Sustainable America is an environmental non-profit organization with the mission to make the nation’s food and fuel systems more efficient and resilient. Through broad public education, hands-on technical assistance, and strategic support of emerging entrepreneurs and technologies, we work to increase food availability and reduce oil usage in the United States.
Food waste has become a moral issue in my household. An ardent recycler, my wife admirably seeks ways to reduce the amount of trash our family generates. When I get lazy and toss some food scrap into the garbage can, rather than the green waste bin, she dutifully pulls it out and puts it in the right place.
Food waste seems to be taking over my life outside the home, as well. I recently authored a book, Big Hunger, critiquing the failure of the anti-hunger field to address systemic issues that cause hunger. Attendees at my book talks frequently ask my opinion on food waste as a solution to hunger.
The more I immerse myself in this topic, the more I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth. And watching the new Rockefeller Foundation-funded film Wasted! The Story of Food Waste only serves to exacerbate this feeling. Narrated by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, Wasted! does provide an important contribution. It calls into question the obscene amounts of food that we waste from farm to table, along with the environmental damage such waste causes.
The film provides examples of how such waste could be repurposed, following the Environmental Protection Agency’s food recovery hierarchy of using surplus food for people, animals, bioenergy, compost, and landfills, in that order. Wasted! entertains and educates as it seeks to inspire cultural change in the way we approach such factors as cosmetically imperfect produce, expiration dates, and the numerous unused parts of plants and animals that get plowed under or turned into pet food.
But the film goes bad in the first few minutes when it skips over source reduction, reducing the volume of surplus food generated, which is the first step in the EPA’s inverted pyramid hierarchy. It fails to address the much more complicated question of why we waste so much food in the first place.
As a nation, we seem to have the tendency to avoid these sticky political questions in favor of technological solutions, and in doing so ignore the economic system, policies, and incentives that encourage 40 percent of all food to go to waste.
Historically, food wasn’t wasted in lean times, when cultures had to survive literally on the crusts. Yet today, the industrialization of agriculture has rendered food relatively inexpensive, although the 12 percent of the population considered food insecure would likely disagree.
According to the USDA, Americans spend just 6.4 percent of their household income on food, less than any other nation.
Food is cheap not just because of mechanization, but also because we externalize the costs of its production onto the public till. Likewise, the price of food at the checkout does not reflect the full cost of labor. Companies such as Walmart, for example, routinely underpay their workers and encourage them to patronize food pantries or enroll in public food assistance programs to supplement their wages.
According to the Food Chain Workers Alliance, food chain workers are the lowest paid of any sector, earning on average $10 per hour as compared to the median wage for all industries of $17.53. Food chain workers are more likely to rely on public assistance and be more food insecure than in any other economic sector.
Thus, the low cost of ingredients and labor enable food waste. And if the food industry is addicted to overproduction, then the emergency food system is its enabler. Shelves at food pantries overflow with donated bakery products — things like breads and pastries. Why? Cheap sugar, wheat, butter, and labor make it economically viable for supermarkets to over-produce or over-order. They have found, by and large, that shoppers prefer an appearance of abundance and a wide selection from which to choose.
And when the unpurchased baked goods pass their “sell-by date,” retailers earn a tax deduction for donating them to charities at the generous midpoint between retail and wholesale price, allowing them to recapture part of their overhead. In addition, charitable donations can help retailers reduce their garbage disposal costs as well as improve their public image.
But what if these products are so unhealthy that dumping them onto the poor, who typically suffer from high rates of diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, just reinforces structural inequities in our society?
To their credit, many food banks around the country have dramatically increased the amount of fruits and veggies they distribute. A smaller number are refusing to accept junk food, especially soda. For example, the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., has removed 84 percent of unhealthy foods from its distribution stream by refusing full-calorie sodas, holiday candy, and sheet cakes, among other items.
At a recent talk I gave in Madison, Wisconsin, one attendee mentioned that after being provided information on diet-related health disparities and healthy food pantry initiatives, one food bank wanted to reduce the amount of pastries it distributed to customers. Following the EPA Food Recovery hierarchy, it found a pig farmer who would take the baked goods. All was fine, until a month later when the hog farmer informed them that he could no longer take the pastries because his pigs were getting too aggressive since consuming them. The similarities between pig and human physiology are well-documented.
It makes little sense to be rewarding companies with $200 million in tax deductions for donating surplus food to charity if our goal is to reduce food waste in the first place. Seen through a health lens, providing these tax deductions for junk food contradicts our nation’s dietary guidelines, which discourage consumption of foods high in sugar and salt.
