Food not eaten

Thrown away food = greenhouse gases.

Thrown away food = greenhouse gases.

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

The recession—ya feeling it? At work (or lack thereof), at home with your lovie dovies (ya arguing about money yet?), hanging with friends, pumping dollars at the gas station, or broke at home on yet another Friday night.

Last weekend, Ruthie began to feel the recession in her refrigerator. Yes, it’s time to start reeling in the food bill—a corner of domestic life with some known soft spots. See, Ruthie is constantly throwing away the failed experiments of her best intentions.

The stir-fry she read about with broccoli, brown rice, a little this and a dash of that? Purchased ingredients, but it didn’t happen. The local melon? It sits unsliced. And what about the ground turkey that just couldn’t make it into the casserole dish and, as further insult, didn’t put itself in the freezer on time?

We Americans throw away around 14 percent of the food we purchase—that’s 30 million tons of food that goes into the landfills every year. Two hundred pounds per person—$600 for a family of four annually. (The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that 10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.)

And it turns out that food, when delivered into the landfill, turns into methane, the greenhouse gas that warms the climate at a rate 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.

That’s why composting is very cool. According to Californians Against Waste, “Well managed compost facilities do not produce any methane.” While there has been some debate as to whether it was better to compost or to trap methane at the landfill and turn it into energy, Mother Jones noted that applying compost to farm land “sequestered a staggering 10,802 pounds more carbon dioxide per hectare” than farming with conventional fertilizer. Which makes San Francisco’s composting mandate all the more visionary.

Still, it’s all so very simple. At dinnertime, the best thing Ruthie could do for Ma Earth is to plan her meals and shop a little more carefully. This means she must attain meal consensus with her significant other. Which means making a list. Which means reading more labels in the store. Which means making dinner with the food she actually buys.

Let us solemnly recall: Getting the hang of cloth grocery bags took months. So Ruthie can do this.