Our mission at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District is “Helping you help the land.” Have you ever considered that helping the land can be as simple as reducing food waste? Before you load up your plate during the holiday season with more food than you can eat, start with a reasonably-sized portion and take a minute to consider all of the soil and water that it took to produce your food. You can always go back for a second plate, but you can’t always put your second plate back.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food waste goes up by 25% during the holiday season. That along with the spike in hunger due to COVID-19 are reasons why this is an especially important time to be conscious of what we are wasting. The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) has launched a “Save More than Food” campaign to help us do just that.
According to SWACO, central Ohio residents utilize 160,000 acres of land each year, or one basketball court per person, just on growing food that gets thrown away! That’s equivalent to one million pounds of food per day that’s sent to the landfill. Not only are we filling up valuable landfill space, but we are also wasting the land area, soil, water, and nutrients that it took to grow and produce that food.
With food that’s tossed out, so is 41 billion gallons of water (30 gallons per person) per year in central Ohio. Calculate your overall water footprint, or the total amount of water you consume and require for growing food, and find ways to conserve with this water calculator: https://www.watercalculator.org/.
Wasted food also amounts to wasted energy. Farmers use heavy machinery and therefore large fuel tanks to help grow crops. When those crops are misspent, so is the fuel that was used to grow and transport them. SWACO estimates that each central Ohioan wastes 17 gallons of gas per year on food production, which is a combined 22 million gallons annually. Our farmers in Delaware County work hard to produce quality crops, so make sure their hard work isn’t squandered along with your plate.
The good news is, we can all make a difference in our contribution to food waste! Take the “Save More than Food” quiz at savemorethanfood.org and learn how you can help reduce your landfill footprint. If you have kids, take this quiz with them and make your next meal a teachable moment about conserving resources.
For every meal missed by someone in hunger, three meals end up in the landfill. Share our resources and spread the love by donating to local organizations such as People in Need of Delaware County, Inc. or LSS Delaware County Food Pantry. By cutting down on food waste and donating meals, you can help your neighbor and help the land this holiday season.
Erin Wolfe is outreach coordinator of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.