And the food banks have become hooked, as well. I write in my book that the preservation of the tax deduction that companies receive for donating wasted food has been at the top of the legislative agenda of the nation’s food banking hub, Feeding America.
Perhaps what we need, as the film Wasted! suggests, is a culture shift, in which surplus food donations are seen as a badge of shame rather than one of corporate social responsibility. What if we taxed food waste rather than gave companies a tax break? What if, at minimum, we limited the tax deduction to only healthy foods, such as produce? What if food banks sought to make themselves obsolete within two decades by eliminating poverty rather than just perpetuating themselves by encouraging food waste?
In November, I was in Scotland, where the government is doing just that: looking for an exit strategy from the rapid growth of food charity, because they believe relying on food banks to be an inherently undignified way of life. Earlier in the year, I heard Toronto food activists liken the low quality of surplus food to the patronizing attitude with which the poor are too often treated. These critics said that food banks distribute “garbage food for garbage people.”
Here in the U.S., we badly need to shift our charity culture, to view food waste through the lens of the dignity, not to mention health, of the poor rather than through the prism of logistics and efficiency. During my years of research for Big Hunger, I have discovered racism and oppressive power dynamics within food pantries, as typically white and middle-class volunteers, such as myself, control the food that working-class and often people of color receive.
So, what should the industry do about existing food waste? Distributing surplus healthy food to people is clearly a superior option to throwing it away. Yet, food pantries are not the only option. Social enterprises such as L.A. Kitchen, Food Shift in Oakland, California, and Real Junk Food cafes in the U.K. provide other benefits, such as job creation and skills development. Many food banks have also moved in this direction, creating food processing and catering businesses.
Let’s be clear. Food waste distribution is not the solution to hunger except on a very temporary basis. Hunger is a symptom of poverty. Eliminating poverty will not be achieved by giving people day-old baguettes or even carrots and kale, but by working in solidarity to help them build their skills, education, wages, and political power. A bag of groceries is a measly substitute for political power.
Spring is on its way, which means it’s time to get your garden plans in gear. As you plan what you’re going to grow (and where you’ll grow it), do you think much about where you get your seeds and plants? Yes, you can order from seed companies and shop at local nurseries, but seed sharing is another great way to source your plants. It not only saves money, it’s also a way to help foster biodiversity, connect to our agricultural heritage and learn from other gardeners.
What is seed sharing?
Sharing seeds is the age-old practice of saving seeds from your own plants and sharing them with others. At first glance, it can seem like a quaint hobby, but seed saving and sharing can actually be an act of building resilience.
In the United States, we’ve lost approximately 90% of our fruit and vegetable varieties. Preserving the diversity of crops we still have is important to our future food security, especially in the face of a changing climate. Here’s how Sustainable Table explains it:
“…in the event that a particular crop variety fails due to drought, flooding or a disease, another variety might survive to avoid food shortages. In stark contrast to this model of agrobiodiversity, the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s was the result of a fungus that completely destroyed the Irish potato crop because only a few varieties of potatoes had been imported from the Andes to Europe, none of which were resistant to the disease. Because of a lack of crop diversity and overreliance on one crop to feed many of its population, Ireland experienced widespread famine and death.”
Seed savers work to preserve and share seeds to preserve heirloom varieties and protect local varieties that can help a community build food security. Sharing seeds is also a way to take “local food” one step further. When you buy seeds from big seed companies, you might not know exactly what you’re getting and where it came from. Seeds from your neighbor, on the other hand, sometimes come with a rich story.
There’s a lot more to learn about seed saving and sharing. Here are a few ways you can get involved.
1. Find or host a local seed swap.
Seed swaps, also called seed exchanges, happen around the country and probably right in your own community. Each operates by its own rules, so it’s a good idea to find out how your local one works before you go. Some might require you bring seeds to share or focus on certain types of seeds. If you can’t find one in your area, here’s a guide to starting your own. In-person swaps are a great way to meet other gardeners and swap tips as well as seeds.
2. Find or start a seed library.
Seed swaps are sometimes hosted by seed libraries, which are collections of seeds that are available for the public to “borrow.” Seed borrowers plant and grow the seeds, then save some of their plants’ seeds to “return” to the library. Seed libraries are often hosted in public libraries. Here’s a list of several hundred seed libraries around the world — and here’s a guide to starting your own.
