A recipe for cutting food waste | Peter Lehner | TEDxManhattan

A recipe for cutting food waste | Peter Lehner | TEDxManhattan

food issues are very important to NRDC from food agricultural production to environmental justice from food safety to food waste but today I'm talking to you about food waste and what we can do about it I started thinking about food waste back when I was climbing mountains when you're carrying 30 days of food on your back or climbing to 21,000 feet every ounce makes a difference so before the trips we would measure out the pasta and the beans and the oatmeal down to the tablespoon and when we were on the trips we would lick every pot so clean that we barely had to wash them this is a picture of me licking a margarine wrapper to get that last calorie but when I came home those good habits left me I would throw away a slightly bruised Apple I wouldn't eat the heel of a loaf of bread I'd ordered too much in restaurants sometimes it even became a science experiment we had a game we called journey to the back of the fridge where would look for the multicolored fuzzy mold growing on the old food so like most of you I always knew we wasted some food but I never really gave it much thought honestly how much did we think about the wasted food at today's lunch although I'm sure Diane has taken care of it is going to do something good with it but then enter DC's Food Program came up with its report that David mentioned and what we found was shocking 40% of the food that has grown in this country isn't eaten that's almost half of the food that has grown is wasted the average American family spends $2,000 on food that it doesn't eat $2,000 on food that it doesn't eat there is waste at the farm in transit at supermarkets and restaurants at homes it's everywhere and think of the consequences of that waste 25 percent a quarter of all the water consumed in the United States is used on crops that we don't eat one-fifth of all the fish that are caught are thrown out before the boats ever get to the dock and 1/5 of all that goes into a landfill is food that's food that isn't even being fed to animals or being composted this is crazy it's it's it's like air conditioning empty buildings and that is what got us thinking you know we've known about energy waste for a long time from gas guzzlers to leaky buildings to inefficient appliances and now there's an explosion of solutions we have LED light bulbs we have hybrid cars we have green buildings so we wondered could we learn from those energy solutions to help us tackle food waste and here's what we learned those solutions those energy solutions came about by design because governments design better programs to create incentives and opportunities for efficiency and as a result manufacturers design products that do more with less for example today the average refrigerator is bigger is fancier and it cost less in real terms than a refrigerator 30 years ago and it uses one quarter the energy not one quarter less one quarter the energy consumers now have a whole range of energy efficient appliances to choose from and let me be clear that didn't happen because there was some great cultural awakening about the dangers of energy waste or because manufacturers sunny realized oh we're spending too much on energy they don't pay the bills the electricity bills of their appliances it came about because people like those here in this room advocates pushed the government to design better programs that would force manufacturers and encourage manufacturers to design better products and that's a lesson we can learn here here's how it starts on the farm every year we waste 6 billion pounds of food 6 billion pounds of crops go unharvested every year according to one survey that was done sometimes up to 30% of the food lies unharvested because of market fluctuations or pests or because it's not the right size shape or color one peach farmer told us that eight out of ten peaches he can't sell couldn't even tell the difference can't we do something with the second fruit turns out there is and I have a personal example from managing a coffee farm a certified coffee farm down in Costa Rica we know that the world market likes coffee beans that are uniform big round green and nicely shaped but about 5% of our crop every year the beans are cracked and broken in black or have holes in them instead of throwing them away we sell them to the local market at a reduced price and I'll tell you the truth I can't tell the difference between the import cut the export coffee and the local coffee here's another market solution we know you can make juices and jams with misshapen fruits it doesn't really matter what they look like when they're in a jam England has a program called Ruby's trouble which sets up kitchens next to farmers markets which takes all the unsold fruit and makes them into gourmet chutneys can't those types of programs be repeated again and again and of course sometimes you can't have a market but there's still good food out there California started a program called from farm to family which every year takes a hundred and twenty five million pounds of food and provides it to needy families that's enough for a hundred million families certainly other states could follow that example now of course most food does get harvested and it goes to supermarkets where a lot of it is wasted the average supermarket wastes 10% of its food the USDA estimate USDA estimates that supermarkets lose 50 billion dollars every year on food waste but it doesn't have to be this way Jose Alvarez the former CEO of Stop & Shop realized that he could save money increase customer satisfaction and reduce food waste just by changing how he displays the food and a few other small things you see the traditional wisdom is that customers like to see plenty stack them high watch them fly the saying goes so stop and shop employees would put several days worth of food out to make customers see the plenty the trouble is it wasn't always fresh alvarez realized he could put out four fish fillets rather than ten or he could put out 20 avocados rather than 40 but maybe with a dummy layer so to give the illusion of abundance within several months customer satisfaction was up waist was down and stop and shop was saving a hundred million dollars a year now obviously