Facts About Food Waste

Day 262 – Back on Day 216, I wrote about the app, Too Good To Go. The app connects people with perfectly good food that bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses are trying to sell before being tossed in the trash. The food is offered at a reduced price, giving consumers a great opportunity to rescue food at a discount.

Well, that same app is also a great source of information. The Food Waste Knowledge Hub offers a great deal of information about food waste.

They cover various questions about food waste:

  1. What is food waste?
  2. Where is food wasted?
  3. Why is food wasted?
  4. What food is wasted?
  5. Why is food waste a problem?
  6. Where does food waste go in the end?

By being informed you will discover important information about why food waste needs to be a priority for everyone.

  1. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, approximately 1.6 billion tons.
  2. That means within a year, we waste around 51 tons every second.
  3. Up to 40% of all food produced in the US is currently wasted and 83% of this is either wasted in food services such as restaurants and hotels, or at home. Currently, a whopping 63 million tons of food is not recycled or recovered, but instead heads to landfill, is incinerated, or remains unharvested.
  4. Food waste occurs at all stages from farm to fork.
  5. The most wasted type of food is fruit and vegetables. Almost half of all fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers are wasted along the supply chain, while one third of all fish and seafood never make it to our plate.
  6. Up to two-fifths of all fruit and vegetable crops are wasted because they are ‘ugly’.
  7. Our food system, and with it food waste, is the number one contributing factor that drives this threatening change in nature through land use change, pollution, and climate change.
  8. More than 70 billion tons of Green House Gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere, if we cut down on food waste.
  9. Together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are now responsible for more annual GHG  emissions than Exxon, Shell or BP.
  10. Currently, in the U.S, a whooping 63 million tons of food is not recycled or recovered, but instead heads to landfill, is incinerated, or remains unharvested.

In order to understand the problem, you need to have the information. Spend a little time educating yourself. Most people don’t understand that food waste is a global issue that has a serious impact on our planet and our overall well-being.

What are you doing to fight the war against food waste?

Tomorrow, sustainable plastic products.

Protecting the Ozone

Day 259 – The ozone layer is a thin part of the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs almost all of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light.

“Ozone is only a trace gas in the atmosphere—only about 3 molecules for every 10 million molecules of air. But it does a very important job. Like a sponge, the ozone layer absorbs bits of radiation hitting Earth from the sun. Even though we need some of the sun’s radiation to live, too much of it can damage living things. The ozone layer acts as a shield for life on Earth.” – National Geographic

Starting in the early 1970’s, however, scientists found evidence that human activities were disrupting the ozone balance. Human production of chlorine-containing chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has added an additional factor that destroys ozone. This depletion of the ozone layer, in turn, was affecting life on Earth — the destruction of plants and ecosystems, increase in skin cancer, etc. The scientists’ discovery highlighted the importance of the ozone layer and the dire need to preserve it.

The scientific confirmation of the depletion of the ozone layer prompted the international community to establish a mechanism for cooperation to take action to protect the ozone layer. This was formalized in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which was adopted and signed by 28 countries, on 22 March 1985. In September 1987, this led to the drafting of The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.” – United Nations

On 16th September 2009, the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol became the first treaties in the history of the United Nations to achieve universal ratification. September 16 has since then been dedicated each year to the appreciation and preservation of this protective layer and the success of the Vienna Convention.

On this International Day of the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, make sure you are doing your part to protect the ozone.

  1. Avoid the consumption of gases dangerous to the ozone layer, due to their content or manufacturing process. Some of the most dangerous gases are CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), halogenated hydrocarbon, methyl bromide and nitrous oxide.
  2. Minimize the use of cars. The best transport option is urban, bicycle, or walking. If you use a car to a destination, try to carpool with others to decrease the use of cars in order to pollute less and save.
  3. Do not use cleaning products that are harmful to the environment and to us. Many cleaning products contain solvents and substances corrosive, but you can replace these dangerous substances with non-toxic products such as vinegar or bicarbonate.
  4. Buy local products. In this way, you not only get fresh products but you avoid consuming food that has traveled long distances. As the more distance traveled, the more nitrous oxide is produced due to the medium used to transport that product.
  5. Maintain air conditioners, as their malfunctions cause CFC to escape into the atmosphere.

Tomorrow, Grand Rapids is doing something right when it comes to recycling.

Upstream: Changing the Throw Away Culture

Day 255 – So what is Upstream? Good question.

“Upstream® was founded in 2003 as a public-interest, non-profit organization by a group of Zero Waste activists in the US and Canada. While working together in the 1990s, these leaders felt too many environmental groups were only focused on “downstream” or “end of pipe” solutions like recycling and composting. But they knew we can’t recycle or compost our way to a sustainable future. We have to work “upstream” to redesign the systems generating all the waste in the first place.” – Upstream

Upstream is working to create a world where you will find:

  1. Everyone dining out at restaurants is eating off real plates and cutlery, and drinking from real cups.
  2. To-go coffee is served in reusable cups loaned from a reuse service providing clean, sanitized cups to coffee shops.
  3. Restaurants, grocery stores and delis use services that provide them with clean, sanitized reusable to-go containers for prepared food, takeout and delivery.
  4. At the ballpark, everyone is drinking beer out of real cups. And touch-free soda fountains dispense drinks in reusable cups after you put in your credit card.
  5. You can order groceries, cleaning and personal care products delivered in reusable containers in a reusable box tote.
  6. Tens of thousands of people are employed throughout the area in delivery, pick-up, cleaning, stocking and logistics.
  7. Litter and solid waste costs are down and community pride is up.
  8. None of these innovations required you to bring your own anything. People got tired of single-use waste. And entrepreneurs said we can do it without single-use, and we can do it better.
  9. Community leaders and policymakers worked to create the conditions for this thriving reuse economy. Then the big companies saw this was the future, and everyone started doing it.

Upstream exists to push the idea of reuse. They offer resources for businesses and individuals to make the changes needed to move away from single-use.

Explore the Learning Hub created for activists, educators, policymakers, business leaders and changemakers – like you – to get the information you need to engage and support your community.

Join the movement today!

Tomorrow, multifamily recycling resources.

Seven Generations Ahead: Building ecological sustainable and healthy communities

Day 242 – Who is Seven Generations Ahead?

SGA works with local government, community and private sector leaders to help communities make the changes they need to build a healthy and sustainable future. Through community-wide sustainability planning and implementation, project design and implementation, educational conferences and forums, community network development, consulting, and programs, SGA is a catalyst for local community solutions to global environmental issues. SGA’s work covers a broad range of sustainability topic areas, including: energy efficiency and renewable energy; transportation; healthy community development; waste reduction; water conservation; green business; procurement; local, sustainable food; healthy eating; open space and ecosystem enhancement; and sustainability education.” – Seven Generations Ahead

Seven Generations Ahead works with various networks, in order to achieve sustainability and healthy communities.

  1. PlanItGreen is the sustainability plan for the communities of Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois.
  2. The Fox Valley Sustainability Network (FVSN) brings together the public and private sectors from around the Fox Valley to cut across boundaries and create a healthy, sustainable and vibrant Fox Valley.
  3. GreenTown conferences are the best way to work with community stakeholders, civic leaders and passionate citizens to jump start a network.
  4. The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) grew out of a one-year food scrap composting forum planning process to support research, programs, education and policy initiatives.
  5. The Wasted Food Action Alliance (WFAA) aims to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food through collaboration, education, and policy.

Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) works with schools, businesses, institutions, and municipalities to provide support for all steps along a path to zero waste from planning to implementation.

  1. Zero Waste Schools
  2. Food Waste Reductions and Composting

Seven Generations Ahead created the Illinois Farm to School Network (IFSN).

IFSN is comprised of teachers, early care providers, food service staff, farmers, students, and others who are working to change food purchasing and education practices in their communities. The network provides training, connects partners, and shares resources about all aspects of farm to school– including local food sourcing, hands-on nutrition education, and school gardening.” – SGA

Seven Generations Ahead also created a project called It’s Our Future.  The project will equip young leaders in Oak Park/River Forest to advocate for climate change solutions that benefit all members of our community.

