While Consumers Shout, Biz Quietly Improves Management of Munchies

by | Aug 18, 2017

Reflections from Jen

Okay, we get it. We’re wasteful when it comes to our munchies. The message has been drummed into us, businesses and consumers alike: we’re wasting food and costing ourselves money. But doesn’t it seem that the food-waste conversation has gotten louder lately? It’s the media equivalent of being shouted from the rooftops (or blasted from the mountaintops like that guy with the giant alpenhorn in the Ricola commercials – remember him?).

We’re told that a “whopping 90% of Americans throw out food items way too soon, which means the average family of four wastes $1,500 worth of food per year.” That “forty percent of the food in the US is never eaten.” That “every day, Americans waste enough food to fill the Rose Bowl.”

It could be that the recent growth in government-led initiatives targeting food waste is what’s increasing public awareness of the issue. At least, that’s what a new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future claims.

Whatever the reason, some companies are joining the conversation by offering neat new gadgets meant to help consumers reduce their own waste. Alexa, the software that runs the Amazon Echo, has a new “skill” that allows users to ask questions about the freshness of food, how to store it, and when (or when not) to toss it. And a London-based company called Smarter has unveiled their FridgeCam which lets users monitor what’s inside their refrigerators, from anywhere, via an app. It also tracks expiration dates, tells users when they’re running out of a product, and even gives recipes to help them use up food that’s nearing its best-by date.

So yeah, consumers are waking up, and some businesses are capitalizing on that. But what about the other side of things? Turns out there’s a second conversation going on – more softly – below the first. Organizations are quietly going about the business of solving their own food waste issues. Case in point: the Sands Casino Resort in Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Eagles are both using anaerobic digesters to safely break down food waste. Commercial and institutional organizations in West Michigan are taking advantage of a new council that is providing education and technical resources for reducing food that is wasted. And some restaurants are using a new smart meter that helps them measure and analyze the food they toss: it identifies the types of food they tend to throw away, collects data from an electronic scale, and tells them the value of what’s being wasted.

And in Norway, which is a veritable hotbed of food waste initiatives, there are grocery stores that keep food from being tossed by selling only items that are past their prime. The store, which opened last October, informs customers with a large sign that the food items sold in the store are all past their best-by dates.

I could go on – the number of announcements and news items on the topic have been impressive in recent weeks – but you get the message. In fact, you’ve proven that you’ve been getting the message, and you’re responding to it. So keep up the great work and, as always, let me know your thoughts, successes, ideas, or lessons learned on the topic. You can reach me at jen@environmentalleader.com. I’m always happy to hear from you.




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