The food waste generated by people is enormous and that is often bad news for the animals that are attracted to it. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has this Perspective.
You’ve heard it before: of the edible food Americans buy and bring home, about 40% gets thrown in the garbage. That translates to between $1,300 and $2,200 per household per year. When we stop treating food as garbage, the benefits are manifold — most obviously: saving money. But removing food scraps from our garbage cans is also a benefit to our relationship with the natural world — especially wildlife.
The more food we throw away, the more wild animals come to rely on that food in our trash cans, leading to human-wildlife encounters that can be inconvenient and costly for us and dangerous — often fatal — for them.
Perceiving opportunistic visitors — from the largest bears to the smallest rodents — as a nuisance often ends badly for them, but rather than changing our behavior and removing the tasty buffets that lure them in the first place, we demonize the raccoons, opossums, mice, and rats who rummage through our garbage cans and pay companies to gas, poison, or glue-trap them.
Sadly, this isn’t the only price animals pay for our wastefulness. High mortality rates by vehicle collisions and consumption of toxic non-digestibles are also linked with animals’ attraction to our garbage.
Reducing food waste is essential and do-able, especially since we know the main causes of it in our homes:
- Buying more food than we need
- Being unwilling to consume leftovers
- Improperly storing food
- And misunderstanding the meaning of “sell-by dates.”
By seeing the food in our refrigerators as valuable rather than disposable means taking responsibility and being resourceful. There’s a reason humans have been canning, pickling, and fermenting foods for hundreds of years. But if that feels too advanced…at least consider:
- Making a cobbler out of tired-looking fruit
- Making stock from veggie scraps
- Freezing chopped herbs before they wilt
and so much more…
By literally turning lemons into lemonade, we save money, we save resources, and we save animals.