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Food Waste Management: The Answer To Natural Disaster Preparedness and Prevention

March 19, 2017 - Blog -

By Samantha Donaldson

Let’s face it, the ideal standards of life have slowly turned from buying a home, having a good job, and driving a nice car into this strange form of permanent ‘R&R’. We have become a world full of gluttony and ‘pleasure spending’ and the effects of this throughout the years have slowly taken hold.

Although it can often be hard to come to terms with, the world as we know it is in jeopardy every day and the way we live our lives is the main culprit. The effects of our use of oil, gas, energy, and plastic have slowly led to a world riddled with natural disasters, melting ice caps, and the endangerment of not only species but entire ecosystems.

The unfortunate truth is that most individuals are completely unaware of the effects that their food waste and energy consumption have on our world and many people have little to no idea of the statistics involved. However, by knowing the facts and how to properly manage both your food waste and your energy consumption in your local community, you can not only prepare for a natural disaster but also help to prevent them in the long run.

A Blind Eye: How The World Turns Its Back On These Environmental Crises

It may not be apparent when you are flipping through your newsfeed on Facebook or looking at the featured posts on various news source sites, however, the world all too often puts a spin on the aspects of our environment that may induce fear in the average citizen. For instance, 2016 was a year chock full of natural disasters and weather phenomenas nationwide yet these occurrences rarely received the media and social recognition that they deserved.

Even still, once they were covered, it was often a spin on the news that made it seem innocent and didn’t push too hard on these situations being the effects of a polluted world. Although you may not have realized it when it occurred, there have been countless signs of climate change’s effects on our environment and weather in the last year that were displayed in an entirely harmless manner yet should have been recognized as a serious issue and reason for managing our food waste accordingly. Furthermore, as government officials, teachers, the media, and even our fellow citizens turn their back on this crisis, it continues to loom only inches behind them and the effects will be catastrophic if not resolved starting immediately.

  • April 17th- Major Flooding in Texas

On April 17th, the city of Houston, Texas and its remaining bay area regions including Hays County began to feel the effects of this environmental annihilation as massive flooding occurred. In turn, thousands of citizens found themselves entirely underwater setting a new 24-hour rainfall record for the region. Despite the deaths of several innocent individuals facing this flood, the media and consumers chose to pay attention to more important issues such as Google Express and George Clooney’s opinion on his Clinton dinner he hosted. Once the flooding was covered in June, it was received as typical flooding for the area and the state of emergency that was issued was rarely seen in the articles about the flooding and the serious nature of this disaster.

  • May 19th- India And Southeast Asia See All-Time Record Heat

On May 19th, in the town of Phalodi, India recorded an unbelievable temperature of 123.8 degrees fahrenheit. This set an all-time record heat for the region and yet, despite this clearly being a serious issue, it was not documented until nearly five days later where it was once again written off as a strange occurrence with no tangible value whatsoever. As for the following two days after the heat was recorded, the world chose to cover Google’s partnership with IMAX and the fact that Canada approved the sale of genetically modified salmon instead. These were the headlines rather than the clear connection between rising temperatures in a country known for food and plastic waste and the effects of our countless forms of pollution on earth.

  • November 23rd- Snowing and Flooding In Saudi Arabia

On November 23rd of 2016, the people of Saudi Arabia celebrated a rare occasion of snowfall in a region with a common low temperature of around sixty degrees fahrenheit even in the winter time. The snow began to fall after the region reached below zero degrees and most individuals honored the occasion with snowmen and sledding rather than preparing for the worst to come.

After said snowfall, the heat returned bringing with it massive deadly floods that led to seven deaths by November 29th. However, between this period of time, the headlines spoke of 5 android apps you should download and various other useless but calming information. Even when the flooding and snowfall was documented nearly a week later, the incident was once again referred to as a phenomena and the connection between it and environmental pollution was never made.

