Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Waste Not

It's easy in environmentalism to take on the obvious concerns and forget the bigger picture. Food miles is one example. The complaint is against how far food travels because every mile is another bit of gasoline in shipping. However, it takes fewer greenhouse gasses to produce some foods in season in New Zealand and then ship them around the world to England rather than produce them in greenhouses in England out of season. In those cases, food miles is simply the wrong focus.

Freakonomics provides another example: wasted food produces more global warming than food packaging does, both fill up landfills, and yet the outcry is against the packaging that prevents food wastage in the first place:
According to the Cucumber Growers’ Association, just 1.5 grams of plastic wrap extends a cuke’s shelf life from 3 to 14 days, all the while protecting it from “dirty hands.” Another study found that apples packed in a shrink wrapped tray cut down on fruit damage (and discard) by 27 percent. Similar numbers have been found for potatoes and grapes. ...

when it comes to saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our behavior in the kitchen far outweighs the environmental impact of whatever packaging happens to surround the product. Consumers toss out vastly more pounds of food than we do packaging—about six times as much. ...

All of which is to say: if you’re truly eager to take on the waste inherent in our food systems, you’d be better off reforming your own habits at home—say, by buying more strategically, minimizing waste, and eating less—before taking on the institutional packaging practices of disembodied food distributers.
Hat Tip: The .Plan

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