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Wasted Food: What I learned from an apple core.

Having taken the last bite of an apple while traveling with friends down a highway, I was confronted head on with a conundrum: how do I do what’s best for the environment and what’s right for me? Staring at the apple core in the backseat, I knew all of my options intimately:

  • Eliminate it. I could eat the apple core.
  • Compost it locally. This was an option when we arrived at our destination.
  • Compost it commercially. Organics collection by the local hauler might serve an option.
  • Landfill it. I could put it in a dumpster, where it would be sent to a landfill. Not only would its nutrients be trapped indefinitely, but it would likely inefficiently produce methane, a greenhouse gas 1,000 times more potent than CO2.

Normally, I would have paused at this juncture, made a decision (likely to compost it locally), and moved on. But this moment felt loaded. First, I had recently approved Harvest’s latest social media content, which included “Apple Cores Are a Myth” and a video on eating apple cores like a boss.

More importantly, Harvest’s Facebook page had just blown up with comments on whether or not it was okay to eat apple cores. People feel passionately about this topic.

It got me thinking once again about the vectors that shape our experience.

  • Policies. I couldn’t chuck it out the window because that would be littering. But also there’s a tidal wave of food waste-related policies sweeping the nation.
  • Costs. This apple core didn’t seem like much, but fresh in my mind was the $13 billion number from the social media post. A lot of energy had gone into growing this apple – planting the tree, tilling the earth, watering, pruning, harvesting – and was I part of the problem if I did not enjoy each and every bite down to the last nub?
  • Societal Norms. One of the most powerful ways to shape behavior is to have folks try to keep up with their neighbors (and friends) habits. My partner eats his apple core (I’ve always thought that was weird.) No one in my present company ate their cores.
  • Interests. In theory, I always want to help save the planet. In reality, I still eat meat and fly places, which are pretty high up on the food chain of planet-degradation activities. So would one measly apple core make a difference?

In the end, I decided that eating the apple core was not for me; that I’d rather throw it under some shrubbery where it would break down and nourish the soil.

What do you do with your apple core?

The Circular Economy: Foodies and Natural Living Advocates Join the Conversation

Recyclers are typically known for driving the circular economy: e.g. putting things back to use instead of to the landfill. At Harvest, we’ve noticed a trend in the media signaling that foodies and health conscious folks are increasingly shaping the conversation. Here are four reasons why this might be happening.

Targeting wasted food saves money and resources.

Folks in the restaurant industry know that, in the United States, 40% of the food we produce is going to waste (see Wasted! video, below). Targeting this dumpster-bound material by with the classic three R’s – reducing it (aligning supply with demand with data-driven programs such as LeanPath), reusing it (see this clever reuse of food waste in ice cream), or recycling it (composting) – saves costs and resources. Foodie and columnist Andy Clurfeld spurred her restauranteer readers to do just this in NJ Monthly’s article, “Waste Not: Pro Chef, Home Cook – Everyone Can Compost.

 

Good soil grows yummier food.

By recycling organics back to the earth, it improves the soil which enhances the crop’s flavor. Increasingly, restaurants have direct relationships with local sources of produce and protein. Those same farms that provide veggies can then possibly take in the veggie scraps for composting. Compost begets healthier soil, which yields stronger, tastier veggies. It’s a full circle of win win wins.

People care about safe and clean environments.

Speaking of circles, the apt phrase “What goes around comes around” comes into play when we’re talking about organic waste and healthy soil. Compost helps eliminate the bad, and helps boost the good. As Harvest recently contributed to a New England publication:

Did you know that in one teaspoon of living soil there are 100 million to 1 billion bacteria? These bacteria act like an enormous, microscopic, hungry army that metabolizes surrounding materials. Similar to if you surrounded yourself with a robust community of diverse individuals that supported your growth, compost is like a mini ecosystem party. The billions of microorganisms in each teaspoon of compost mentioned earlier in this article help regulate the soil, suppress disease, and discourage pests. It’s a small, wild world teeming with life, and compost helps the good guys keep playing all season long.

Read the full article, “Soil as a Gateway for Eliminating Toxins” in Natural Nutmeg.

Food waste is the epicenter of energy, nutrients, and innovation.

Recently, Edible Orlando columnist Marta Madigan took a tour of Harvest’s Energy Garden in Orlando, Florida. In the resulting article she describes the transformation of regional food scraps into clean energy and class AA granular fertilizer. With this facility, Central Florida is at the forefront of innovation.

Do you consider yourself a foodie or a health nut? What’s your interaction with food waste?

Food Waste Management in NYC

The big apple has some big apple cores to manage. In a recent New York Times article, Emily S. Rueb explores how the city is planning to expand food waste recycling. Here are the top elements we noticed.

