The Waste of Us

By Betty Carpick



Superior Outdoors

The Wall

Recently, I enjoyed the sweet, aromatic experience of eating a bright Valencia orange on a snowy morning. I don’t know if I was too busy, too preoccupied, or too distracted, but later, the oranges that I’d bought became a science experiment colonized by microorganisms. When I threw the decaying oranges into my composter, I noticed that they’d originated in South Africa, one of the planet’s biggest citrus exporters. Aside from the orchestration of transporting sensitive, perishable, tropical fruit over vast distances, the citrus market is experiencing higher costs for crop protection products, fuel, transport, and shipping, challenges with infrastructures and logistics capabilities, and the world’s most pressing problem, the impacts of climate change. Other food chain communities are under similar dilemmas. In the 1940s, when my mom was a kid in far northern Manitoba, a highly anticipated Christmas treat was a single orange. I try to heed the rhythms of the seasons and the lessons of economy my ancestors practiced. I can do way better. Every day, in subtle and overt ways, the food we enjoy for sustenance and pleasure reminds us that we’re a part of nature, the beautiful living system that we’re dependent upon. Globally, about 1.4 billion tons of food are wasted annually. That’s an estimated one third of all fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, meat, and seafood that either never leave their point of origin, get spoiled during distribution, or are tossed away in home kitchens, retail outlets, the hospitality industry, and schools. Most of the food that’s thrown out is perfectly edible and could be used to help address worldwide food insecurity. With prices for food and other essentials skyrocketing, it’s unconscionable for the average North American to throw about 215 pounds of food waste—or the equivalent of 650 oranges—a year. Wasted food is a social, humanitarian, and environmental concern. When we waste food, all the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport, and package it is squandered. Rotting food in landfills produces the destructive and potent greenhouse gas, methane, a major contributor to increased global warming and the rise in tropospheric ozone air pollution which impacts human health. Based on Thunder Bay’s last waste audit, up to 45% of garbage in the city’s landfill is food waste. The City of Thunder Bay’s organic curbside collection for residential addresses is presently wending through the processes of consultation and infrastructure development, with an anticipated launch in 2025. The program is one way the city will meet provincial requirements to divert food and organic waste from landfills. Humanity recently experienced the emotional and devastating havoc of what happens when all hell breaks loose. In our epidemically and ecologically challenged world, it’s more important than ever to restore value to food and to appreciate its central role in the life cycle. The good news is that raising awareness and taking action to change our consumption habits and mitigate food waste is one way we can minimize climate impact to support healthier, more equitable communities. Ultimately, wasting food is a conscious decision. Being reluctant, indifferent, and letting someone else take care of the problem is succumbing to yet another game-over scenario.