Water, Waste & Energy
It starts first thing in the morning – our daily waking ritual, the morning coffee stop. Enough of the United States has become accustomed to a mid-commute drop in or drive through pick me up to start the day that the impact of this one purchase is massive to consider. This one beverage in and of itself is a prime example of the hidden footprint some of our most celebrated conveniences when it comes to water used in the product’s lifecycle. The water cost of products in general is a down-the-rabbit-hole concept but is especially pertinent to consider when it comes to food and beverage, and it is this aspect I hope to explore here this quarter. Take for example your average cup of to go coffee:
*2.24.12 webinar, “The Business of Food Transparency” – Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo
Jumping from the beginning of products to the end of their lifecycle, we encounter another shadowy epidemic:
“Americans are used to sending their trash away.” ~ Dr. Ruihong Zhang, UC Davis Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department
Nowhere is this more true than with food:
In addition to awareness advocacy and habit change to lessen the amount of waste, a variety of local organizations are doing needed work to form partnerships that divert product with a useful life left to different end users than the trash. Seattle has instituted mandatory curbside compost and the statewide conversation regarding its role in soil management is encouraging. Urban Gleaners work in Portland, Oregon is connecting edible surplus with school food programs.
Harnessing the food waste stream for purposes of alternative energy generation has exciting potential as well.
“Anaerobic digestion as a means of food waste disposal is preferable to landfill not just because of this kind of power generation, but also because when methane (CH4) is burnt, the carbon in it binds to oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a much less potent greenhouse gas. One recent study estimated that avoiding landfill could save emissions of between 0.4 and 1 tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent per tonne of food waste.” ~ Tristram Stuart, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal