Keep Martin Beautiful Looks at Food and Fashion with an Eye Towards Sustainability

Posted on July 9, 2023


Tossing out leftovers and old t-shirts may not seem like serious contributors to our environmental problems, but here’s some information that may cause you to reconsider.

Food Waste is a Real Issue

  • More than one-third of all the food intended for human consumption - enough to feed 3 billion people - is wasted or lost every year. That’s a shocking thought when we put it against the fact that more than 800 million people worldwide are suffering from malnutrition.
  • Food waste accounts for fully 21% of our landfill volume. As it rots, it gives off methane, a colorless, odorless and potent greenhouse gas that is much worse than CO2 and accounts for more than 25% of the global warming we’re experiencing today.
  • Growing food that then goes to waste ends up using up to 21% of freshwater, 19% of fertilizers, and 18% of croplands. So, wasting food is seriously wasting natural resources.

Preventive Measures Matter

As Keep Martin Beautiful likes to remind readers, while just one of us can’t solve the world’s complex problems on our own, collectively we can make small changes that are good for the planet---and for our own budget! Here are some simple and obvious reminders for when you peek into your refrigerator and pantry and before your next trip to the store:

  • Use ‘em or lose ‘em.  Look around, especially at those cans and jars hidden way back on the shelves, and either use them up or donate them to a local church, food pantry or House of Hope.  Also, don’t let leftovers get lost in the fridge while they’re still edible. Using them will save you money.
  • Don’t shop for groceries when you’re hungry and buy only what you need.
  • Learn the difference between “Use By” and “Best Before.” Foods with “Use By” dates are perishable and they need to be eaten before the date on the label. “Best Before” foods are still safe to eat after the given date. Look up the real expiration dates online before deciding to throw out “Best Before” foods. 
  • Learn to eat “ugly.” Half of all produce in the U.S. is thrown away because it’s deemed too imperfect for the retail market. Try fresh produce from farmers’ markets, where quality is usually superior and where appearances can be deceiving.

Old Clothes Catastrophe?

  • The World Economic Forum estimates that one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill EVERY SECOND!
  • Worldwide, clothing production, which uses massive amounts of water and energy, has doubled since 2000, and 85% of the material ends up in the landfill.
  • The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year.
  • Polyester is found in 60% of the garments produced. Polyester doesn’t break down in water, so not only does it take up space when we discard items, after consuming energy resources to produce them, but our old clothes have a long life of polluting our lands and waterways.

Consider Clothing Alternatives

Just like food waste, clothing production and disposal is a huge global issue but each of us can do something about it at a local level:

  • Shop and purge your closet. Lots of people buy new clothes every season and sometimes much more frequently. How about first being a discerning shopper in your own closet and take some advice from Marie Kondo. Declutter your closet by deciding which items “spark joy.”
  • Then, donate and shop used. Lots of nonprofits have quality Thrift Stores, like House of Hope, Hibiscus Center, Treasure Coast Hospice, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and others, where smart “thrifters” can give new life to someone’s donated items.
  • Instead of buying new, check out online sites like thredUp or Rent the Runway to buy or rent secondhand clothes. You never know what treasures you will find!
  • Locally, we also have many consignment shops such as Style Encore and Rag Street where you can sell your gently used or unused clothing and buy someone else’s, all without adding to landfill waste.
  • Choose more sustainable fabrics, such like cotton and linen, and look for manufacturers committed to sound environmental practices when making purchases.

So, eat and shop and enjoy the experience, but be mindful of the little things we do that add up to big effects on Mother Earth.

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