The generation of waste in most of our lives is astounding. We throw much of what we use in the garbage. On average, Americans throw away about five pounds of trash each day. We toss packaging, clothing, food, old electronics, and many other things regularly. All these things must be dealt with somehow, whether by being buried in a landfill, burned, or shipped across the world for someone else to deal with. In 1960 the amount of waste created in America was 88.1 million tons. In 2018, it has increased to 292.4 million tons, more than triple the amount nearly sixty years ago. It is an environmental nightmare.
Every single object we buy has an end to it. Everything will eventually end up in a landfill, being burned, or being recycled in some way. Food waste is particularly devastating, as there are many hungry people around the world, and in the US, that would benefit from a better distribution of food. Globally, 821 million people are suffering from hunger, and our annual food waste could feed them all, four times over. Much of this food waste comes from large logistical challenges and poor individual choices made in convenience. On an individual basis, we don’t often have the time to think closely about what we are planning on eating, and we forget what is in the back of the fridge until it spoils, or if we actually need to buy something.
Technology is offering us many possible solutions for people who want to help curb food waste, like meal planning and grocery list apps, apps to sell expiring food at a steep discount during closing hours, and non-profits that will redistribute food from large catered events to local shelters. These technologies can help assist with the logistical challenges that we face with getting extra food to the people who need it.
In a strange turn, the challenges of Covid-19 have shown how adaptable people are and how we can make dramatic improvements in our sustainable behaviors. Overall, we are consuming less, and it has been good for the environment. We have been creating less food waste by getting creative with cooking, planning meals better, and buying from convenience less often. With more time to plan and cook, we make food with less waste. Our clothing shopping has slowed down when fewer people are going into the office, traveling, and wandering stores.
The key to continuing this trend is to keep our behavior altered in these ways when we move forward instead of letting things slide back to the way they were before. We must maintain the good habits and skills we learned in the lockdowns. The pandemic has proven we don’t need as many things as we thought we once did, and we can make lifestyle changes for the good of the planet. Do your best to make sure what you buy has a sustainable end.