Is it just me, or does Earth Day have a way of making people feel fundamentally bad about themselves? It’s like January 1st all over again, except this time it’s not my holiday belly I’m scrutinizing — it’s my plastic consumption, or my less-than-conscientious water usage. (I’m not one for long showers, but I am guilty of sometimes letting the faucet run while I brush my teeth.) Just like with New Year’s resolutions, I set myself up for failure by raising the bar for improvement too impossibly high. This will be the year I start walking to work every day! This will be the year I always remember my reusable bags at the grocery store! But alas, walking isn’t possible in all weather, and trips to the grocery store are often spontaneous — and I don’t always have a trio of large canvas totes on hand. The real irony is that I probably laid out one of my elaborate energy-saving schemes while munching on a lightly bruised apple, destined for the trash after just six or seven bites.
We all want an A for effort, but reducing one’s carbon footprint goes well beyond tossing plastic to-go cups in the correct bin. I know that now, after reading how 40 percent of all food in America goes to waste — and specifically, to our landfills. It seems unreal; you wouldn’t slave over a gorgeous meal only to dump 40 percent of it into the trash. (You wouldn’t dream of running your shower for two hours either, but that’s how much water goes into making a pound of cheese.) What’s more is that this waste adds up to $162 billion in unnecessary water, energy and production costs each year. Much as I would love to blame it all on restaurants and large corporations, the hard truth is that it’s individual consumers like you and me who throw out 20 percent of the food we buy, which translates to nearly 300 pounds of food per year! Don’t believe it? Just ask Anthony Bourdain, the most-influential voice of the current food waste conversation.