Food sharing app co-founded by Iowan woman wins UN Climate Action Award


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Iowa-born Saasha Celestial-One, winner of a UN Climate Action award, courtesy of OLIO’s partner resources.

Julia Poska | December 14, 2018

The U.S. may have let its climate-concerned citizens down this week at the COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland, but one Iowan woman has achieved success as part of an international team of award winners.

On behalf of the U.K., U.S., and Sweden, the developers of the food sharing app OLIO won the UN Lighthouse Award for Climate Action “Momentum for Change” prize in the category “Women for Results.” Saasha Celestial-One, originally from Iowa, developed the app with England’s Tessa Clarke in 2015.

Celestial-One was raised by “Iowa hippies,” according to her bio on the app’s website, and grew up salvaging everything from broken furniture to grocery store garbage. “Giving things a second chance is in my DNA. I hate waste,” she told the magazine Stylist for a profile earlier this year.

OLIO takes that same anti-waste attitude and attempts to spark action from regular people. The app allows neighbors and businesses to share excess food with other users in 32 countries. According to their site, 635,761 users have shared 1,138,886 portions of food so far. This food is ultimately saved from the landfill, where it would decompose anaerobically and release the greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere. The water, land and energy resources used to grow, make, and transport that food are saved from waste as well.

The “Momentum for Change” award went to 15 ‘”activities” in 14 countries on Tuesday at the COP24 summit. The award “showcases some of the most practical and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change,” according to a press release from the UN.

Reduce food waste at your Thanksgiving feast


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Give thanks for your food by making sure it’s eaten or disposed of responsibly (flickr).

Julia Poska | November 22, 2018

Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of food produced and sold in the U.S. goes to waste, according to varying estimates. Some is cooked but uneaten. Some goes rotten in the fridge. Some never makes it off the grocery shelf, and some never even makes it off the farm field.

Food waste is not only a disservice to the hungry, but a disservice to the planet, too. All food, from carrots to highly-processed cookies, is organic matter, which requires oxygen to decompose properly. In a densely compacted landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen, and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The considerable water and energy resources used to produce food are wasted as well when food goes in the landfill. Nearly 250 gallons of water go into just two 15 oz cans of corn. Over 2,000 gallons of water go into just two pounds of poultry, which includes the water used to grow food for the birds.

Be conscious of food waste this Thanksgiving by following these three tips.

1. Pace yourself

On a day reserved for overeating, it can be tempting to load up your plate with several servings at once. While eating is the best way to reduce food waste, when you eventually reach your limit, what is left on your plate will most likely go in the trash. Take only what you are certain you will eat, and go back for more as many times as you need. When you finish, your plate will be clear and leftovers will be prime for saving.

2. Actually eat your leftovers

If you anticipate having leftovers, be sure to account for them when shopping at the grocery store. You won’t need to buy as much food the weekend if Thanksgiving dinner will be making a reprise. If you still have more leftover than you think you will need, send it home with guests or even share it with pets. You can also freeze individual portions in airtight containers or bags to be eaten for weeks after the holiday.

3. Give scraps new life

Most food waste can be composted! See dos and don’ts here. If the host does not keep a compost bin or use a pickup service, someone else in attendance may be willing to take scraps home in a garbage bag or large container. Check with your city’s waste management department to see if they accept cooking oil for recycling (especially if you are frying a turkey!), which can be used to create biofuel.

 

 

Hy-Vee supermarkets take on U.S. food waste problem


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Hy-Vee stores have announced a program offering “ugly” produce in order to combat food waste in the United States. (Sarah R/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | February 9, 2017

Iowa’s Hy-Vee supermarket chain announced a new initiative to reduce food waste last month.

The employee-owned corporation began offering “ugly” produce in nearly all of its 242 stores in mid-January. “Ugly” produce are those vegetables and fruits that typically are not sold at market due to industry size and shape preferences. Hy-Vee partnered with Robinson Fresh to offer its original line of Misfits® produce. Depending on what is available seasonally, four to six Misfits® produce items are delivered to Hy-Vee stores where shoppers can purchase them at a discounted price. The program’s produce offerings include peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and apples, among other fruits and vegetables. On average, consumers can expect to pay 30 percent less for the “ugly” items.

John Griesenbrock is Hy-Vee’s vice president of produce/HealthMarkets. He said, “As a company with several focused environmental efforts, we feel it’s our responsibility to help educate consumers and dispel any misperceptions about produce that is not cosmetically perfect.”

The company’s press release notes that a movement to reduce food waste through the purchase of less-than-perfect produce has spread across Europe and is picking up steam in the U.S. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply goes to waste. Food waste makes up the vast majority of waste found in municipal land fills and quickly generates methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than CO2 during its first two decades in the atmosphere.