3. Learn how to save seeds
You can often go to a seed swap or library empty handed and come away with some great seeds, but to fully participate, you can start saving your own seeds for your own use and to share with the seed-sharing community the following year. Here’s a beginner’s guide and a book from Seed Savors Exchange.
5. Watch SEED.
To learn more about the story and humble yet vital seeds, and why they must be saved, watch the 2016 documentary SEED: The Untold Story. The award-winning film follows seed savers, farmers, scientists and indigenous communities that are working to protect the world’s seeds and fight the corporate interests that control our food supply. Here’s the trailer.
SEED: The Untold Story (Official Theatrical Trailer) - Vimeo
6. Shop at local farmers.
Even if you can’t get your hands dirty with seed saving, you can help your support local crop diversity by buying produce from local farms and asking those farmers about their seeds and heirloom varieties that they sell. Buy the purple cauliflower or a variety of apple you’ve never heard of.
Letting your car idle unattended is not only bad for the environment and air quality, it could end up costing more—a fine or even your car itself.
Car thieves are known for jumping at an easy opportunity, and an unlocked, unattended running vehicle is as easy as it gets. Even so, people still insist on warming up cars in driveways on cold days or leaving cars running while they pop into convenience stores.
According to the National Crime Information Center, 147,434 vehicles were reported stolen with keys from 2013 to 2015. The statistics don’t list how many were idling at the time, but there’s little doubt many of them were since these types of thefts spike in the fall and winter months. In Springfield, Missouri, police say about 37 percent of cars stolen had keys in them; of those about 27 percent were actually running.
“Especially in cold weather, it’s a tell tale sign when you have an exhaust ploom coming out the back of a car, criminals are looking for targets of opportunity, they are not necessarily staking out a particular address or particular location, they are driving around looking for an unattended car idling so they can steal it,” said Mjr. Kirk Manlove with the Springfield Police Department told local television station KSPR.
In Milwaukee this winter, a newlywed couple’s car was stolen as it idled in front of a hotel. It was full of charity donations and gifts they’d received at their wedding the night before.
Tracking down these stolen cars is a needless drain on police resources (just as the idling itself is a needless drain on the environment). And some of the stolen vehicles end up being used in other more serious crimes. To help raise awareness, police departments around North America issue warnings about leaving vehicles idling unattended every winter. Even so, police in Calgary, Alberta, counted 544 vehicles idling with no driver over four days in January.
In Wichita, where 187 unattended idling vehicles were stolen in 2016, police are leaving warning flyers on cars they find warming up without a driver. On one December morning, they left 84 flyers.
Some municipalities could curb thefts further by issuing fines for unattended idling. In many places it’s already illegal to idle for several minutes, whether you’re in the car or not, but these laws are rarely enforced.
On top of risking losing your car, idling is just plain bad for your car’s engine. Business Insider interviewed former drag racer Stephen Ciatti who oversees the combustion engine work at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois to get to the bottom of this issue. The article explains the process in detail, but essentially, idling a vehicle in the cold strips oil from critical components that help your engine run, namely the cylinders and pistons.
Is slipping into a semi-warm car really worth damaging your engine, polluting the air, and risking fines and theft? Instead, bundle up, let your car run for a few seconds, then get on your way. Your local police department will thank you.
To learn more about vehicle idling and find resources to help reduce idling in your community, visit iturnitoff.com.
Wondering what you can do to make this your greenest Super Bowl party ever? These tips will help you score an eco-win on game day.
1. Buy Local, Buy Organic: Besides the game and the commercials, the Super Bowl is about good eats and drinks. So, when out shopping for ingredients, consider purchasing local and organic wherever possible. If you are ordering in, support a locally owned restaurant to maximize the benefit to your local economy. Buy beer in refillable growlers from a local brewery. Finally, only purchase what you need. American’s throw out about 25% percent of the food they buy. The easiest way to reduce this waste (and save money!) is to plan ahead and purchase only what you need. Save the Food’s Guestimator tool can help.
2. Waste Not Want Not: If you end up with extra food, consider freezing the leftovers for later, distributing to friends, or donating to those in need. Excess raw ingredients and prepared (but untouched) food can often be donated to the hungry. Reach out to your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter in advance of the Super Bowl to see if they take homemade items, or search the Food Rescue Locator for a local food rescue organization to help make a connection. (Visit ivaluefood.com for more tips on reducing wasted food.)
3. Recycle: One of the easiest things you can do is recycle your party waste. Most communities now offer curbside recycling and accept plastics, glass, metals and paper. To make it easy for your guests to take part, set out a clearly marked recycling bin. Make sure to purchase recyclable service ware or better yet, reduce waste all together by using your washable dishware!
