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Eat Trash, Save the Planet

By guest blogger Jeremy Seifert

After four years of nonprofit work, Jeremy recently cofounded the production company Compeller, focusing on documentaries that tell stories from the heart and seek to reconnect us to each other and the Earth, while inspiring real change in society. Dive! is Jeremy’s first film and has been well received around the world, winning 19 film festivals and screening recently on Capitol Hill.

When people first see our “EAT TRASH” T-shirts, they are confused, offended, or amused…until they see the film. After audiences see DIVE! Living Off America’s Waste, they get it. They understand that by “trash,” we mean fresh ahi tuna, loaves of sprouted-wheat bread, whole organic free-range chickens, baby broccoli, fine cheeses, and even beer! That’s some tasty waste! Eating this trash has the effect of saving the planet on some level because throwing it away has a very high price for the environment.

In the U.S. alone, we waste 300 million barrels of oil and 25 percent of our freshwater supply on food that gets thrown away! We toss 96 billion pounds of food annually in the United States, at a cost of well over 100 billion dollars. And if you’ve studied meat production, GMO crops, pesticides, soil degradation, and global warming, you should have an unsettling picture of how destructive the ubiquitous, yet unseen, practice of wasting food is…because you know how destructive producing food is.

Take, for example, farmed salmon from the Chilean Patagonia. These unfortunate fish unwittingly destroy gorgeous plots of ocean in one of the most remote and, until now, untouched landscapes on the planet. The farmed salmon are fed pellets made from fishmeal, which is a mixture of wild fish ripped from the ocean with a long list of chemicals and hormones added to it, and lead ridiculous lives as unnatural as cows forced to eat GM corn in overcrowded concentration camps. Their crowded fish camps—doused in antibiotics—deoxygenate the water, spread disease, inadvertently kill newborn wild salmon heading out to sea. These salmon, their meat dyed pink from a pigment added to their food, are shipped thousands of miles over the Pacific Ocean to the U.S., driven to distributors in trucks with plumes of diesel spouting as if from giant, sickly whales, then driven in more trucks to stores. Some of these salmon end up in dumpsters, and get picked up by even more trucks and driven to landfills, where they’re buried underground and produce methane, a gas 25 times more potent than CO2. This is but one small example of the unseen disaster of food waste.

While the environment is being torn down from our unsustainable practices and careless wastefulness, we are also experiencing a saddening growth of food-insecure people in our own neighborhoods. The numbers grow with each new report, currently over 40 million Americans on food stamps—that’s one in eight people!

This reality slams up against the numbing fact that half of our nation’s food gets thrown away. Not to mention the swelling numbers of the obese, linked intimately to poverty and consumption of the worst kinds of nonfood the world has ever suffered…all subsidized by our own tax dollars to boost agribusiness and the proliferation of untested genetically modified food.

So, where to begin? While we engage in the long struggle to win back good, locally grown, seasonally eaten food, we can more immediately focus on ending food waste, getting food to people who need it, composting what can’t be eaten, and sparing our landfills of more waste and our atmosphere of more CO2.

I only awakened to food waste by jumping in a dumpster, but it was traveling through Uganda that convinced me to make a film. I spent time in the worst slums of Kampala and in the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in the northern part of Uganda.  Nearly 1.5 million Acholi people had been forced into hellish camps for protection from the terror of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. I filmed and played with children suffering from severe malnutrition, who were given only one meal a day—which the mothers would reserve for dinnertime, so the children’s hunger pangs wouldn’t keep them awake at night.  After returning home, forever changed, I drove a couple miles down the road and pulled $400 of good food out of a trashcan. The contrast of these two realities filled me with both sadness and outrage, and provided the energy and perspective that inspired the creation of DIVE!

Finished just over a year ago with a budget of just $200, DIVE! has taken me and the others involved in the project on quite a journey. It has won 19 festivals around the world, and was just screened on Capitol Hill on December 7th.  The accolades and warm receptions have been quite encouraging, but even more exciting is the change happening on a grassroots level.

But beyond this, we want change at the corporate level, as well as legislatively.

And this is where you, the reader, can take action right now. We have decided to nudge the grocery stores by using the power of our voices, and I’m convinced that if we take the time to speak out, they will listen. To keep it focused for a greater impact, we are starting with one corporation: Trader Joe’s.

What we want is simple, really, and should already be in place: a corporate policy to end food waste in all Trader Joe’s stores.

All it takes is three minutes and a 44-cent stamp to participate in changing a corporation for the good of the needy and our Earth. Go to www.divethefilm.com and click on the EAT TRASH tab to find the downloadable letter. Or simply click HERE.

“The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry…. The acts of charity you do not perform are so much injustices you commit.” —Saint Basil the Great

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3 Responses to Eat Trash, Save the Planet

  1. Kenneth Bell January 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Im a Canadian and to email i will not mentioning who i am .
    Personally you are right on the target with DIVE .
    I know that what goes around USA allways comes to Canada .
    We may have more so to speak organic crops in a small size .
    Also we are very conservative as a nation .
    Stats in Canada show we have 75 % of our culture volenteer sometime in life.
    My nephew works for a city of 3 hundred thousand and did study recycle the garbage here .
    Documentation beets conversation .
    We need change and encouragement to feed ourselves organicly .
    Kenneth

  2. Donald January 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Hi:

    Love this article and cannot wait to see Dive! My Wife and I both wrote that is composed via MS Word a customized letter to Trader Joe’s CEO, Dan Banes and mailed it out yesterday. The time for action is right now.

    Donald & Peggy

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