Setting a Sustainable Example: Local Businesses Strive to Reduce Food Waste

by Michelle Trispel for SUST 240

In an average American trash can, one is likely to find a combination of two things: food and packaging. When mixed together, these otherwise useful materials become trash. “Together, food and packaging/containers account for almost 45% of the materials landfilled in the United States” (EPA). Food and the packaging it is sold in accounts for the majority of waste produced by homes and restaurants in the United States. From field to plate and everywhere in between, much of the food being grown in this country will be wasted. There are, however, solutions to our food/packaging waste dilemma. Whether you are a food producer, restaurant, grocery store, or homeowner, you can turn wasted food into valuable resources.

In this TEDx Talk, Natural Resources Defense Council’s executive director Peter Lehner illustrates the issues related to food waste along with potential solutions to this problem. Lehner states that although “40% of the food grown in this country isn’t eaten,” there are low-tech solutions to our food waste dilemma.

Many homes and businesses are doing their part to reduce their waste and create a model of sustainability for the rest of us to strive for. In our region, we have businesses that are setting a positive example of sustainability. Local locations of Whole Foods Market have implemented programs in their stores to not only properly recycle containers, but also to reduce food waste. Whole Foods Market in Schaumburg has been composting in store since 2011. Not only does Whole Foods compost within their store, they also provide customers with the tools they need to create their own home compost.

Local restaurants such as Chicago’s’ Sandwich Me In have have implemented a zero waste policy. This local restaurant values its sustainable practices and have created a model for other restaurants to follow. This video provides more information on the trash free story of this Chicago Restaurant.

If large grocery stores and local restaurants can reduce their food waste, so can everyone else. As consumers we can learn to reduce our personal waste. While large-scale business will produce more waste, even our home kitchen waste has an impact. Every little bit counts.

Tips for reducing your food and packaging waste:

  • Support local business that value sustainable waste practices.
  • Shop smart — buying in bulk (especially if using your own container) will greatly reduce the packaging you toss each week.
  • Make a list — only buy what you need and use what you have first. How often do you find food that’s gone bad in the back of the fridge?
  • Bring your own container when you are grocery shopping or eating out.
  • BYOB (bring you own bags) — Disposable plastic bags are out! In some places they are even banned.
  • Recycle & compost –- Materials that we throw away do not have to me “waste.” Properly recycling or composting items in our trashcan can transform these items transformed into valuable resources.

Each week during the Fall 2014 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 240 Waste online class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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