Part 2 of a three part series on renewing Maine’s countryside.
If there’s one thing that never goes wasted in this home, it’s coffee. These days I’m into making cold brew coffee concentrate and let me tell you, it makes seriously, great tasting coffee. I don’t know what else to tell you, but to say it’s the cooler counterpart to iced coffee. The concentrate is completely simple to make, and while you can enlist fancy contraptions to make it happen, I use a half gallon mason jar. That’s it. Well, that and coffee. And water. The ratio is up to the individual, but I use one cup of ground, Fairtrade coffee to four cups of cold, filtered water. I choose to use slightly coarse ground, but play with it and see what suits you. The finer the grind, the more cloudy the coffee. Cover your grounds in your mason jar with water, stir a bit and let it sit for at least 12 hours. I know, it seems like a long wait. I make it at night and then sleep through the misery of waiting. When the wait is over, strain the coffee through something finely meshed. I use cheesecloth. For the moment, put aside the strained grounds. Rinse out your strainer to use again. The concentrate will store nicely in your fridge for about 2 weeks. For each tumbler of icy goodness, use as much or as little concentrate, as you wish. I add ice cubes and farm fresh cream from my favorite, grass-fed cows down the road. It’s deliciously, naturally sweet, so I have no need for sugar. I am grateful. For all of it.
What does cold brewing coffee have to do with food waste and loss? In brewing, I have no waste or loss. The potential is there, but I compost or scatter the grounds around my hydrangeas. Sometimes I make them into a body scrub. You can research lots of uses, which are much better than parceling them off to the local landfill where they’ll languish, most likely, in a plastic bag, forever. Maybe, if you’re lucky, your local landfill has compost collection. That would be awesome. If I happen to not use all of the concentrate for iced coffee, I’ll turn it into coffee jello, freeze into cubes, use as a baking ingredient, or dilute it and use on my plants. I don’t throw it down the drain.
For the most part, Americans are amazingly efficient with food production. We are also, amazingly skillful at producing food loss and waste. I encourage you to explore this topic further. Consider food loss as it relates to production and has possibility of recovery, for instance, as in the field or kitchen. Food waste is more closely identified with throwing edible food away at the consumer or grower level.
Americans waste about 40 percent of the food we produce, which translates into roughly 133 billion pounds of food, while 1 in 6 children go to bed or school hungry. That 133 billion pounds of food would feed the world’s hungry. Developed countries lead the way with food loss and waste, but of those countries, America leads.
We use copious amounts of fuel, fertilizer and pesticides in food production, making food waste and loss, a serious environmental concern. Most often, those inputs go right into our groundwater, which lead to pollution of our waterways and growth of health concerns. Rotting food in our landfills creates a carbon footprint in the form of methane, ranking third, as defined by greenhouse emissions. Reduction in food waste and loss achieves economic, environmental and social dividends. Yet, the US has done little to curb waste and loss, while other countries are making great strides.
My mother used to say “take what you’ll eat, but eat what you take”. At times in my life, food was scarcer than hen’s teeth. My mother’s insightful words have served me well. I was raised to be conscious of from where my food came. How was it grown? Who are the people who produce it? What is the impact of throwing away food? Who remains hungry? In other words, exercising awareness and gratitude.
“It costs as much for what you throw away, as what you keep”. Money often motivates people, so if that works for you, go with it. I’ll stick with gratitude.