  • September 14th- Flooding in Victoria, Australia

On September 14th, the Australian state, Victoria, received massive rainfall leading to over 80 homes being destroyed and the death of one man from the area. The rainfall continued for over 24 hours and, on September 15th, a state of emergency was put in place and evacuations were under way.  Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology stated that September 14th was the wettest day in the history of the Adelaide area and many feared the rainfall would not be stopping any time soon.

In fact, the water peaked to nearly eight metres deep by the 16th and Craig Lapsley of Victoria’s State Emergency Service  stated, “We are calling this the floods of September, 2016. We are expecting it to be a significant event. This is not going away.” Although the coverage happened almost immediately and many individuals from the community got involved in the epidemic to help repair the state, there is a far more sinister issue involved in this flooding.

With chlorofluorocarbons, methyl chloroform, Carbon tetrachloride, and multiple other factors leading to the ozone layer’s depletion on a daily basis, Australia’s ozone layer hole has led to countless natural disasters and an increase in skin cancer likewise. This flooding is yet another example of this environmental destruction and the effects it will have on our world. Although Australia tackled the issue in a systematic and appropriate manner, it should not only be recognized by the country it occurred within but by every country as these forms of ‘environmental outlashes’ are certainly not something with which to be taken lightly.

  • December 3rd- Snowing In Hawaii

One of the most shocking weather anomalies of last year happened on December 3rd when the peaks of Hawaii’s mountains received over three feet of snow when normally only receiving six inches during the winter season. On top of this, a state of emergency was issued for anyone living on the mountain and, although many sites covered the snowfall even on the day it arrived, no one suggested the link between this snow and our waste management but rather wrote it off once again as a unique occurrence and moved on.

On the day of this snowfall, the trending headline was, in fact, the X Factor’s Week 9 information and, instead of promoting food waste management, energy conservation, or recycling habits to get into in the next year, they chose to focus on a group of singers and what challenges lie ahead of them.

Although the media tends to overlook the clear signs of environmental damage in our world in order to keep its readers panic-free, this is far from the worst aspect of journalism regarding this topic. In fact, according to a report done by Media Matters for America, 28 percent of print media claim to either doubt or be neutral on climate change meaning that some of these sources actually doubt that these natural disasters are even our doing whatsoever. With this being said, relying entirely on the media and the people who read it to make a difference is not always possible.

By showing the facts to your local community and creating a food waste management model that can be effective both in and out of crises, you can begin to be the change in the world you want to see without relying on the media or your local government officials to make it happen. In turn, you can not only prepare for these natural disasters but also prevent them from ever happening in the first place and build a brighter future for the generations of tomorrow in the process.

In fact, according to a study by Boston University on how to survive a natural disaster, every dollar you put into preventing a disaster is worth seven dollars in disaster-related economic losses. Therefore, by preparing accordingly, you can ensure that the individuals and businesses of your community avoid the damages altogether and move on from any and all natural disasters without having to move or close entirely.  On top of this, by knowing the facts involved in food waste, you can ensure that you can properly inform your local community ahead of time to help them to understand the severity of waste on our environment and the necessity for food waste management.

The Facts: Food Waste and Our Environment

We’ve all probably thrown an apple core out the car window, tossed away our leftovers after lunch, or dumped a drink in a gutter and thought nothing else of it. Perhaps it is because of the fact that these items are often considered biodegradable or perhaps you may have thought that one piece of food on the ground would do nothing to our environment in the long run.

However, despite the fact that the food we eat is, in fact, biodegradable, this preconceived notion that it does not affect our environment is simply not true. When we dispose of these items, even in our own trash cans, they are then taken to landfills across the world where they begin to rot and decompose. From there, this food waste then emits a potent greenhouse gas known as methane which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. On top of this, methane takes over twelve years to leave our atmosphere and,according to a statement by the Global Carbon Project, “it traps 28 times more heat”. Furthermore, Robert Jackson, a Stanford University professor recently stated, “I think people should be concerned. At the same time we are trying to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions, methane is heading in the opposite direction…it is dire” In America alone, there has been an eleven percent increase in natural gas emissions and the concentration of these natural gases in the atmosphere has significantly spiked since 2000 going from .5 parts to 10 part or more per billion.

