Part 2 of 2
In many realms, like gasoline and clothing, simply reducing how much we consume can have a big impact on our environmental footprint. Food, on the other hand, is not a consumable that can be comfortably reduced to half or less! We all need calories to stay alive, plus nutrition to keep our bodies healthy. So how can we meet our food needs in the most sustainable ways?
Today at 5:00 PM, I walked into a local coffeeshop with several locations around Downtown Pittsburgh. I was nervous. This was the first time I had ever tried this before.
I walked up to the young man behind the counter. “What time do you close?” Six, he informed me. “Will you be throwing away any food, like pastries or whatever, at the end of the night?” He eyed me skeptically. …Yes, he conceded. “Would you mind if I came back at 6:00 and took that food off your hands for you?” OK, it was out there. What would he say next?
Sure, come on by.
Later that night, I biked over to Landslide Community Farm to share with my friends the bounty–two vegetarian wraps and four side salads.
An alternative option to dumpster diving is to intercept the food before it even gets to the dumpster. This is often the preferred method for food-from-garbage redemption if one is still squeamish about fooling around inside dumpsters at all.
How to do it:
Simply walk into your favorite coffeeshop and ask if they will be throwing away any food at the end of the night (usually pre-made stuff in coolers, like wraps, have short shelf lives). If they say yes, ask if you can take it away for them at closing time. If you are personable, tidy and prompt, you should have no problems.
It is also a good idea to build up a rapport with the employees at a single store. Managers and other customers are known to affect how comfortable an employee is with handing over food, so be sure that your path is clear of them before approaching.
I personally prefer this option to dumpster diving because it has been difficult for me to find the exceptional, constantly brimming dumpsters that I have heard tales about. Since May, I have fruitlessly spent at least three hours scouring for dumpstered goods in several Pittsburgh business districts. It has been frustrating, I will admit. But I do know where some are, and my knowledge will no doubt continue to expand with time.
Let me reiterate: redeeming edible food is not a cop-out, it is not lazy (it is actually more work than buying it), and it is not the complete answer to acquiring food in a sustainable way. However, it is something we can do right now to significantly reduce our food consumption footprint.