4. Compost Your Food Waste: According to the EPA, Over 36 million tons of food waste reach our landfills each year in the United States. This waste could be prevented, used to feed people, or composted to create rich soil to grow new crops. Discarded food in landfills is not only wasteful, but it creates methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Home composting is easy and clean—it just takes a little getting used to. Click here to learn how you can start composting at home.
5. Go Polystyrene Free. The production of petroleum-based polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) is harmful to the environment. In fact, a 1986 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste — and its use may also be harmful to human health. Chemicals can leach out of these products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave), and styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Polystyrene is also essentially non-recyclable (since almost no recyclers accept the product), and it will stay intact in landfills for years to come. So skip the foam cups and opt for recyclable plastic, paper, compostable-ware, or reusables.
6. Turn Off Your Engine. If you drive on game day, pledge to go “idle-free.” Every day 3.8 million gallons of fuel are wasted in the U.S by vehicle idling. That’s equivalent to five Olympic-size swimming pools full of fuel! Unnecessary vehicle idling wastes gas and cash, pollutes the air, and is a major contributor to respiratory illnesses like asthma. So when picking up or dropping off a friend, waiting at the drive-through, or grabbing cash at the bank for your Super Bowl pool, remember to “Turn It Off.” To learn more about vehicle idling and take the idle-free pledge, visit iturnitoff.com.
No matter who wins the Feb. 4 matchup between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis, this year’s Super Bowl LII will be a victory for the green sports movement. If all goes according to plan, it will be a “zero-waste” Super Bowl. A team of partners announced yesterday that it has laid the framework to divert more than 90% of potential waste generated on game day to reuse and recycling instead of the landfill. (Rates over 90% are generally considered “zero waste.”)
Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium has been working the entire season toward this goal, increasing the stadium’s diversion rate by roughly 55%, reaching a high of 83% in January. An event like the Super Bowl can generate over 40 tons of waste.
One of the challenges of recycling and composting at public events is getting people to throw their waste into right bins. At the game, green ambassadors will be on hand at the stadium’s waste stations—with separate bins for recycling, composting and landfill—to help fans get their trash in the correct container. Standardized signage from Recycle Across America will be on all the bins to help guide fans. The stadium also uses a post-game waste sort to insure each waste stream is as contaminant-free as possible.
The effort will also take opportunities to repurpose items, like discarded handbags, signage and construction materials, through local community organizations. (Yes, large handbags that were surrendered at security used to be thrown away! Now they are donated to Dress for Success.) All of the landfill-bound waste will be incinerated and converted to energy.
As part of the work leading up to the Super Bowl, Amarak converted more than 70 different service ware and other products to compostable versions. They’ve made an effort to minimize food waste in the kitchen by composting food trimmings, and unused bulk ingredients are donated through Second Harvest to local food banks and charities. Unserved, prepared food from Super Bowl events will be distributed to local shelters and community kitchens, as well.
The NFL has tapped Super Bowl XL MVP and Pittsburgh Steelers Legend Hines Ward to be the face of a social media campaign, called Rush2Recycle, to educate fans about recycling to inspire them to tackle waste at home. Videos, tips and other resources are available at Rush2Recycle.com.
PepsiCo and Super Bowl LII: Rush2Recycle Shuffle with Hines Ward - YouTube
A group of partners, including the NFL, PepsiCo, Aramark, U.S. Bank Stadium, and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority worked together to pull off these zero-waste efforts, and instead of it only happening for a single game, like it did in Arizona in 2015, the goal was to make these changes permanent, which is a environmental boon for the Minneapolis community and sets an example that other sports arenas can follow. The league is already looking to make the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta zero waste as well.
We think of food waste as something that happens at home. But really, it starts with what we put in our grocery carts. With supermarkets designed to tempt us in every aisle, it’s easy to end up overbuying. Here are some tips to help you buy just what you need.
1. Make a list and stick to it.
If you only use one tip on this list, make it this one: Make a grocery list based on what you plan to eat before your next shopping trip. (Get tips on how to make a meal plan.) Then, stick to the list. By shopping from a list, not only are you less likely to buy food you won’t eat, but you also won’t have sticker shock when the cashier tells you the total.
2. Shop more frequently.
Many of us are in the habit of doing a “big shop” for the week ahead. The problem is that we are not very good at predicting what we will want to eat in the future, so we overbuy and end up wasting more, according to a University of Arizona study. If this sounds like you, try shopping more often and getting only what you’ll need for the next few meals.