Seven Generations Ahead is an amazing resource for any community. They are committed to building a healthy and sustainable future for us all.

Tomorrow, a company that will recycle your batteries, for a fee.

Maine is Holding Companies Accountable for Their Packaging Waste

Day 239 – Maine is the first state in the nation to hold big corporations and brands accountable for the plastic waste and packaging they have created. Maine has joined more than 40 jurisdictions around the world to require companies that create packaging waste help pay for the costs of recycling. The new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law (LD 1541) will increase recycling rates, reduce packaging pollution, and save taxpayers money. 

For far too long all the responsibility for finding ways to recycle product packaging has been on the consumer. Finally, the responsibility will be on the manufacturers and companies that are producing the items. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a special type of waste management policy created to safely and responsibly dispose of difficult-to-recycle products and materials. EPR shifts the costs of dealing with difficult types of waste from town governments, to manufacturers and corporations, that have control over the safety and recyclability of the products they make and sell. 

Natural Resources of Council of Maine lists the problems that new EPR for Packaging law will target:

  1. Provides incentives for producers and big corporations to make less waste and more eco-friendly packaging.
  2. Takes the financial burden off taxpayers—so towns will no longer have to cut programs or raise taxes due to recycling costs.
  3. Creates a uniform list of materials collected in each participating municipal recycling program.  

There is no doubt that having this Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging Law, will make a huge difference in the waste produced in Maine. We can only hope that the example set in Maine will be the playbook that all states throughout the country follow.

Tomorrow, a company upcycling materials into new products.

Dogs are cute, but their poop stinks!

Day 238 – It’s estimated that there are around 900 million dogs in the world. That means there are a lot of bowls to fill, walks to be taken and poop to clean up. As this blog as mentioned on numerous occasions, I have been on a mission to make my home more environmentally friendly. Just taking the recyclables out to the recycle bin was just not cutting it. So, as I made my way around the house making changes that would benefit the planet, I came across the dog poop issue. I thought I solved the problem by purchasing 100% biodegradable and certified compostable poop bags. Unfortunately, as I was doing research on my biodegradable trash bags (Day 12), I found out a very important fact. Unless that biodegradable/compostable bag is finding its way to a commercial composter and not the landfill, it will not breakdown very easily. Oxygen and warm temperatures are needed in the composting process. Since these two important factors are missing in the landfill, these bags end up staying intact for a very long time.

I looked up commercial composting facilities that deal in dog waste and found nothing in my city or state. There are very few in the country. I looked into at-home dog waste composting systems and they did not appear to be ideal, especially living in a rather dense city dwelling. I’m sure the neighbors would not have appreciated that very much. I even looked up information about flushing dog waste down the toilet. From what I read it was not advised. Also, leaving where it lies is never a good option. People like myself that are magnets for stepping in poop, really do not appreciate those that do not pick up after their dogs. Not to mention there are health concerns connected to not properly disposing of dog waste.

My final solution was to try to minimize the number of bags I put in the trash. Since my dogs prefer to go number two in the backyard, this option was the easiest for us. So, I purchased a small metal garbage can. Once, the waste is picked up the bag goes in the can. I continue to use the same bag until it is filled. I used to use around two to three bags a day, wanting to make sure I kept the backyard clean of dog waste. Now we use one bag every two to three days*. If you do the math, we are down to under 150 bags a year instead of using over 1,000 bags.

As for those biodegradable/compostable poop bags, I will continue to use them. Since, Doogy Be Good bags are made from cornstarch and other bio-based components, when they do eventually breakdown, they will not be releasing any toxic chemicals.

On this National Dog Day find ways that you and your dog can help be more environmentally friendly.

*During the summer months, bag use increases compared to the cooler months. I don’t think I need to explain why.

Tomorrow, the importance of extended producer responsibility.

The Race to Save Earth’s Ice

Day 234 – When I think about giant pieces of cloth being placed over mountain ice to help prevent it from melting, it makes me think of one of those doomsday movies. Like I feel it could have been a scene in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Sadly, this science fiction sounding scenario is happening in real life. 70m long strips of reflective material are being placed over the ice on the Pressena glacier, in the Italian Alps, to try to preserve it from the intense rays of the sun.