  1. Accessible visuals. While some characterized the cartoons as “Jabba the Hutt-esque and scary,” they show some fairly intricate processes – sorting out plastics; turning organics into compost; turning organics into biogas used to power homes and fuel vehicles – with simple diagrams.
  2. Great quotes. Shout out to the ever eloquent Ron Gonen, who was part of our SXSW Eco “Food Waste Frontier” panel.
  3. Dense city!  The author provides a sense of the scale of the city with these statements: “Smaller cities like Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; and Seattle all have mandatory programs. But the population of those three places combined is smaller than Brooklyn or Queens alone.”
  4. Good portrayal of challenges. Many of the barriers to organic waste recycling – collection, hauling, costs, and processing – come to life. She notes that composters “are accustomed to processing farm waste like rotting vegetables, which is somewhat different from handling the Chinese takeout and fettuccine Alfredo that city dwellers toss.”
  5. Super links. Not only is the article well researched, but also includes links to actionable items in the Q&A at the end of the article.

Bravo to all who helped bring this story to life. Read it here.

Fruit Flies Bugging You? Create a Quick Trap

CREATE A QUICK FRUIT FLY TRAP-01Summer is a delicious season. With melons, berries, and fruits dripping with juicy goodness, it’s easy to have sweets – natural sweets – on the counter. Alas! Those yummy fruits also beckon the little buggers known as fruit flies. If you would like to banish fruit flies – in any season – but do not want to hassle with plastic wrap, pin pricks, or creating other traps, try this trick:

  1. Put some apple cider vinegar into a dish.  (Any kind of cider will do, you only need a little layer – like a 1/2 cup, and a bowl or cup works. Make it easy on yourself.)
  2. Add a few drops of dishwashing soap.  (Any kind.) The soap will break the surface tension of the liquid.

Check out the simple fruit fly trap in action:

A few drops of dishwashing soap is added to some apple cider vinegar in a dish.  An hour later, the fruit flies have landed around the rim of the bowl.  Then, another hour later, the fruit flies have met their demise (not pictured). Simply toss the liquid (and dead fruit flies) down the drain and move on to enjoy your fruity treat.

fruit fly trap adding soap to apple cider vinegar

fruit flies come closer

Pumping Value out of Pumpkins: Food Waste Growth Markets

Pumpkins and Other Food WasteThe growth strategy firm, Innosight, published a piece, “The Food Waste Opportunity: How Experiments Can Open New Growth Markets.”  It explores the burgeoning food waste industry and highlights Harvest as a leader in providing organic management solutions.

Here’s one slice of the story:

This Cinderella transformation of discarded food is just one example of how marketplace experiments can help spur new growth markets. Venture capitalists are believers: Harvest Power has raised more than $350 million, making it one of the best-funded startups in New England.

And another bit:

Because food is an organic compound and readily biodegradable, one might assume that all this waste is not a major problem. However, consider this. Food takes resources to produce-water, land, fertilizer, energy. It’s heavy and expensive to transport. As food lies in a landfill, it decomposes and emits methane – a gas 25 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide. Lastly and certainly not least, there is a high social cost.

Read the full article.

STORMFISHER ENVIRONMENTAL ACQUIRES ANAEROBIC DIGESTER

sf_logo_cmyk                    Harvest-Print-Preferred

Date: January 12, 2016

StormFisher Contact: Pearce Fallis, 647-892-1167, pfallis@stormfisher.com
Harvest Power Contact: Meredith Sorensen, 206-569-0344, msorensen@harvestpower.com

STORMFISHER ENVIRONMENTAL ACQUIRES ANAEROBIC DIGESTER

New Investment And Strong Regional Presence Enhance Growth Potential

London, Ontario – StormFisher Environmental Ltd. today announced it has acquired the London Energy Garden, an anaerobic digester that turns organic waste from southwestern Ontario into clean, renewable energy and natural fertilizers, from Harvest Ontario Partners, Ltd.

“We are excited to invest new capital and enhance operations at the London Energy Garden,” said Chris Guillon, Vice President of StormFisher Environmental. He continued, “These developments open up even more opportunities to serve the organic waste processing needs of the region.”

The facility, which was developed by Harvest Power, Inc., turns organic materials such as food scraps, food production residuals, fats oils and grease, and other discarded organic waste from food processors, retailers and food retail outlets into clean, local electricity and natural fertilizers.

“The facility is in good hands with StormFisher Environmental,” said Chris Kasper, CEO of Harvest Power. He added, “Their team was involved in the original design of the site, so it’s fitting to see their involvement come full circle.”

StormFisher Environmental is majority owned and operated by StormFisher, Ltd, a company with deep Ontario market knowledge and biogas experience. Harvest Power is a minority owner in StormFisher Environmental.

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See PDF of announcement.

After Gobbling $20M, Harvest Still Hungry for Table Scraps

xconomyXconomy’s Jeff Engel explores the chicken-and-egg conundrum of communities that want to divert food scraps from landfills yet lack the capacity to do so. Harvest Power’s CEO Christian Kasper provides the path forward “to break that deadlock” and support North America with the infrastructure it needs to recycle organic waste. Read the article.