Not many of us spend much time thinking about our garbage, much less what it is comprised of. At Rust Belt RIders, we think about it obsessively. For the past four years we have helped businesses, organization, and schools - over 60 and counting, manage their waste stream. More specifically, we help them manage their food waste. Why food waste? Well, in short, because there is a LOT of it. Studies suggest that roughly 40% of all the food grown in the United States is thrown away. This material has some pretty serious downstream impacts too, impacts that we would argue, need to be addressed in a far more systematic way than it currently is.
Why care about food waste?
Let’s say you, like me, care deeply about the future of our climate. Well, if you do, then you ought to know that when food enters landfills, it puts off methane, because it is breaking down anaerobically - meaning it isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to decompose. Methane is a greenhouse gas roughly twenty times more toxic to the ozone than carbon dioxide. All of this can be avoided, if the food was somehow diverted from the landfill itself. The global emissions directly related to food waste would make it the third largest emitter behind the United States and China. Furthermore, food is the single largest component of our landfills, so by keeping food out of landfills we not only avoid the GHG’s that will result but we also have the unique ability to diminish the need for landfills all together.
So now let’s say you're not the tree hugging type, you are more of a market forces kind of person. Well let me tell you, food waste is something you really ought to be concerned with. According to the 2016 report, A Roadmap for Reducing Food Waste by 20 Percent, the United States spends over $218 billion annually on the cultivation, transportation, processing and disposal of food that is never consumed. Put another way, we throw out 1.4% of our global GDP.
So what do we make of all of this? The numbers can be a little scary and almost too big to wrap your head around.
For starters, you can take solace in knowing that our region’s leading businesses and organizations are taking the lead. Rust Belt Riders works with organizations as large as University Hospitals, Key Bank and the Cleveland Metroparks, to schools like Case Western Reserve University, St. Martin de Porres, GALA, Tr-C, and Learwood Middle School, and even your favorite restaurants like the Greenhouse Tavern, Spice Kitchen & Bar, and Salt. We also work with architecture firms like Bialosky Partners, who are designing a more environmentally friendly built environment, Thriving Communities Institute, who is leading the effort to reforest the forest city, and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress who is coordinating neighborhood redevelopment with climate resilience in mind. If you create food waste, we can work with you!
(Photo by Jacob Koestler)
For years we have been contacted by residents, renters, homeowners and block clubs, “Can you compost my household food waste!?” Unfortunately, for now, the short answer is not exactly. While we are working hard to develop a neighborhood-wide curbside compost pick-up program, we are taking a play out of the local food movement and have developed what we are calling a Community Supported Composting program. In the same vein of Community Supported Agriculture, we are inviting individuals committed to combating wasted food to invest in our work. CSA’s are a proven way to connect people directly to the growers and farmers of Northeast Ohio. Our CSC program seeks to do the same for food waste and compost. Members can select from a range of annual membership levels and in exchange they get to bring us their food scraps and outsource their composting needs to the experts. In exchange, members get access to free monthly workshops, so they can learn all the tricks of the trade that we have learned over the years. In addition, members get discounts on our compost so that come spring time, they can see for themselves the many benefits of using compost in their garden, houseplants, or landscaping.
We invite each and every one of you to consider the resolutions you will make this new year. Will you make a commitment to curbing climate change through small changes to your everyday actions? Will you commit to wasting less food by questioning what ‘waste’ is in the first place? Will you commit to a year of learning about the causes and solutions to climate change?
We humbly submit to you that diverting your household food waste from the landfill and to a compost pile might just be the single easiest and impactful thin you can do this year to reduce your environmental footprint. So, will you join us this year in the fight against food waste? Together we can start feeding people, not landfills.
For more information on Rust Belt Riders check out our website.
To learn more about our CSC Program: RBR CSC Program
Twitter/ Instagram: @RustBeltRiders