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If Food Waste Were A Country, Only China And The United States Would Be Bigger C02 Polluters

If Food Waste Were A Country, Only China And The United States Would Be Bigger C02 Polluters

The Reality Based Parent Saves The Planet


Do you want to “save the planet?” Do your kids come home from school and tell you how important recycling is? I do! And…mine do!

Like many other families, we strive to reduce our environmental impact (and to feel better about ourselves) by throwing stuff in the recycling bin. But as someone who strives to be a rational, fact-based parent, I’ve recently learned two new assumption-shaking perspectives:

1. Recycling isn’t helping as much as I thought.

2. One of our family’s biggest opportunities to impact the environment is wilting in the vegetable crisper.

Recycling isn’t helping as much as I thought.

Recycling is awesome–but the reality is that it isn’t working well right now.

  • Lots of us are “aspirational recyclers”–that means that we throw stuff in the recycling that we think should be recyclable (like paper coffee cups with liners, greasy pizza boxes, and messy take out containers) that actually screw up the recycling stream, contaminating good recyclables and adding processing costs.
  • Not only that, but because of changes in the recycling industry (especially China no longer taking our used plastic and paper) much of “recycling” ends up in landfills. In fact, hundreds of American cities quit recycling in 2018 alone!

Does that mean we shouldn’t recycle? Of course not! But if you want to have an impact on anything other than feeling better about yourself, then start thinking of yourself as a supplier of quality recyclable goods, and don’t throw un-recyclables (Check out “6 Things You’re Recycling Wrongin the NY Times for an easy to remember list.)

And then start eating vegetables, because it turns out an even bigger opportunity to save the planet is wilting in our vegetable crisper!

If Food Waste Was A Country, Only China And The US Would Be Bigger C02 Polluters

I was once again reminded of the gap between what we THINK matters and what actually DOES matter when I read an article on household food waste by Sarah Taber in the Washington Post. She wrote:

“If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2, after China and the United States. In our nation alone, we throw away some 63 million tons of food a year, even as 40 million Americans are considered food insecure. The single biggest source of U.S. food waste, accounting for 43 percent of the problem, is our own homes.”

Just like we throw unrecyclable stuff away with “aspirational recycling”, we buy what we think we ought to eat with “aspirational food shopping.” Sure, we should eat 5 heads of lettuce this week, but all too often the crisper is where good food goes to wilt, rot and die! Then, all that water, diesel, transportation, fertilizer, storage and back breaking labor gets tossed into the garbage with the discoloured kale.

And teaching our kids to treat food like it matters also helps us model responsibility for our actions–and respect and appreciation for the food we do have and for the hard work it takes to bring it into our homes.

Want to help the environment, save money, be healthier–and model appreciation and responsibility for your kids? If you find yourself throwing perishable food away, buy less!

  • Don’t be an aspirational recycler. Recycle actual recyclables.
  • Don’t be an aspirational food buyer. Only buy food you will use–and then use it.


On to Greatness (In Parenting!),

Dan Emery

Founder. NYC Guitar School


Michael Corkery in The New York Times: As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling

NY Times 6 things you’re recycling wrong

Sarah Taber in The Washington Post: Eating Ugly Foods Won’t Save The World (

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Dan Emery is dedicated to Coaching Personal Greatness, One Lesson At A Time. He is the founder of NYC's friendliest and fastest growing guitar schools, New York City Guitar School, Brooklyn Guitar School, Queens Guitar School and NYC Guitar School, East, and the author of the Amazon best-selling Guitar For Absolute Beginners and six other books on learning guitar and deliberate practice. He coaches new entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program and especially enjoys helping other Educational Entrepreneurs. He has a Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, extensive performing experience as songwriter and guitarist for The Dan Emery Mystery Band, a wife, three kids, a cat and some juggling equipment.


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