“Food waste is the single most common material landfilled and incinerated in the United States, comprising 24 and 22 percent of landfilled and combusted municipal solid waste, respectively. This wasted food presents opportunities to increase food security, foster productivity and economic efficiency, promote resource and energy conservation, and address climate change.”
--U.S. EPA, 2020
Thanksgiving Day evokes many images for us Americans—families and friends gathering around the table to express gratitude and share a wonderful meal—but also, images of overindulgence, leftovers, aching bellies and football have become a caricature of Thanksgiving for many of us. And unfortunately, much of what we share on this day eventually ends up in the trash or compost bin.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, at least one-third of the food produced in the United States is never eaten. Furthermore, food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. When organic food decomposes, it releases considerable amounts of methane gas, one of the most potent greenhouse gases contributing to global warming.
What makes this statistic truly sad is that according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 1 in every 8 Americans struggles to put food on the table.
This holiday season offers us the opportunity to explore ways that we can embrace the spirit of Thanksgiving while remaining mindful of balance and the sustainability of the precious resources we share. In addition to taking the time to truly appreciate the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, a practice called mindful eating can help reconnect us to one another as well as to the Earth and all her creatures. Taking the time to chew slowly, to allow your senses to thoroughly experience and delight in the flavors and textures, while thinking of all the many factors leading to the enjoyment of this bite of food—the people who prepared it, the workers who stocked the stores, shipped the food, the farmers who grew or raised the food, the bees and other pollinators on which our food systems depend, as well as the sun, the soil, the wind and the rain.
When we take the time to contemplate the vast network of people and resources that contribute to growing the food that we eat, it can bring perspective to the embodied energy that is disposed of when this same food becomes waste.