Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

Today, we’ll be talking about food waste. Many of us know that guilty feeling that comes with throwing away rotten bananas or stale bread. So, we wondered, what is the impact of all that waste?

We had Max Kozlov and Fatima Husain from our Possibly Team look into this. Welcome, Max and Fatima! 

Max Kozlov: Hi, Megan! 

Fatima Husain: Hello! 

Megan Hall: So, should I be concerned about the amount of food I throw out?

Max Kozlov: Well, let’s put it this way: According to a United Nations report, if food waste were a country, it would rank third in terms of greenhouse gas emissions — after China and the United States.

Megan Hall: That’s bananas! Where are all those greenhouse gases coming from?

Fatima Husain: Well, when food decomposes, it releases a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas at least 28 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Max Kozlov: And when food rots, it also means that all of that energy that it took to produce the food goes to waste.

Megan Hall: Is all that food waste happening in people’s homes? 

Max Kozlov: No. There’s food waste at every stage of food production- like at the farm, during transportation, at the store….

Fatima Husain: But in the US, nearly half of all wasted food does come from people throwing it out at home.  

Max Kozlov: The average person in the US tosses out about two hundred forty pounds of food a year!

Megan Hall: Wow! Why do we waste so much food?

Fatima Husain: To find out, we talked with:

LUCY: Lucy Antal. I work for a campaigning charitable organization called Feedback Global, and I’m calling in from Liverpool in northwest England.

Max Kozlov: Lucy says there are a few reasons why we waste so much food: there’s spoilage, over-preparing, over-buying, and confusion about date labels.

Megan Hall: You mean like expiration date labels? What’s so confusing about them?

Fatima Husain: Well, there are many types of labels, and they aren’t all expiration dates. It turns out there’s a difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates.

LUCY: ‘Best before’ just means it’s at a premium point before this day, but you can still eat it afterward. ‘Use by’ is, “You really should eat it by X point.”

Megan Hall: I had no idea! So what are some of the most commonly wasted foods?

Max Kozlov: In the UK, the list includes salad, potatoes…

LUCY: Chicken, which always shocks me because, you know, it’s a sentient being, if you’re gonna kill it, eat it for God’s sake!

Max Kozlov: …bananas, bread, and milk.

Megan Hall: So, is there anything I can do to waste less food?

Fatima Husain: Absolutely! Lucy says that you can be innovative with your extra food.

Max Kozlov: Overripe bananas, for example, can be turned into banana bread or a tasty vegan ice cream!

Fatima Husain: She also says to remember that, in a pinch, your freezer is your friend.

Max Kozlov: And most of all… 

LUCY: Don’t be too picky. If your apple is a little bit bruised, just cut the bruised bit out but eat the rest of it. Don’t bin the whole thing. You can always do something with it. 

Fatima Husain: Lucy also suggests making a list before you go to the store so you don’t end up accidentally buying too much.

LUCY: It really is about breaking the habit of convenience and maybe having a bit more thought about what’s actually in your cupboards before you shop.

Megan Hall: Great! Thanks, Max and Fatima! 

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and the Public’s Radio.

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