...if integrated into a country ranking of top emitters, food wastage would appear third, after USA and China. - UN Food & Agriculture Organization (UN FAO)
A few weeks back I needed to get the heck out of Dodge. So I left the family farm in Petaluma for New York City. From dirt to concrete, it was going to be one of my relatively unplanned Where's Waldo-like adventures. My only goals were a) an affordable rate on someone's couch and b) to join in on the People's Climate March. I scored on both fronts and then some.
In addition to joining that splendid river of 400,000 climate game changers, I lucked upon a ticket to Maker Faire, slid into the Social Good Summit, and showed up embarrassingly underdressed (at least not undressed) for a UN event after striking out multiple attempts to borrow a sports jacket from male strangers on the street.
Later I toured The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation where I saw what a century or so worth of commitment to daily sketching, sculpting and painting looks like. Then Raul, the Transylvanian wonderkind, appeared out of nowhere and whipped out a small ship from his backpack - a ship built from Legos no less - that he had propelled to the outer spaces! Finally, as usual, I went dumpster diving as a geeky luxury and while doing so met new friends who unfortunately have to dig through our trash for a living. Reality check! Anyhow, we found a ton of bread and more than a few scraps of inspiration; both of which are essential to the function of my person.
But amidst this wilderness of side alley, attraction and distraction called New York, the one FAO statistic above - food waste's obese contributions to climate change - remained plastered on the backside of my forehead like a big ad in Times Square. For the life of me, despite my best efforts, I couldn't shake it. Food, with a third of it going to waste and blasting our atmosphere with poison (methane), strikes me as an area where anyone, anywhere, can make an impact on this climate deal.
I tried hard to change this thinking. I listened to speeches, scanned the signs of those who marched and asked a lot of questions. My notes say this: eliminate extreme poverty, divest from fossil fuels, shift to renewables, tax carbon emissions, slow rainforest destruction, become the new chief beard-grooming officer for Leonardo DeCaprio, join Ello, stop Ebola ASAP...But still, nothing sank into my thick skull and at-times heavy-heart like getting dirty with all of you to reduce food waste.
Everyone's different. But for me, working the dirt at my family's farm and attacking food waste are a few of those focus areas that give me the best chance of making a daily dent on climate change. Plus, the other thing is that while tackling food waste we're bringing the club down on other important issues. Every pound of food we re-route from the dump to someplace better makes a huge difference on issues like food insecurity, public health and resource scarcity. You dig?
And best yet, because we're talking about shared truths like "wasting food is wrong," it's possible to approach and have productive, meaty conversations with folks outside of my particular choir; folks who chug a different flavor of kool-aid. I'm talking about the anarchists, preppers, tea-partiers, red-staters, firearms enthusiasts and bible belters who have, despite our differences, occupied a good chunk of my heart's real estate over the years. Why? They're part of my gnarly and tangled family tree and I love 'em all. Ha!
Now, I've made that long flight home trying to justify my carbon boot print and am back at the farm. I'm learning to speak chicken, collecting fresh laid eggs and working on a new project to turn local fish carcass into fertilizer. Working on the farm is a far cry from the streets of New York. But these little jumps from dirt to concrete and back deliver the sort of juxtaposition that makes my heart sing and leads to the next round of work, the next set of goosebumps.
What's next? Soon I'll be hitting the road again and I want to invite you to join me on Saturday, October 18th. We'll be attending Feeding the 5000 Oakland and going from the People's Climate March to what I'm calling the "People's Climate Feast." With your participation and help it'll be a historic meal for 5000 people out of quality, edible food - food which in all likelihood would have had a one-way ticket to the dump.
If you can make it, don't arrive expecting autographs from your favorite blinged-out rockstar or nicely-bearded celebrity! But what you can expect is the chance to break bread with the masses and hear from uncommonly effective leaders - leaders who are getting it done, one crucial step at a time, on the stuff that matters.
We'll learn from leading chefs like Laura Stec how to do a makeover of the nutritious but(t) ugly parts of food. We'll also hear from folks working in the trenches of food waste such as Tristram Stuart of Feeding5k.org, Robert Egger, Founder of DC Central Kitchen and LA Kitchen, the NRDC's Dana Gunders and Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland.
I'm also looking forward to experiencing Mr. Rob Greenfield. Rob is about as much of a systems-changing, awareness-building, spandex-wearing gringo version of Mr. T as I've ever run across. In fact, the brother just finished riding his 10-speed across the US, living off nothing but heart power and good food yanked from grocery store dumpsters then transformed into what he's calling food waste fiascos. BAM!
If you can't make Feeding the 5000 Oakland but are still fired up for a food waste cage match there are plenty of ways to roll up your sleeves:
- Read up on food waste then take infectious, enthusiastic action in your community.
- Prevent your own food waste in the first place and, after that, just make sure your food doesn't end up (with our future) in the dump.
- Join or start a food gleaning group to collect unwanted fruit and vegetables.
- Pitch in and volunteer for a food recovery group in your area like Boulder Food Rescue, Food Shift or Food Recovery Network.
- Be on the lookout for great tech gear and apps like Lean Path, FoodLoop CropMobster, Food Cowboy, Hummingbird and PareUp.
- Be like Rob! Start dumpster diving and better yet throw a food waste fiasco!
I'll leave you with this. Most of us act like we're CEO of this place and have carte blanche to run the show. But in reality, when we dig into the planetary by-laws, we're reminded that the climate has a majority vote on the board and is starting to get Texas Ranger spider monkey on us. Not good. We need to move beyond the incredible dysfunction and turn the page. And a simple, high-impact way to do this is by not wasting so darn much food.
Until next time thank you for reading, give peas a chance and I hope to see you in Oakland! Oh, and if any of you know Megan Trainor I'd appreciate it if you'd ask her to remix 'All About That Bass' to 'All About Food Waste" because, you know, we've got our junk in all the wrong places.