The United States Department of Agriculture reports that an astounding 30% to 40% of all food produced in America is thrown in the trash. It happens at the retail consumer level. What it basically gets down to is that the average individual or family is not doing a good job with eating leftovers. The remains of most meals are simply thrown away.

Now compare this fact with the reality that nine million people die from famine every year on the planet. It seems a shocking notion that so many people starve to death while millions of others have so much food they can toss a lot of it out. The phenomenon of food waste is a major factor in addressing the issue of food sustainability on a planet populated by more than seven billion people.

Every American can do his or her part for food sustainability by striving to waste less food. All it takes is paying attention to what you buy and eat and plan meals accordingly. Don’t let stuff rot in the refrigerator. It’s a matter of changing bad habits.

Another critical area of food sustainability is choosing what we eat. The key area here is meat vs. plant-based foods. Consider that it takes 2.5 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. Eating more meat puts us on the wrong side of the production ratio.

Meat production also accounts for 18% to 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because raising beef requires growing grains to feed cattle. All this activity is fossil fuel intensive because tractors, harvesters, grain-hauling trucks, and the entire infrastructure of farming are oriented around what is called a petrochemical model of growing food. Cows also pass methane as gas.

Side-stepping meat and eating just the grains and other plants dramatically changes the equation. The net result is far less greenhouse gas production if more people would favor a plant-based diet.

Other ways to eat sustainably include adding more seafood to your diet, buying more food locally (so it doesn’t have to be shipped thousands of miles) and to eat foods that are currently in season where you live.

Shopping at local farmer’s markets to obtain fresh foods grown by people who live near you is among the best sustainable home cooking and eating ideas.