What’s even more disturbing about this situation is that this is not the first time scientists have used tarps to help prevent the melting of glaciers. The first attempts to partially cover a glacier came in 1993 on the Zugspitze in southern Bavaria in Germany. Since then several glacier areas in Switzerland and Austria have followed suit. Since 2004, glaciers have been partially covered at eight locations in the Swiss Alps at altitudes of between 2,250 and 3,250 m above sea level. It is estimated that it would cost $1 billion a year to cover all the Swiss glaciers.

In the Northern Cascades as the winter season neared an end, mountain snowpacks were still running a decent amount above average. Then temperatures soared into the 80s, 90s and even triple digits. In the higher elevations, the snow didn’t stand a chance. Snow depth gauges at Paradise Ranger Station around 5,400 feet up Mt. Rainier measured 106 inches of snow on the ground on June 6, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center. A month later on July 5, there were only 8 inches up there. Summer melting of the snowpack is an annual occurrence but the National Weather Service in Seattle says 30% of that meltoff came in the four days between June 26 and June 30. Paradise reached the upper 80s on June 28 and then hit 91 degrees on June 29.

Global warming is real and it is happening. There is only so much scientists can do to hold back the damaging effects. At some point we need to come together as inhabitants of this planet and figure out a way to decrease the temperature, before we have nothing left to protect.

Tomorrow, charcoal vs. gas grilling.

Recycling Facts

Day 232 – There are currently over 2,000 landfills in the United States. The reason we have so many landfills is due to the fact that we, Americans, throw a lot of stuff away. We are constantly tossing things in the trash without giving a second thought as to where it goes. If we just took a moment to ask, “Where is away?”, maybe we could start making changes in our behavior to minimize the amount of waste we produce.

Rubicon is the leading provider of cloud-based waste and recycling solutions for businesses, governments, and organizations worldwide. With more than 4.9 million service locations, Rubicon focuses on developing software solutions that bring new transparency to the waste and recycling industry—encouraging customers to make data-driven decisions that lead to more efficient and effective operations as well as more sustainable outcomes.

Rubicon put together a list of 50 Recycling and Landfill Facts That Will Make You Think Twice About Your Trash. I thought I would just share 20 of them in hopes it will get you thinking about trash and ways to start reducing your amount.

  1. Nine-tenths of all solid waste in the United States does not get recycled.
  2. Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution – roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled.
  3. The U.S. recycling rate is around 34.5%. If we’re able to get the rate to 75%, the effect will be like removing 50 million passenger cars from U.S. roads.
  4.  9 out of 10 people said they would recycle if it were “easier”.
  5. The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year.
  6. In the United States, we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour – about 42,000 per minute, or about 695 per second.
  7. The amount of plastic film and wrap produced annually could shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  8. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put that in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.
  9. Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.
  10. Glass, like aluminum, is infinitely recyclable – without any loss in purity or quality.
  11. Glass container manufacturers hope to achieve 50 percent recycled content in the manufacture of new glass bottles. This achievement would save enough energy to power 21,978 homes for one year and while removing over 181 tons of waste from landfills monthly.
  12. In only three months, enough aluminum cans are thrown out in the United States to rebuild all of our commercial air fleets.
  13. You can make 20 new cans from recycled material using the same amount of energy that it takes to make 1 brand new can.
  14. While the United States celebrates the holidays, Americans produce an additional 5 million tons of waste (four million of the 5 million tons consisting of wrapping paper and shopping bags).
  15. The majority of the 4 million tons of junk mail that Americans receive annually ends up in landfills.
  16. On average, Americans use 650 pounds of paper a year. Each.
  17. Americans make nearly 400 billion photocopies a year, which comes out to 750,000 copies every minute.
  18. The average office worker in the United States goes through roughly 500 disposable cups annually.
  19.  2,000 pounds (or 1 ton) of recycled paper helps to save over 350 gallons of oil, 17 trees, and a large portion of landfill space
  20. Of the 62 million newspapers printed daily in the United States, 44 million will be thrown away (roughly 500,000 trees).

