new business as well as the training required by our in-country representative. You can choose whether you would like to help a student, woman or a man trying to create a better life for his family. You can even choose the country you would like to help.

If you don’t think you can make a difference in the lives of others, contact us. We will share with you our experiences and tell you otherwise. Remember, it just takes one person to make a difference and start the ball rolling to effect change in the lives of others. Just like Nelson Mandela did.

How Can You Help Expand the Reach of Your Mission?

How Can You Help Expand the Reach of Your Mission?

Business Connect continues to bring new life enhancing products to the market around the world.  We are committed to being a solution source for water problems.  We have sold well over 10,000 water filters this year.  But water is just one challenge.

We partnered with Haitian Artisan Products International (HAPI) putting together a package of products: a water filter, high-efficiency charcoal stove, and a solar light with cell phone charging capacity.  Our initial survey gave us surprising results.  Most people wanted the solar for charging their cell phones.  Families living in the mountains take a day trip to walk into town or pay someone to take their phones in for charging.  This little solar light provides light in the home and will charge their phone in the evening.  The weight is only eight tenths of a pound.  Our retail price is $43.73…less if you are a distributor.

Now Business Connect has another exciting product we are bringing to market.  This is a three light unit, 160 lumens each, with a 36 foot cord. This unit can run for two days (four hours per day) on one battery charge.  It also has a USB port for charging your phone.  We have 200 units in stock and will ship anywhere in the world.  Total weight is seven pounds and can fit into a small cardboard case, 11” x 14” x 4” including the solar panel.

We have 200 solar kits ready for the market and would like to have them sold by the end of December.  Our retail price for these units is $138.17…less if you are a distributor.

If you are planning on taking a mission trip, this would be an incredible gift to leave with your host family or to leave for the school or orphanage you might be partnering with. For more information on how your gift may help others, review an article on our work written by Mission Network News.

Thank you for all you do for the least of these around the world!

With gratitude always from the Business Connect team,

Jan, Jereme, Pam, Natalie, Jeff, and Lou

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