Thanksgiving is a great time to fill our stomachs with food. But we also fill our dumpsters.
According to a study published this July in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, we waste about 27 percent of the edible food we produce. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin estimated the food we threw away in 2007 contained roughly 2 quadrillion BTUs, which exceeds the estimated energy content of all the petroleum we suck out of of the outer continental shelf in a given year. The enormous sum surpasses the total energy content of all U.S. ethanol made from grain and is equivalent to about two percent of our annual energy consumption.
The calculations were done for food discarded from retailers, food service establishments and consumers. They don’t take into account the significant amount wasted before the food reaches retailers, such as on the farm or during processing.
We end up trashing a full third of our oils and fats. Likewise the researchers calculated we waste 32 percent of our fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, liquid milk, dairy and grain products. And while you may not want to count those eggs before they hatch, you can count on 31 percent of them ending up in the garbage (almost four out of every dozen).
The study suggests that by simply being more efficient – wasting less energy on wasted food – we could save a significant amount of energy.
Another reason to be thankful for what we have, and to make the most of Thanksgiving leftovers.