Hy-Vee’s Misfit® program supports the USDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency effort to achieve a 50 percent food waste reduction nationwide by 2030.

“We understand that there is product left in the field because farmers don’t think there’s a market for it,” said Robinson Fresh general manager Hunter Winton. He added, “With the Misfits program, farmers have an outlet to sell more produce and customers have an opportunity to save money and help reduce waste.”

On The Radio – USDA, EPA aim to curb food waste


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(Food Recovery Hierarchy/Environmental Protection Agency)
Jenna Ladd | July 18, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers a call to action released by the USDA and EPA to reduce food waste nationwide. 

Transcript: USDA and EPA announce food waste reduction goal

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced the first food waste reduction goals in U.S. history.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Released on July 1st, the U.S. 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal: A Call to Action by Stakeholders seeks to galvanize farmers, food manufacturers, grocers, consumers, and policy makers to reduce food waste by 50 percent before 2030. The initiative outlines best practices as identified by stakeholders including the creation of markets for aesthetically unappealing produce, implementation of community composting systems, and the development of new food storage technology that would prevent spoilage. The document is the direct result of a Food Recovery Summit that was held last November in Charleston, South Carolina.

Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jen Jordan organizes the commercial composting program at the Iowa City Landfill.

Jordan: “Fifteen percent of what goes into the Iowa City landfill is food waste so the city is definitely on board with efforts to help individuals and businesses reduce food waste, and not only to save the food waste from going to the landfill but to save money as well.”

Participation in the national 50% reduction goal is voluntary, but states like Massachusetts and Vermont have already instituted commercial food waste bans. Food waste makes up a majority of U.S. landfills and quickly generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. EPA notes that food loss reduction would help to mitigate climate change, address food insecurity, and save producers money.

For more information about food waste reduction in the U.S., visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus dot org.

For the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Study finds consumers, retailers waste about half the produce grown in the U.S.


(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 15, 2016

New research suggests that as much as half of the food produce in the United States is wasted.

“demand for unattainable perfection” in the appearance of fruits and vegetables is largely to blame for the vast amount of wasted food. Fruits and vegetables are often led in the field to rot, fed to livestock, or shipped directly to landfills when deemed unsellable because of cosmetic imperfections. According to government data, about 60 million tons of produce, worth about $160 billion, is wasted by American retailers and consumers annually. Globally, about 1.6 billion tons, valued at about $1 trillion, is wasted each year.

Despite these findings, researchers recognize that there is currently no clear way to account for food loss in U.S. However, the World Resources Institute and other thinktanks are developing methods to more accurately account for food waste. Wasteful food production practices are detrimental to efforts to fight global hunger and climate change.

Last year U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack called for a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. However, one expert argues that Vilsack’s goal could have a negative effect on food economics. Roger Gordon – founder of the Food Cowboy – told The Guardian that a 50 percent reduction in food waste could reduce the profit margin of produce at grocery stores by half. He added that fresh produce accounts for about 15 percent of supermarket profits.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Iowa Waste Reduction Center was established in 1988 with the intention of helping businesses reduce food waste in the Hawkeye State. In 2013, the center released a report entitled “Iowa Food Waste Reduction Program Market Analysis.”

EPA teams up with religious groups to reduce food waste


Food waste piles up in this dumpster in Vacouver, British Columbia. (Flickr)
Food waste piles up in this dumpster in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Stephen Rees/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | January 20, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is teaming up with religious groups of all faiths to redirect food on to the plates of the hungry as opposed to landfills.

EPA unveiled the Food Steward’s Pledge on Monday. Not only would this initiative help to feed the hungry but it would also reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that in 2013, 14.3 percent of households in the U.S. did not have regular access to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle. Additionally , the United State Environmental Programme estimates that 870 million malnourished people worldwide could be fed by wasted food.

“Faith communities exemplify caring for the well-being of all people and are leaders in being responsible stewards of our resources for current and future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a press release. “Reducing, donating, and composting excess food is a triple win that protects the environment, cares for the global human family, and saves organizations and Americans money.”

More than 1200 calories of food is wasted per person per day in the U.S. which amounts to roughly $1,600 per year for a family of four.

This initiative is part of a bigger plan by EPA and USDA to cut food waste in half by 2030.

To sign the Food Steward’s Pledge, click here.

Iowa schools aim to reduce food waste


The University of Iowa, Coe and Luther colleges will join the University of Northern Iowa in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s national initiative to reduce food waste.

Iowa, Coe and Luther were among nine universities that EPA said today will join its Food Recovery Challenge. The effort is aimed at encouraging businesses, organizations and institutions to actively participate in food waste prevention, surplus food donation, and food waste recycling activities.

Learn more about the EPA’s program here.