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Lexicon of Sustainability
Watchword: Food Waste

Watchword: Food Waste

To draw attention to the best and brightest ideas in sustainability, the Lexicon of Sustainability's Food List project defines the words that are integral to a healthy, transparent, and accountable food system. Each week, we explore a new word through artwork, films, recipes, and written works. See all Food List words here. 

Food Waste: 40. That’s the percentage of food in this country that never gets eaten, or that’s grown and never comes to market. It’s the food we distribute that never reaches a destination or sits on grocery store shelves without finding a consumer. And it’s food consumers buy but never eat.

Here's what some communities are doing about it:

Title: Food Rescue
Location: Munson Farm, Boulder, CO
Featuring: Dave Carlson of Community Food Share
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

Food rescue is the practice of gleaning the produce remaining in fields after a harvest to help alleviate food insecurity in local communities. “While we have a viable food system now for those who can afford it, we definitely don’t have a viable food system for people who can’t,” says Dave Carlson of Community Food Share, which was created in a Boulder garage in 1981 by volunteers. “Gleaning is a way to make up the difference.”

It’s not unusual for volunteers to glean 80,000 pounds of fresh produce each year from farms like Munson in Boulder, CO. Since one person consumes roughly a pound of food in a typical meal, gleaners who harvest 2,000 pounds of produce are providing meals for around 2,000 food insecure people in their local community. 

Short film: “Food Waste” by The Lexicon of Sustainability

What can you do about food waste? Watch this short film to find out.

Why Compost?

Compost is a great recycler. It takes “waste materials” and creates a necessary and vital resource: top soil. 

Why should you compost? Here are 5 great reasons:

  1. Adds nutrients back into the soil which plants utilize for 2-3 years
  2. Increases organic matter and promotes beneficial organisms
  3. Improves soil structure eroded by wind, water + tilling
  4. Reduces dependence on petroleum-based fertilizers
  5. Compost, along with cover crops rotation filter strips + nutrient and water management programs all work together to build soil health

Recipe: Three Cheese Vegetable Strata

This tasty casserole from Chef Ann Cooper is a smart way to use all those stale, leftover pieces of bread you’d otherwise throw out.  

How do you try to limit food waste in your own life? Share with us in the comments below.

For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at

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