If methane is not bad enough, Carbon Dioxide, once in the atmosphere, can take thousands of years to be removed all the while slowly eroding our stratosphere. However, despite its effects on our environment, food packaging waste continues to fill landfills nationwide and this packaging is nearly 50 percent paper-based. Similarly, food packaging accounts for nearly two-thirds of total packaging waste by volume and 84 million tons of paper waste yearly. To create this packaging, nearly 4 billion trees are cut down yearly worldwide and, in turn, these trees are no longer able to perform the helpful task of photosynthesis which removes over 143 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere yearly.

With over 1.3 billion tons of food waste in the world yearly averaging out to forty percent of the food we receive hitting the bottom of a trash can, 135 million tons of methane are produced yearly by landfills alone. In fact, ⅓ of all food is wasted and this food alone could feed all of the 1 billion people who are hungry worldwide four times. On top of the GHG emissions, this food waste is extremely costly as well.

In fact, Americans waste $197.7 billion a year on food waste and, in many countries including Spain and England, there are laws regarding the quality of food being delivered to supermarkets leading to an astonishing amount of food waste in return. However, this does not include the money it takes to produce said food either. The vegetables and meat we eat on a daily basis come from farms worldwide and the energy and supplies it takes to provide these items is immense. Nearly a quarter of all freshwater as well as 300 million barrels of oil are wasted yearly in the farming and shipping of produce. Similarly, the process it takes to turn nitrogen into a form that plants can use wastes an excessive amount of energy with 100-200 pounds needed per acre. Due to this, the food waste on the farm is even worse than the 43 billion tons of food waste in American grocery stores and the 22 tons of food waste in British restaurants yearly likewise.

However, despite the effects food waste have on our environment, we continue to spend on food we rarely eat entirely and, although 1.5 billion people worldwide are morbidly obese whilst 1 billion are starving, we waste the excess and move on to more food daily. This disregard leads to multiple diseases including Cancer, Respiratory conditions, and Mesothelioma as well. However, despite knowing what causes Asbestos exposure and Cancer and how to prevent it, we choose to avoid the subject altogether. Despite this no matter how much we choose to neglect these statistics, they remain a serious issue in our world and, because of their effects on our ozone layer, natural disasters and weather abnormalities have slowly risen in the last decade. Even though these abnormalities continue to pop up nationwide, the world seldom addresses them effectively and, in turn, a blind society is born.

The Change: Managing Food Waste In Your Community

You may already be balancing life and work and a million other things all at once, but making time and creating a sustainable food management model in your community can significantly increase your chances of survival if natural disasters strike and decrease the methane your city emits, in turn. On top of this, by collecting this food waste and delivering it to local homeless shelters or using it to create meals for these shelters, you can decrease the amount of food insecure individuals in your community and ensure that they are well-fed daily despite the setbacks in their lives.

However, the best way to begin this journey is by looking into some of the laws regarding food donations so you are abiding by said laws throughout the entire process. In fact, if you are not careful, you could wind up being one of the many organizations that have been disbanded due to health risks regarding these donations and their preparation and be back at base one without a plan for the future.

Donation Guidelines: Following The Laws For The Greater Good

If you plan on starting a food waste management organization in your community, the types of food that are donated must be carefully monitored to prevent serious foodborne illnesses or even death. Despite this seeming silly at times, even the biggest of corporations are carefully monitored and, when not properly taken care of, their food items have even led to fatalities nationwide. For example, in 2015, Boston Market was sued by a family that claimed their father died from salmonella poisoning caused by the turkey at one of their locations. Similarly, an E. Coli outbreak led to the closing of multiple Chipotle branch restaurants and it was later found that their beef was contaminated.