3. Buy fresh ingredients in smaller quantities.
Choose loose fruits and vegetables over prepackaged ones so you can buy only the amount you need. Or, if a recipe calls for a cup of chopped peppers or roasted beets, grab them from the salad bar. Shop the bulk bins when you need small quantities of spices, nuts or dried fruit.
4. Resist impulse buys.
As much as you try to stick to your shopping list, it’s hard to resist impulse buys. Start by shopping on a full stomach, then learn to recognize supermarket techniques to get you to buy more, like displays at the ends of aisles. (Those usually aren’t a better deal; manufacturers often pay for their products to be displayed there). Before you check out, do a quick scan of your items and ask yourself if you really need everything in your basket.
5. Beware of “family” sizes and “buy one, get one” offers.
It may seem to be a better deal to buy larger quantities, but buying large amounts of perishable food without a plan to use it all leads to wasted money and food. The same goes for discounts on buying multiple items. Often, you’ll get the sale price even if you don’t buy the whole lot, like those 10 for $10 avocados. Read the fine print or ask an associate if you’re not sure.
6. Shop at farmers markets.
Shopping at farmers markets allows you to buy just the things you need and get produce that may stay fresh longer since it was probably picked more recently. You also might think twice before throwing away an heirloom tomato grown by a local farmer compared to a bland one grabbed from the supermarket.
If you’ve found yourself buying more of your holiday gifts online every year, you’re not alone. Most Americans, 79 percent, shop online, and the volume of online holiday shopping increases every year. With so much free two-day shipping available, who can blame us?
But does it make you wonder what effect all those doorstep deliveries are having on the environment? In this video from University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative and Vox, UCLA visiting researcher M. Sanjayan walks us through this question. Scroll down for our recap.
The environmental cost of free two-day shipping - YouTube
As Sanjayan points out, shipping companies are making a lot of improvements in efficiencies that improve their bottom line by reducing fuel use. They’ve gotten so good at it, in fact, that shopping online can have a lighter carbon footprint than going to the store, but those gains evaporate if you choose a shipping window of two days or less.
A shorter delivery time means shipping companies might have to ship multiple items in separate shipments rather than grouping them together. Or, they may not be able to wait until a truck is fully packed to send it out on the road.
Researchers at UC Riverside are studying new improvements to truck efficiencies, like wifi traffic lights that let trucks know when the light is changing so they can drive smarter. Or, technology that allows trucks to communicate with each other so they can practice “truck platooning,” where they follow each other to reduce drag. Changes like this can reduce fuel use by 10 to 20 percent.
But since even these improvements can be cancelled out when customers want their items quickly, Sanjayan makes the point that companies might be able to encourage more efficiency if they point out which shipping option is the greenest during the buying process.
In the meantime, it seems it’s up to us to resist the lure of two-day shipping for things we really don’t need right away. It might not be as instantly gratifying, but the planet will thank you.
“The Environmental Cost of Free Two-Day Shipping” is part of video series produced by University of California’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative and Vox. You can view the entire series here.
Citrus is one of the few fruits that comes in its own natural package. But did you know those peels can be more than just colorful wrappers? We asked Anne-Marie Bonneau, who blogs at The Zero-Waste Chef, how she uses citrus peels — she had so many great ideas that we put them together in the infographic below. (Scroll to the bottom for links to the citrus recipes mentioned in the graphic.)
As you scrape food into the trash, do you ever stop to think about all the resources you’re throwing away along with it? The land it was grown on, the water and fertilizer that helped it grow, the energy used to harvest, store and deliver it?
A new study, by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Sustainable America, considered these questions by analyzing the resource use associated with our diet, including the portion that gets wasted. Together, these resource and environmental impacts — including energy, land, water and fertilizer use; and greenhouse gas emissions — make up what the authors called a “foodprint.”
The results of the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that the average adult in the United States in 2010 discarded 35% of available edible food. Embedded in that wasted food is 35% of energy use, 34% of blue water use, 31% of land use, 35% of fertilizer use, and 34% of greenhouse gas emissions that were used to produce that food.
The report focuses only on the food loss and waste that happens at the retail and consumer levels and doesn’t account for losses on the farm and between the primary and retail levels.
Lead author Catherine Birney, of the University of Texas, explains why it’s important to understand how many resources are squandered when food is wasted. “Food waste is unique from other components of foodprint, because there is a significantly higher degree of control by the individual. The changes required to reduce each element are relatively less intrusive on consumer lifestyle.”
