Imagine being able to increase a nation’s resources by 100% in the blink of an eye—energy, food and water, all doubled instantly—without magic or miracles.
According to The New York Times, about 56% of all energy produced in the United States is wasted. That includes the loss of 66% of energy generated for electricity and 71% of energy created for transportation. Additionally, factories and buildings waste about 20% of the energy they receive.
In other words, the country is already producing more than twice as much energy as it uses. Some of the waste occurs during the energy production process, but inefficient technology and design add to the problem.
The same is distressingly true of food resources. Americans waste between 40% and 50% of all food produced for consumption at an annual cost of over $100 billion. Some of that loss occurs during processing, but even more comes from food discarded in transport, supermarkets and kitchens.
One report indicates that Americans throw out 14 percent of the food they buy, generating 34 millions tons of food waste every year. Much of this waste is caused by “sell by,” “best by” and “use by” dates that encourage trashing of perfectly edible products.
Jeanne Goldberg, professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy, has said of expiration dates, “It’s a very inexact science since those dates include a wide margin of safety.”
Wasted energy and food further deplete water resources, too. A single 60-watt incandescent light bulb lit 12 hours a day for one year requires the consumption of 3,000~6,000 gallons of water, depending on the water efficiency of the power plant supplying the electricity. Using a compact fluorescent bulb instead would save about 2,000~4,000 gallons annually.
Similarly, it takes 2,880 gallons of water to produce a pound of chocolate and 1,860 gallons for a pound of beef. Brewing a single cup of coffee takes 37 gallons of water, not just 8oz from the tap. Food wasted translates directly into water wasted.
Statistics such as these have been compiled by the University of Twente in the Netherlands as part of the Water Footprint network. Their mission is “to promote the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources worldwide.”
Clearly, the world’s resources are interrelated and abundant if used wisely and not wasted.
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