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5 Questions with JoAnne Berkenkamp, Senior Advocate - Natural Resources Defense Council

What motivated your personal interest in sustainability and food waste reduction? 

If the world’s food waste were a country, it would rank third after China and the U.S. in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Wasted food is a huge climate change issue.  And when we waste food, we also waste all the water, fertilizer, pesticides, labor, packaging and other inputs used to grow, process, chill and transport it.  If you care about the environment, reducing food waste is a great place to start.  That motivates me daily.

Can you share a story about a food waste hero who inspired you? 

Perhaps, like many people, I would say that my mom has been a food waste hero for me.  She cooked for seven family members and she never let anything go to waste.  She was resourceful, thrifty and loathe to let good food land in the trash.

What change have you made personally to be more mindful?

Whenever I throw food away (and I still do sometimes, despite best efforts), I always stop to take a good look at it first.  I ask myself two questions:  What am I throwing out?  And why am I tossing it?  Pausing to ask myself those questions has been so powerful.  It has helped me realize that I tend to buy too much food right before travelling and I sometimes make too much of something and then don’t finish all of it.  That awareness has helped me make some simple, easy changes to cut my waste.

What will it take for America to make food waste a priority? 

Most consumers don’t think they waste food. They are very conscious of the price of food when they buy it, but often don’t think about the value of food when they throw it out.  We can make a difference if we help people start to “see” what they waste and recognize that they can save money if they save food.  This is true not only for consumers, but for businesses as well. The more food companies realize that trimming food waste can bolster their bottom line, the more they can also improve their environmental footprint.   

What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

I’d say, first, become aware of the food you toss. That simple awareness can spur amazing creativity and help you make simple changes to cut your waste and enjoy more of the food you buy.  Beyond that, teach your kids to value their food.  Lastly, check out for practical tips you can use at home any day of the week.