Until we begin to realize that even though our trash may leave our house, it is not leaving our town or city. It is just being transported to another location, where the pile will continue to grow and grow. When will we begin to realize that a change needs to happen? Maybe when that pile becomes so large that the trash finds its way back to your home.

Tomorrow, a use for mango skins you most likely had no idea was possible.

The Greenest Cars on the Market

Day 231 – “Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide concentrations are rising mostly because of the fossil fuels that people are burning for energy. Fossil fuels like coal and oil contain carbon that plants pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis over the span of many millions of years; we are returning that carbon to the atmosphere in just a few hundred years.” – NOAA

Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide are responsible for about two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth’s temperature to rise.  That extra heat is driving regional and seasonal temperature extremes, reducing snow cover and sea ice, intensifying heavy rainfall, and changing habitat ranges for plants and animals—expanding some and shrinking others.  The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2005, and 7 of the 10 have occurred just since 2014. 

Car emissions is a big culprit to the increase of greenhouse gases. Let’s take a look at the best and worst cars.

GreenerCars.org’s 2021 Greenest List features the most environmentally friendly cars now available. Most of the cars listed are electric or hybrid.

  1. Hyundai Ioniq Electric
  2. Mini Cooper SE Hardtop 2 door
  3. Toyota Prius Prime
  4. BMW i3s
  5. Nissan Leaf
  6. Honda Clarity
  7. Hyundai Kona Electric
  8. Kia Soul Electric
  9. Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus
  10. Toyota Rav4 Prime AWD

The top gasoline fueled or gasoline hybrids include:

  1. Toyota Camry Hybrid LE
  2. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Blue
  3. Honda Insight Touring
  4. Toyota Rav4 Hybrid AWD
  5. Chevrolet Spark
  6. Kia Sorento Hybrid
  7. Kia Soul Eco dynamics
  8. Toyota Sienna
  9. Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD
  10. Mazda MX-5

The cars with the lowest environmental rating include the following:

  1. RAM 1500 TRX 4×4
  2. Lexus LX 570
  3. Mercedes-Benz AMG G 63
  4. Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon 4WD
  5. Toyota Sequoia 4WD
  6. Toyota Tundra 4WD
  7. Dodge Durango SRT
  8. Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 4×4
  9. Land Rover Range Rover LWB SVA
  10. BMW X5 M

You can see how your car ranks by checking out Green Scores of ranked vehicles, available in the GreenerCars.org interactive database, dating back to model year 2000. The database lists each configuration’s fuel economy, health-related pollution impacts, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Tomorrow, recycling facts.

Back to School Tips

Day 229 – On Day 151, I wrote about GotSneakers, a FREE sneaker recycling program for individual sellers and organizations of all types and sizes. I have partnered with GotSneakers to resell, donate or recycle the sneakers we collect during the Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup.

GotSneakers sent out a newsletter that listed a number of great suggestions to ensure a more sustainable school year.

  1. Reuse What You Can: Reusing items helps to avoid polluting the environment and eliminate unnecessary costs.  See which items from last year can be reused like pencil sharpeners, pens, erasers, and pencil cases.
  2. Look for Items Made from Recycled Materials: For the items you need to purchase new, look for brands the promote sustainability through the use of recycled materials.  Even better if the products you buy have certifications such as Green Seal, Safer Choice, and the Forest Stewardship Council.
  3. Prepare Zero Waste Lunches: Stock up on reusable containers, water bottles, and lunch boxes to help make zero waste lunches! There are many products that help to keep your child’s lunch fresh and make sure it doesn’t get squished.
  4. Refresh Your Child’s Closet Sustainably: Let’s face it, most kids love showing off their latest outfits — especially on the first day of school.  While taking the time to research brands that are eco-friendly, make sure you are recycling your family’s clothing.

Lastly, did you know that it can take between 30-40 years for sneakers to fully decompose in landfills?  GotSneakers has a solution – send your footwear to them where they will make sure it gets recycled or reused. You can also drop off your sneakers at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup.

Consider starting your school year with a school wide sneaker drive fundraiser.

Tomorrow,  questions about recycling nail polish.