Dennis Shelden is an associate professor, Director of the Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology (CASE), and co-Director of the EBESS Institute for Energy, Built Environment and Smart Systems at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is an expert in applications of digital technology to building design, construction and operations, with experience spanning across research, technology development and professional practice including multiple architecture, building engineering and computing disciplines.Prior to joining CASE, he led the development of architect Frank Gehry’s digital practice as Director of R&D and Director of Computing of Gehry Partners, and as Co-founder and CTO of Gehry Technologies. He has taught at MIT and Georgia Tech and he is a licensed Architect in California.
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I was prompted to do research on the topic of Food Waste before my interview with Chef Shane Jordan, author of the book Food Waste Philosophy. I learned that the social, economic and environmental impact associated with food waste is a subject that we all should and need to be aware of.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, gets lost or wasted. The FAO estimated that annually, the direct and indirect costs of food waste adds up to $2.6 trillion worldwide.
Bringing it a little closer to home, in the average Canadian household, one in four produce items gets thrown in the garbage. That translates to about $1,100 a year that we just toss away.
The impact of food waste hits three areas significantly. It wastes water, wastes land and releases significant amounts of methane gas.
Water is essential for growing agriculture and feeding animals.
When we throw out food we waste the millions of litres of water that were used to produce our food.
Consider this; meat producers are the heaviest water users. Yes, animals drink water. But added to this, water is needed for the feed animals eat. It takes about 8 to 10 times more water to produce meat than grain.
The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity
Land is used for in the production of food for growing crops and raising and feeding livestock.
As well, discarded food eventually makes its way to landfills.
Food waste is both an ethical waste of land and a physical waste of space.
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.
The consumption of animal products contributes to more than one-quarter of the water footprint of humanity”
As food begins to decompose and rot it releases methane gas.
Methane is a greenhouse gas which many scientists believe adversely affects the earth’s climate and temperature. About 20 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions comes from landfills.
Added to this the resources needed to produce the food also have a carbon footprint. Globally, the effect of processing the food that is wasted is equal to about 3.3 billion tons of CO2.
3 Tips for Preventing Food Waste
Meal planning is a good step towards reducing food waste. It centres your shopping on what is specifically needed and helps you to avoid grabbing the ‘just in case items’. You tend to not over shop when you know what ingredients you need.
Use your leftovers
Using your leftovers is an obvious way to reduce food waste. I tend to make soups at the end of the week and throw in unused and leftover vegetables.
Leftovers can be repurposed in to new meals and lunches. They can also be frozen to use at a later date.
Store Food Correctly
Move old things to the front of your pantry and fridge shelves and store new things at the back i.e. first in first out in
Date and label your food
Place things correctly in your fridge. Store condiments and other items that don’t spoil easily on the fridge door. Put your perishables on the shelves of your refrigerator. Place fruits and vegetables in the fridge bins