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Earth Day reminds us why it’s time to get smarter about food waste

Image Credit: NASA

In 1970, the first Earth Day helped launch the modern environmental movement. Started as a grassroots effort, Earth Day generated public support for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and contributed to the passage of some of the hallmark environmental laws — including the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act and several others. Since then, it has grown into an annual event to celebrate our planet’s environment and build awareness of its greatest challenges. The day, marked on April 22, is observed worldwide with rallies, conferences, outdoor activities and service projects.

Here at Nourished Planet, every day is Earth Day, as we constantly strive to drive change wherever food and beverage waste occurs. This Earth Day will be particularly important for our planet, given the current uncertainty of environmental action in the United States. That’s why we will see a slew of marches across the country and in our nation’s capital, including the March for Science, where scientists, businesses, and the general public will come together to reaffirm support for the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies and governments.

Earth Day is a reminder that there is no Planet B, and we must nourish the planet we have so that we all can prosper in perpetuity. As such, it’s more important than ever for businesses to come together to lend their collective voices to drive home the point that economic prosperity and environmental sustainability can and must go hand-in-hand.

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An unbreakable business case for food waste reduction

Talk about putting your money where your mouth is. Investing just a single dollar in food waste reduction techniques generates around $14 dollars in return, according to a report released last month by the World Resource Institute. Restaurants typically experience the highest returns, with hotels, food service companies and food retail­ers tending to have ratios between 5:1 and 10:1.

In the corporate sphere, WRI looked at food waste reduction efforts at nearly 1,200 business sites across 17 countries and more than 700 compa­nies, including food manufac­turing, food retail, hospitality, restaurants and other food service. They found that 99 percent of the sites earned a positive return on investment. The median benefit-cost ratio — where half of the sites achieved a higher ratio while half achieved a lower ratio — was 14:1. In other words, half of the business sites earned greater than a 14-fold financial return on investment.

The report also explores how food waste reduction efforts play out at the city level. Recognizing the important role cities play in cutting food waste, it uncovered some financial impacts of food waste efforts.

Reducing food loss and waste can generate a “triple win” by saving money for farmers, companies and households. It also can help feed more people while alleviating pressure on water, land and climate. But despite this clear economic benefit, nearly 40 percent of the food we grow in the United States goes to waste, costing as much as $161 billion each year. Manufacturers are major generators of this food waste, creating more than 7 billion pounds each year. This level of inefficiency in the food system has huge economic, social and environmental consequences.

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