An End to Dumpster Diving

My mom always tells me – as she struggles to log into Facebook or accidentally calls someone because of her touch screen – that she wishes I grew up when she did, before technology consumed our lives the way it does now. I admit, sometimes it does scare me how invasive our gadgets have become, and how dependent we are on them. But if the age of technology is only going to evolve, why not harness the interconnectedness for something monumental? Many innovators and entrepreneurs – even the big guns in the sustainability movement – are embracing the power of smartphone apps rather than resisting them, as contradictory as that may appear. If apps can publish filtered photos of food, conjure up any recipe imaginable, and delivery fresh meals 24/7 – why can’t they also keep track of food waste? Better yet, why can’t they prevent that waste to begin with? Still in it’s trial run, the app by NYC-based company PareUp aims to do just that.

Photo Courtesy of PareUp
Photo Courtesy of PareUp

Ever send food back because it wasn’t what you wanted? Ever opt out of taking leftovers home because you had after dinner plans? Chances are – and you are hardly alone – that you’ve wasted food before, either because it was wasn’t perfect or because you were too full. Meanwhile, 1 in 8 people around the world go to sleep each night without having eaten. Some more food for thought:

  • 30% of food ($165 billion) is wasted in the U.S.*

  • Every day in NYC 6.5 million pounds of food is thrown away*

  • New York spends $85 million every year on food waste disposal*

In commercial settings – between overstocking, changing menus, and plain carelessness – food that is perfectly edible is thrown away. What PareUp will do is track food that didn’t sell in restaurants but is untouched and unspoiled, and re-sell it to consumers, even other vendors, at a wildly discounted price. With the app, consumers will be able to browse any participating vendor’s inventory, pick and choose what they want, and arrange to pick it up. If the app succeeds in its mission, it could significantly transform the cost and damage of waste management, the environmental impacts of food production, and the threat of food security. The food wasted in NYC alone is enough to properly nourish an impoverished country, yet millions here at home are part of that global starvation statistic.

Photo Courtesy of CNN
Photo Courtesy of CNN

Current endeavors to supply New Yorkers with food via leftovers already exist. City Harvest, a partner of ours, has a similar mission as PareUp, but with a more charitable business plan; much of the food is donation based both from the suppliers and those receiving the goods. However, City Harvest is not as tech-savvy as an app and doesn’t have the potential for profit (which is not necessary for success and should not be the drive behind solving social issues, but is arguably important in recruiting participants). PareUp may be exclusive to those who have access to smartphones, but I think this gives it an even bigger reach. I support its message: that too much waste exists, too much money is spent on processing this waste, and a majority of the waste isn’t even waste at all. I look forward to hearing more about PareUp’s trial run and hope to see it among my app collection sometime soon.

Photo Courtesy of PareUp
Photo Courtesy of PareUp
*Fact courtesy of PareUp || Blog based on the article originally posted on Canoe

Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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