In other words, we the people have the power to make a real impact on the environmental burden of food waste. Small behavior changes, like shopping less, serving less, and making the most of what you buy can go a long way toward lowering our foodprint. “While the potential environmental benefits are rather grand, there are also personal financial benefits, through cost savings to be reaped from reducing food waste and overconsumption,” said Birney.
The infographic below details more numbers from the study. It breaks down the average American’s total foodprint per year and the impacts of an adult’s annual amount of wasted food.
As you can see, each adult — through the food they buy but don’t consume — wastes 8 GJ of energy, 451,000 liters of water, 1,051 square meters of land, 17 kilograms of fertilizer and 787 kilograms of CO2E.
Shifting Diets and Habits
The study went on to analyze what the environmental impacts would be if the American diet changed to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutritional guidelines, and if our consumption habits were to meet the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2030 food waste reduction targets.
The results showed that shifting toward the healthier diet without reducing food waste would result in increases in total food consumption and waste by weight because the healthier diet includes more fruits and vegetable and less calorie-dense animal products. Most of the resource factors studied would increase.
However, if we were to also reach the EPA/USDA goal of a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030, the increased resource use from a healthier diet could be significantly mitigated. Here’s how it would look:
Energy use would increase 12% rather than 34%.
Blue water consumption would go down by 4% instead of increasing by 15%.
Greenhouse gas emissions from food production would go down by 11% rather than up by 7%.
Landfill emissions would decrease by 20% rather than increase by 34%.
Land use would be cut by 32% rather than 19%.
Fertilizer use would increase 12% rather than 34%.
The study points out that moving toward a healthier diet is a worthy goal despite any negative resource impacts. “Instead, the U.S. can focus on an existing goal of reducing food loss and waste to mitigate the consumption of resources related to the U.S. food system,” said Dr. Michael E. Webber, senior author of the study and author of Thirst for Power: Energy, Water and Human Survival.
Webber said this is not the first study to look at the link between the USDA dietary guidelines and environmental impacts, but it is the first to incorporate the role of food waste and loss. “By understanding the scale of resource impacts of food we can start to identify solutions,” said Webber. “Reducing food waste seems like an obvious place to start.”
Webber also offers a few solutions. “At the individual level we should serve ourselves smaller portions and eat all that we serve,” he said. “At the supply-chain level we need tighter control on temperatures and conditions to avoid spoilage.”
Much more can be done to reduce food waste, and there are many ways Americans can contribute. To start, share our infographic, then check out ivaluefood.com where you’ll find helpful resources and take a challenge to find out what’s going to waste in your own home.
The founders of TrioCup are on a mission to design a better cup of coffee—literally. What started as a project for a student competition is may be in a coffee shop near you soon.
The cup, which we discovered after it won Talk Trash City’s pitch event in October, is made only of paper with no plastic lid. The top of the one-piece cup folds down and interlocks leaving a hole for drinking and just enough room for steam (or a tea-bag string) to escape. The folds create a cup with three sides that’s easier to hold. If it is dropped, it’s designed to spill very little coffee.
“The idea was to make a less wasteful cup,” says Tom Chan, who started the cup project with a fellow student when he was at The Cooper Union in New York. Their professors weren’t impressed with their initial design. “They wanted us to add more functionality to it.”
To learn more about the needs of coffee drinkers, they interviewed several people and discovered that they actually spill a lot of coffee. “Almost all of them had spilled coffee once in their life and it was horrible for them.” So they designed a paper cup with an origami-like lid that would stay closed when dropped from a few feet. Here’s a video of the cup being dropped:
Cup drop test - YouTube
The design went through a few changes to make it more manufacturing- and user-friendly. The version they settled on is designed with both baristas and the customers in mind. “This means that it is easy to fold, easy to drink, easy to reopen, easy to stack, and even has two corners to hang a tea bag,” said Chan. “It is also potentially cheaper than the cup-lid combination.”
A batch of samples should be in the hands of potential customers for testing soon. Chan also wants to work on the eco-friendliness of the paper used to make the cup; he’s hoping to use an eco-friendly waterproof coating that will make the entire cup recyclable or compostable. “If we do that, we need to identify a system to recollect the cups,” says Chan. We’re working on all of that.”
We were a proud sponsor of Trash Talk City’s latest pitch competiton. Talk Trash City is a series of fun, energetic conversations intended to critique fresh ideas about handling New York City’s waste. Past participants in the organization’s competitions include Toast Ale and RISE Products, two food-waste reducing start-ups.