Over the last five years, Denmark has cut food waste by an incredible 25 percent, which amounts to about 35 pounds of food per person! One of the ways they have been able to do this is through innovative shops like WeFood, a surplus grocer selling “damaged” or “expired” food products at a highly discounted rate. This model is very similar to food pantries who receive surplus goods from donations, but it is distinct in that it markets to anyone interested in sustainability and eco-conscious living.

In America, nearly 40% of our food is wasted each year — in transit, at the supermarket, and by consumers who toss food in the trash. Food is wasted for many reasons. It may be rejected because it’s bruised, wilted, misshapen, or “ugly,” due to torn or dented packaging, or due to an expired sell-by date. These reasons illustrate a mass misunderstanding of food labeling and unrealistic expectations of what food should look like (most likely due to the disconnect between consumer and farmer). Unfortunately, many eaters are passive consumers, uneducated about the food systems they are a part of.

When we consider the overwhelming statistics, like the fact that one-third of all food produced never makes it to the table, or that a family of four wastes an average of 1656 lbs of food per year, what are we to do? While we may have to wait for stores like WeFood to pop up in the United States, there are many actions we can take as individuals to cut back on food waste. Here are a few:

  1. Don’t overbuy. Make more than one trip to the market each week if necessary/you are able.
  2. Get educated about food quality versus food safety. Know that ‘past peak freshness’ (on use or sell-by dates) does not mean ‘spoiled.’ Use intuition and don’t be afraid of imperfections.
  3. Find creative ways to use food scraps when cooking.
  4. Compost. Either use a compost bin picked up by city sanitation services or use food scraps in your own garden.