March 4, 2014

The Really Radical R: Reduce

Christine Grillo

Christine Grillo

Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

epa-food_recovery_hierarchy-264pxAsk a child to explain the “three Rs.” Will they tell you about reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic? Not likely. This generation of American schoolchildren are much more deft with “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

CLF researcher Roni Neff, who heads up the Food System Sustainability and Public Health program, is spending a lot of time focusing on food waste—and what we can do about it. One of the points that Neff hopes to make clear to a wide audience is that while reusing and recycling are important, we should be focusing most wholeheartedly on the “reduce” part of that mantra. Composting and recycling are great, but by the time food is headed for the landfill or compost bin, it’s already been invested with the soil and water used to grow it, the fossil fuels used for shipping it, and the packaging materials used to sell it—contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and using up the natural resources that are already on the decline. The biggest positive change we can make is to reduce the amount of food that gets sent to the landfill or the compost bin.

And thus we kick off a blog series on food waste, the first of which is written by Ruthie Burrows. In it, she describes the Bloomberg School’s composting program and why food waste in landfills is so problematic (hint: it’s the methane).

>> Link to Can Composting Become a Default Behavior?

By the way … You know those use-by and sell-by dates on fresh food in the supermarket? Those date labels are frequently misunderstood and inconsistently used, and they can prompt consumers to throw out food when it’s still fresh enough to eat. Neff and her team performed focus groups to suggest preferred language for a possible revised system of food date labels; read about the Lipitz Award that Roni Neff received to support that work.

The Really Radical R: Reduce – by Christine Grillo
Can Composting Become Default Behavior? – by Ruthie Burrows
Are You a Member of the Clean Plate Club – by Patti Truant
Fighting Food Waste—with Gleaning and Facebook – by Kathryn Rees

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