Survey: Wasting Food Makes Americans Feel Eco-Guilt

Of all the wasteful, environmentally-damaging behaviors in which Americans participate on a daily basis (and boy, are there a lot of them) it seems that wasting food is the one that makes us feel the most eco-guilt. The Fifth Annual Eco Pulse survey, conducted by the Shelton Group of Knoxville, Tenn., found that an astonishing 39% of Americans feel guilty about “wasting food.” In comparison, only 7% felt guilty about “not sticking to an energy-efficient thermostat setting,” and just 6% felt guilty about “using chemical lawn or plant fertilizers.”

This is a very surprising result, given the fact that other wasteful behaviors, such as driving too much, leaving lights on, and not recycling get far more attention in the national media. It may be that recent growth in awareness about climate change, and how it’s affecting the agricultural industry, has helped Americans to realize just how much they’re throwing away.

Food Waste Leads To Eco Guilt

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Food waste in America has grown 50 percent since 1974, and accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater used and roughly 300 million barrels of oil a year, according to a government study. In fact, Americans waste about 27 percent of food available for consumption, costing the average family of four roughly $600 a year.

“We all have the best of intentions,” said Suzanne Shelton, founder and CEO of Shelton Group. “We fill our grocery baskets with healthy meats, fruits and fresh vegetables, with big plans for a week’s worth of home-cooked meals. Then, we get swamped at work, or have to get our kids to various activities and we find ourselves picking up a pizza on the way home. By the end of the week, we’re throwing out the spoiled food from our refrigerators.”

“That doesn’t mean we should go back to buying unhealthy frozen dinners and telling our kids to keep eating until their plates are clean,” Shelton added. “We just need to be more careful about buying what we need, and using what we buy.

The Eco Pulse survey polled 1,013 Americans, asking: “Which (if any) of these things do you feel guilty about?”. The top answer was wasting food (39 percent), followed by leaving the lights on when not in the room (27 percent), wasting water (27 percent), not unplugging chargers/electronics when not in use (22 percent), and not recycling things (21 percent).

Tell us: Which not-green behavior makes you feel guilty?

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog