Garbology Amid COVID-19

Stop Food Waste Day

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, what we discard in our households has drastically changed. Personally, I was unable to spend time at home, as I have a young brother, an elderly grandmother, as well as an immunocompromised mother. I didn’t want to stay in Seattle, near a larger epicenter, so I decided to stay in a cabin out in Grayland, Washington. This change in the environment has led me to evaluate a couple of ways my household’s garbology has specifically been effected.

How have the things your consuming changed over the past month (compared to before COVID-19 impacts)?

Since my arrival in Grayland, the first thing I noticed is the lack of recycling and compost. This was very odd for me since all my life I’ve lived in urban locations and have always had what I can now refer to as a luxury. In response to this, I decided to collect all of our recycling and load it up in my car to bring back with us to the city.

Regarding food waste, I’d looked everywhere for compost bags but none of the local grocery stores carried them. In response, we decided to reduce our food waste by purchasing more non-perishable items. In our reading, Why We Buy Weird Things in Times of Crisis by Stephen E. Nash, he noted that people have not been buying non-perishable, but instead, toilet paper (Nash & Gusterson 2018). This made me more aware of what I personally have been consuming, and in response stocked up on more canned goods, so I could reduce compost that ends up in landfills.

Since I’ve largely referred to food waste throughout this blog post, this image immediately stood out to me. It claims that over 100 tons of food have gone to waste in response to panic buying. I looked into this further and found that households are usually the largest contributors to this large amount of waste. However, amid our current crisis, farmers are the ones contributing the most. According to the New York Times, “After weeks of concern about shortages in grocery stores and mad scrambles to find the last box of pasta or toilet paper roll, many of the nation’s largest farms are struggling with another ghastly effect of the pandemic. They are being forced to destroy tens of millions of pounds of fresh food that they can no longer sell”. In light of this information, I learned my new eating habits have actually been counterintuitive. By buying non-perishables, the amount of food waste of fresh foods has increased dramatically.

What behaviors or activities are reflected in the items you discarded over the past week?

As aforementioned, my eating behaviors have changed quite a bit in an attempt to reduce waste. I have also noticed that my purchasing habits have drastically changed. While monitoring my waste and comparing it to what was disposed of pre-pandemic, I noticed there is much less packaging from nonessential items. For example, amazon packages, store bags, and other nonessentials. In an attempt to save money, I have stopped spending on many luxuries, which in return has changed my personal discarded items.

What have I learned?

From this assignment, I have learned how buying habits have changed in response to COVID-19. In exploring my own purchasing habits, and therefore waste, I was able to understand that I am not helping the problem. By balancing my purchases, trying not to participate in panic buying, and further, learning more about expiration dates, I can decrease my waste. We could all stand to do a little more research on small ways to change our habits (in turn garbology), to do a little good during these hard times.

Below is a list of what can be done to reduce food waste (Royte 2020).

  • When cooking at home, learn how to maintain everything you’ve bought
  • Freeze food
  • Better understand date labels
  • Avoid panic buying

References

Coe, Linford. “Like Climate Change and Covid-19 Wasn’t Enough or like What?” 9GAG, 2 Apr. 2020, 9gag.com/gag/aBgAjxz.

Nash, Stephen E., and Hugh Gusterson. “Why We Buy Weird Things in Times of Crisis.” SAPIENS, AP Images, 3 Apr. 2018, www.sapiens.org/column/curiosities/panic-buying-coronavirus/.

Royte, Elizabeth. “Food Waste and Food Insecurity Rising amid Coronavirus Panic.” National Geographic, 31 Mar. 2020, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/03/food-waste-insecurity-rising-amid-coronavirus-panic/.

“Stop Food Waste Day.” Days Of The Year, www.daysoftheyear.com/days/stop-food-waste-day/.

Yaffe-bellany, David, and Michael Corkery. “Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Apr. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/business/coronavirus-destroying-food.html.

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