With this said, taking into account the laws and ensuring that you follow them accordingly can help you to deliver quality food without the liability all too often involved in it. On top of this, you can begin to receive donations and categorize which items you want to utilize for the shelters and which items you would like to set aside in the case of an emergency such as a natural disaster.

The Community: Helping All Ages, Religions, And Cultures Grow As One

Not only does this new food waste process positively affect the homeless and hungry citizens of your community. Through volunteering opportunities that this cause provides, all members of your community are able to get involved no matter who or what they are. By doing this, you can bring together different religions that support helping people no matter how different their other principles may be, you can bring together multiple races despite preconceived notions they may have about each other, and you can bring together a variety of generations and allow them to teach one another in a positive, nonjudgmental manner.

When it comes to religion, there are multiple organizations that believe in food waste management and donating to the hungry and homeless in their community. No matter what you believe in, by allowing them to be a part of your movement, you can help your community to become more connected spiritually and make a difference no matter what they feel otherwise. Similarly, with the race separations of the last few years becoming more and more apparent, by allowing any and all individuals to volunteer, you can help your community connect on a more intimate level despite their differences in race and culture and allow them the chance to see the world from multiple different perspectives other than their own.

Lastly, volunteering is a wonderful afterschool activity as well as a great senior hobby and by connecting these young individuals with their elders in such a positive way, you can help multiple generations to grow and learn from one another and ensure that the youth of your community respect their elders and the seniors of your community have a better understanding of these younger generations.

With this said, volunteering is not only a wonderful way to decrease your food waste as a community but can also strengthen your local organizations, sects, and cultures. In the end, you may be able to turn this initiative for a healthier world into a deeper-seeded initiative for community growth and improvement. From there, your chances of not only surviving but preventing a natural disaster will only continue to improve and you can rest assured knowing that your future will be far brighter than the present you currently reside in.

The Future: Preparing For and Preventing Natural Disasters

Food waste does not only have to be donated or transformed into meals for the local homeless shelters. In fact, simply making donations to their pantry for later use can help your community prepare for natural disasters and have a safe haven where food is provided if your home is not ideal. On top of this, it can become a place for people to stay after their homes are destroyed during a natural disaster and can also house healthcare professionals and rescue teams that will be able to take from this food surplus in order to help the ones still stuck in the aftermath.

Similarly, if the items have no expiration date yet supply a decent amount of protein or carbs, they can be helpful for individuals that have not eaten in days after finding themselves lost in the rubble. This not only helps you to prepare for the chance of a natural disaster striking your city but also helps you to prevent natural disasters likewise. As we have discussed above, food waste emits methane gas which is a serious contributor in the ozone erosion of our atmosphere. Furthermore, this useless food intake wastes billions of dollars which could be put towards the reconstruction of countless cities affected by natural disasters otherwise.

By creating a model that works for your community and building the pantry of a safe and secure shelter in the area, you can begin to help not only your community but the world as a whole and transform trash into a future that is healthier and less affected by waste and pollution each and every day. Knowing more about the food in your community that is wasted the most and how long it lasts, you can turn this epidemic into the greatest asset your community has. Through this, you can transform this food waste into yet another way of preparing for the unknown and, in turn, you can step away from the food waste stats and turn to the path involved in making a difference today.

Although the human race is a major contributor for the deterioration of our beautiful earth, there are millions of ways that you can slow the process and form a brighter future for the generations to come. By preparing for natural disasters and decreasing food waste, you can create a community that is highly informed and ready for the worst rather than pretending the world is perfect and suffering because of it.

Even though it may often seem easier to pretend these issues don’t exist, when you create a movement that helps tackle these issues, you can actually mitigate the devastation rather than pretending it never existed in the first place. In turn, you will be able to create a greener and healthier environment and start on the path of a cleaner and safer world today.

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