Posts Tagged ‘hunger’

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. –Mark Twain


A few years ago, the environmentalist – Daryl Hannah, wrote an article entitled;  “If Food Waste Were a Country, It Would Rank No. 3 for Greenhouse Gas Emissions”.  In that article, she suggested that maximizing regional self-sufficiency with prudent agricultural practices and energy production conservation methods will strengthen local economies, make them more resilient  … and ease the sense of scarcity and the economic burden increasingly felt by the majority. To my chagrin, I have to agree with Ms. Hanah. Food is a critical Sustainability issue and will continue to be so for the next four decades, especially if we don’t begin addressing it today.

In 1980, just as the Green Revolution began being implemented in much of the world, 47 percent of all children in the developing world had stunted growth, a good measure of their nutrition level. By the year 2000, it had dropped to 33 percent. The Green Revolution laid the cornerstone for adequate nourishment by increasing the available calories and protein of the developing world’s people. Statistician Amy Pearce estimates that Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution resulted in over 245 million lives being saved due to improved nutrition.

As Borlaug continued his efforts to expand agricultural success, he found himself fighting off some environmentalists who denounced his methods of using large amounts of fertilizer and pesticide. Borlaug responded, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. They have never produced a ton of food. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 60 years, they’d be crying out for fertilizer, herbicides, irrigation canals and tractors and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

Borlaug notes that without modern farming technology, an additional area the size of the contiguous United States would have to be farmed to feed today’s world population. Thus, a side benefit of Borlaug’s Green Revolution may be that it saved more land for wilderness than any other single environmental initiative.[1]

Thirty two years later, the EPA quantifies the magnitude of food waste in the United States. “More food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste (MSW). In 2012 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only five percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.”

The US EPA suggests six ways of utilizing food more efficiently. “How Can I Divert Food From Landfills?” If you go to that web page will read kore details (http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/foodwaste/), but the generally focus are on these six points:

•    Source Reduction/Prevention – Preventing food waste before it is created
•    Feeding People – Donating fresh, wholesome food to those in need
•    Feeding Animals – Feeding safe, fresh food scraps to animals like pig farms
•    Industrial Uses – Rendering fats, oils, and grease and turning it into products or biofuel
•    Composting – Turning food waste into a valuable soil amendment
•    Anaerobic Digestion – Turning food waste into renewable energy and a valuable soil amendment

This problem is on the mind of Ken Botts who is the special projects manager of the University of North Texas Food Department. Ken and I had lunch the other day and he shared that he firmly believed in Sustainability and one of the tenants is to eliminate waste, in his case – food waste. He shared that the food department is trying to do a better job of communicating the issue of food waste and plans an awareness campaign to launch UNT’s food waste recovery program. This is an extension of his efforts from last year: http://ntdaily.com/unt-to-launch-food-waste-recovery-program-in-fall/

What are the environmental benefits from reducing or eliminating food waste?
•    It reduces methane generated by decomposition in landfills
•    It reduces natural resource (land and water) use associated with food production
•    It creatives a valuable soil amendment (nutrients are returned to the soil)
•    It improves sanitation, Public Safety, and Health at your facility

What are the economic benefits from reducing or eliminating food waste?
•    It lowers overall disposal costs
•    It reduces over purchasing and labor costs
•    It receives tax benefits by donating food

What are the social benefits from reducing or eliminating food waste?
•    It feeds people, not landfills

As Ray Anderson, the first Sustainability pioneer, said;  “I also believe that it doesn’t happen quickly (e.g. Sustainability) … it happens one mind at a time, one organization at a time, one building, one company, one community, one region, one new, clean technology, one industry, one supply chain at a time … until the entire industrial system has been transformed into a sustainable system, existing ethically in balance with Earth’s natural systems, upon which every living thing is utterly dependent.”

If we listen to what Mr. Anderson urged, that identifying waste is not only a part of the solution, it is the action we must be take to eliminate the waste. We quantify success by results measured. So, we can finally see that it is indeed “transformed into a sustainable system, existing ethically in balance with Earth’s natural systems, upon which every living thing is utterly dependent.” To divert food waste from landfills would be testament to Mr. Anderson’s insight. In this case, benefits for American citizens dependent on food stamps and those countries, globally, that do no have enough food today. Reclaiming 36 million tons of food could be the largest gift to the world.

[1] Wilson, Chuck, “Father of the Green Revolution – He Helped Feed the World!”,ScienceHeros.com, Retrieved: 18 Sep 2012


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