there will be some waste in a supermarket some spoilage in a supermarket but that doesn't mean it has to be wasted a friend a local Hudson Valley farmer told me that he went to his local supermarket and said could he take what they were putting in the dumpster to feed his animals and he was told no they can't do that without a policy director from above well that's the type of policies we can change and then how about if you go inside the supermarket how many of us have been confused by those expiration dates on the labels well it turns out we're not alone a survey show that 60% of Americans get confused by those labels and throw out food prematurely and with good reason there's no standards or guidelines for those labels they're just what the manufacturers want them to be in the UK they realize this so the government got together with the manufacturers and standardized the labels no more display buy sell buy Best Buy and all of that that simple change consumer confusion went down and food waste went down see these solutions don't have to be very complicated if they're well designed and they can make a big difference let's think about other areas where a lot of food is served we probably all remember being in school remember taking the school cafeteria piling our plate our trays with all that food that's looks so good we probably don't remember how much food we chucked at the end because our eyes were bigger than our stomach well it turns out that the food service company Sodexo piloted trayless cafeterias at 300 schools and cafes and colleges around the country and that simple move reduced food waste by 30 percent how about sports stadiums rdc worked with sixty major league sports teams including the New York Rangers and they now box up the food that is prepared and uneaten and give it to needy families in the area we've worked with the Yankees who now compost their waste rather than sending it to the dump and at a much much bigger scale many of us probably heard Mayor Bloomberg just a couple days ago establish a food waste composting program he's going to start in Staten Island in the New York City Schools you see this is following the hierarchy that many of us probably remember with garbage reduce reuse recycle first you try to reduce food waste then you try to feed it to people and if not to animals and if not to compost sending it to the landfills is just dumb but that brings us now to the final frontier of food waste we the consumer as some of us probably remember from being told in school there's room for improvement the average American throws out 25 pounds of food per person every month that's as much as food as I carried in my backpack for a month for a family of four that's like taking a hundred and seventy dollars every month and shredding in it in the Cuisinart this is double the amount of food or 50% more than the amount of food we wasted just a generation ago now many of the trends that lead to this nation's obesity epidemic have also contributed to this increase in food waste portions have gotten bigger the average cookie is four times bigger than it used to be even the average plate is 35% bigger the joy of cooking a recipe that used to serve 10 now serves seven so does that mean we have to choose between obesity and food waste no in England they started a program called Love Food Hate Waste they gave consumers some simple tips make a list by only what you need freeze your leftovers most food has holds up pretty well on the freezer and don't necessarily trust those expiration dates trust your nose it actually does pretty well for shelling well the food is still good and when you go to a restaurant take it bag and get a free second meal following just these simple steps and a few others consumers in the United Kingdom reduced food waste by almost 1/5 now those are simple solutions what if we have technology on our side imagine a refrigerator that could tell you what's in your fridge when you're at the supermarket or they could tell you what's in your fridge that is on the verge of getting bad and give you a recipe of how to do it well it turns out that fridge actually already exists it's called the smart fridge with these apps and even more imagine how technology could help us if we had the right incentives and paid attention to food waste so why does all this matter well as I mentioned 40 percent of our food is wasted think of the resources that would be saved if that did happen less air pollution water pollution climate pollution toxic pollution but in addition to that if we were to reduce food waste by just a third we would be able to feed all 50 million food insecure Americans their total diet let me say that again all 50 million Americans who don't have enough food to get their total diet if we just cut food waste by 1/3 that's why we have to get going now I've given you some ideas of some proven solutions and you heard some others today earlier than many of you and your own works probably have others the question is how do we scale those up two key ways of how we can do that one is to start the conversation all of us heard President Obama a couple days ago announced a national goal of reducing energy waste by 50 percent by 2030 well the UK has already announced a goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2020 should it every city state in our federal government announced food waste reduction goals and get us going yeah and the second thing we need to do is measure it when we did a report or wasted report one of the most salient findings was in nobody measured food waste from the farm to transit supermarkets or anywhere nobody really knew what was going on and we know that if you don't measure it you don't manage it so let's insist that we measure the food waste so we can start having a real step forward and take attention to this now if we can do this it all comes back to us not just us as consumers but us as advocates we have to be the ones to push the government the food manufacturers and everyone else in the food chain to pay attention to food waste now I'm not saying that you should only eat what you can carry on your back but honestly it's a long way between licking and margarine wrapper and letting your food become a science experiment we know the path forward it starts today and it starts with us thank you you you

