BioCycle February 2013, Vol. 54, No. 2, p. 6
Global Campaign Targets Food Loss And Waste
A global campaign to cut food waste was launched in January by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners. “Simple actions by consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3 billion metric tons of food lost or wasted each year and help shape a sustainable future,” said campaign organizers at a January 23 press conference, while launching Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint. The new campaign specifically targets food wasted by consumers, retailers and the hospitality industry, and harnesses the expertise of organizations such as WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), Feeding the 5,000, and other partners, including national governments, who have considerable experience targeting and changing wasteful practices. It builds on programs such as the SAVE FOOD Initiative to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production and consumption — run by the FAO and trade fair organizer Messe Düsseldorf — and the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge.
Think.Eat.Save’s goal is to accelerate action and provide a global vision and information-sharing portal (www.thinkeatsave.org) for the many and diverse initiatives currently underway around the world. According to data released by the FAO, about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. Food loss occurs mostly at the production stages — harvesting, processing and distribution — while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain. “In a world of seven billion people, set to grow to nine billion by 2050, wasting food makes no sense — economically, environmentally and ethically,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Aside from the cost implications, all the land, water, fertilizers and labor needed to grow that food is wasted — not to mention the generation of greenhouse gas emissions produced by food decomposing in landfill and the transport of food that is ultimately thrown away. To bring about the vision of a truly sustainable world, we need a transformation in the way we produce and consume our natural resources.”
One Million Pounds And Counting
What started as a small pilot in March 2011 to collect food scraps for composting at Greenmarkets in New York City has diverted more than one million pounds as of January 2013. The Greenmarket Food Scrap Compost Program is a partnership between GrowNYC (a nonprofit that manages greenmarkets and community gardens), NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and community partners. For many years, the Lower East Side Ecology Center has had a stand at the Union Square greenmarket to collect household food scraps. Today, shoppers can drop off food scraps at one of 25 participating greenmarkets. Material is transported by GrowNYC, DSNY or a community partner to composting sites and urban agriculture projects within the five boroughs.
At a press conference to celebrate diversion of the one millionth pound, GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen noted the organization is “thrilled that Speaker Christine Quinn and the New York City Council helped launch the compost program and that DSNY stepped in to bring the successful pilot to the next level. We’re demonstrating that the City of New York is not lagging far behind California and other places where compost has taken root. New Yorkers across the City are eager to participate and reduce waste while creating a valuable resource that will benefit local gardens and farms.” An article on the food scraps collection and community composting initiatives in New York City will appear in a Spring edition of BioCycle.
2013 ICAW Poster And 2012 Award Winners
Jennifer Tigani, a high school junior from Westland, Michigan, has been recognized by the United States Composting Council (USCC) as the International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) poster contest winner. This year contestants were challenged to visually portray the theme, “Compost: Nature’s Way to Grow.” Tigani’s art will be incorporated into the official ICAW 2013 poster; Compost Awareness Week is May 6-12, 2013. The USCC received over 150 entries from around the globe.
In other USCC news, annual awards were presented at the USCC ‘s conference in late January. Urban agriculturist, composter and food justice advocate Will Allen of Growing Power was recognized for his outstanding service to the composting industry through grassroots efforts by being named the 2012 recipient of the H. Gregory Clark Award.
Growing Power produces and sells vermicompost, and provides compost education to thousands of individuals from around the world through workshops and facility tours.
Francis Gouin, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, was the 2012 recipient of the Hi Kellogg Award for outstanding service to the composting industry. Dr. Gouin is a nationally and internationally recognized scientist and extension specialist in the area of compost use and ornamental and environmental horticulture. During his career he served as Chair of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland, authored hundreds of papers, articles and newsletters, and developed the Master Composters Program in conjunction with the Master Gardeners program in Maryland. The Inland Empire Regional Composting Authority in Rancho Cucagmonga, California received the 2012 Composter of the Year Award.
Mapping Urban Agriculture
Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a methodology to quantify the level of urban agriculture in Chicago. John Taylor, a doctoral candidate working with crop sciences researcher Sarah Taylor Lovell, was skeptical about the lists of urban gardens provided to him by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). “Various lists were circulating,” Taylor explains in an article posted on the College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences website. “One list had almost 700 gardens on it.” On closer examination, however, many of these “gardens” turned out to be planter boxes or landscaping that were not producing food. Taylor suspected that there were unnoticed gardens in backyards or vacant lots. “There’s been such a focus on community gardens and urban farms, but not a lot of interest in looking at backyard gardens as an area of research,” Lovell adds. Taylor uploaded the lists from the NGOs into Google Earth, which automatically geocoded the sites by street address. A set of reference images of community gardens, vacant lot gardens, urban farms, school gardens and home food gardens was used to determine visual indicators of food gardens. Using these indicators and Google Earth images, documented sites were examined. Of the 1,236 “community gardens,” only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food.
Taylor then looked at Google Earth images of Chicago to locate food production sites. He identified 4,493 possible sites, most of which were residential gardens of 50 square meters or less, and visited a representative sample of gardens on vacant land to confirm that they were really producing food. All the large sites and a sample of the small sites were digitized as shapefiles which were imported into Arc Map 10, a GIS mapping tool, to calculate the total area. The final estimate was 4,648 urban agriculture sites with a production area of 264,181 square meters. Residential gardens and single-plot gardens on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the total. Results of this study suggest that both backyard and vacant lot gardens contribute substantially to Chicago’s total food production.
Waste Free Lunch Challenge
Since the mid-1980s, the third week of October has been Canada’s Waste Reduction Week, sponsored by a coalition of government agencies, recycling councils and other organizations across the country. About five years ago, the Recycling Council of Ontario started the Waste-Free Lunch Challenge (WFLC), an elementary school program held during Waste Reduction Week, to help schools in the province decrease the amount of garbage they produce and to educate students, staff and parents about waste reduction. Schools sign up to participate and during the challenge week, students commit to bringing a waste-free lunch every day. WFLC also includes a competition where classrooms/schools who register for the program monitor the waste produced from their lunches on a normal day (prior to the Challenge) and then again each day during the week-long event. To enter the competition, classrooms/schools are asked to submit an entry form with their results and a brief summary of their experience.
“The most successful schools diverted 100 percent of their lunch waste from landfill during the Waste-Free Lunch Challenge, and that proves the rest of us can learn a lot from them,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director, Recycling Council of Ontario. “In the past three years, approximately 350,000 students have participated in the Challenge.” In 2012, over 400 schools from 52 different school boards across Ontario participated in the WFLC during the week of October 15. Schools sorted, weighed and recorded their lunchtime waste generation throughout the week, with the winners chosen from those that diverted the most waste. About 12 tons of lunch material (nearly 11,300 kg) were diverted in total. Winners receive cash prizes that are applied to environmental projects and/or field trips. To learn more, visit www.wastefreelunch.com.