28 thoughts on “A recipe for cutting food waste | Peter Lehner | TEDxManhattan

  • You had me until the "Smart Fridge" comment. Tell me… While you were hiking did you think to yourself "If only assholes had a 'smart fridge' to tell them when their berries might be done the world would be a better place?" Get Real!

  • I don’t understand why so many people are food insecure, with so much of your taxes are spent on welfare and food stamps. What is the money use for if not food

  • I drank some milk expired it even smelled and tasted a little funny and it was just fine. I didn’t get sick. I think there is something in milk added that gives it a funny smell but it’s ok to eat . I don’t know haha

  • My new way of thinking is to stop thinking of food as a resource and start thinking of it as a commitment. When I shop, I stop before i check out, ask myself when will I cook the food, when will I eat the food, then I put stuff back. Maybe it will work for others?

  • not in the food waste category but when i go to a restaurant i don't use a lid or straw. not sure where the lid and straw came from at restaurants, but who doesn't know how to drink out of a cup/glass without a straw? i think it's a safe bet 99.9% of people don't use straws at home on a regular basis. if you get a fast food meal to go or drive thru i understand the need, but next time you eat at a restaurant skip the lid and straw

  • Back when I used to buy packaged food, I would continue to eat it until it was finished far from a month of the expiration date. It smelled just as good as when I bought it and never had any problems. My husband, if he ever found out, would complain of stomach pain because of having "rotten food" but if he didn't know, it was expired, he never complained.
    Now that I make my own food and buy only what I need, I do admit some of my food gets a bit moldy, so if my jam's canning failed and mold grew in it, I scoop the little mold out and eat the jam as is.
    Buying from the bulk bins really helps by only getting what you need. No one is pressuring you to eat a pound of almonds if you only needed about a cup's worth.
    Also, do some dumpster diving for food when possible!

  • I have a big problem, and bitching on YouTube is pathetic, I know, but I don't want to cry on Facebook or start shit at work (yet) but I need advice. At my grocery store thousands of dollars worth of edible produce gets thrown in the trash because of a combination of lack of labor/time to "red bag" it for reduced sale and general apathy.
    I'm not in produce. I'm a butcher, but It was so hard to see so much get thrown to the worms. I complained about it long enough to learn I could catch more ants with honey than vinegar and let them think it was their own idea to let me go through what they toss and "red bag" it myself at a discount and truck it down to the homeless shelter. I've been doing this for months.
    Recently, we've been blessed with a new third wheel store director who put a stop to it. I literally saw this guy take the shit and eat it himself in front of me while stopping me from donating it for "protocol reasons". I know, for reasons of hours and pressure to make things up front cherry that this now will go on and none of this will be red bagged for extra sheckels and go right back into the worm dumpster and I could be fired for sifting through it off the clock to donate.
    I don't know what to do. I'm not a hippy environmentalist let's all hold hands and make everything free and we can all jack each other off singing coombiah type of person either. I'm not even liberal. I'm not even anti big business either, but what I have seen is awful, and illegal and most developed countries. I did something about it and now these pigs put a stop to it and I'm not ready to risk my job over it. I want to go back to what I was doing and I don't know how. I know people that watch these videos do care about stuff like this and I'm one of the people that can actually make a difference, but they fucked me over.
    I've got ideas and I'm not giving up or feeling sorry for myself or starting shit (yet) but I could use an outside perspective. And don't tell me to complain to corporate. Help me out, YouTube

  • its government that set up expatriation dates and ties the hands of industry by regulations that are stupid this man is an idiot 

  • portion size is larger now what in gods name is he saying they have gotten smaller and prizes have gone nuts idiot just  look at soda for an example we now have  16 ounces soda that cost 50 cents more than a 20 ounce just two years ago   Government did not do shit get government out of the fraking way and let the people work with the market 

  • I am a final year student studying product design and I am looking to design a solution to reduce food waste. I would be very grateful if you could fill out my survey. No personal information is taken and it is multiple choice, so just ticking boxes.

  • Do you think it is important to donate to charity? If yes, support us develop Jiraffe, the app that will make fighting food waste and hunger easy, fast, global. You can fund our campaign here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/1st-smart-app-to-fight-food-waste-hunger-jiraffe/x/8859577 Deadline 31.12.2014

  • Coming soon. The solution to residential and commercial Food Waste. The SAFE system. Sustainable Alternative Feed Enterprises.

  • His ideas were very well put together and helpful. Although I kinda felt like he was planting bad ideas in my head too. Only me? Maybe I just been up too long.

  • We loved your talk and thank you so much for referring us- such a surprise to hear your mention! All the best and hopefully we will get Rubies in the Rubble to the states soon… for more information on us, please visit our website or to see our youtube video showing how we started in 2010

  • After doing a waste audit at our local elementary school last year we found that 70% of the dumpster bound discards were compostable food scraps and liquids. We started a composting program. Each day we compost approx. 50 pounds of food scraps—excluding meat and dairy—for a population of about 440 students. That's 9,000 pounds per year not counting liquids. We have done this w/ a small group of parent volunteers and support of school staff. Working on streamlining & district sharing.

  • Great to see this talk. If you enjoyed this and are interested in learning more about food waste and what can be done about it. Join Food Shift in the movement to end food waste. Food Shift works collaboratively with communities, businesses and governments to develop long-term sustainable solutions to reduce food waste. You can find us on facebook, and twitter.

  • A bonus of not throwing food out: your garbage doesn't stink. I compost all organic materials, leaving only plastic, clothing unsuitable for charity, and broken items as trash — 1 can every 6 weeks for a family of 3. Food waste in the garbage makes the streets stink on garbage day. It makes landfills off-gas or incinerators burn inefficiently. Sure, not everybody can compost, but it's time to develop policies to deal with not only the waste of edible food, but the waste of inedible food too.

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