Berry fairy

Strawberry fairy

While I was watering the vegetables last week, a mysterious car slowly pulled up in front of the house and parked. After a few moments, a young woman popped out and called hesitantly, unsure of how to start a conversation with a complete stranger.

“I’ve got some food in the car,” she said, and sort of gestured at another house on the block.

Puzzled, I asked if she needed a hand carrying it in somewhere.

“No,” she laughed, “would you like some?”

By now, I had wandered down to the street and could see inside the open trunk. It was jammed full of salad containers and bags of onions, and the back seat held a mountain of strawberries.

“You’re giving this away? Where did it come from?”

She just smiled and said, “It’s my mission to share as much as I can.”

I was still shaking my head minutes later as I stood in the kitchen, washing two gallons of beautiful strawberries.

My best guess is that she works for a local supermarket and can’t bear to see perfectly good food thrown away, all because there’s one rotten berry in a carton. And, man, does it get thrown away in droves.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that we toss about 40% of edible food, the production of which is responsible for 25% of our freshwater usage and 4% of our oil consumption. Not to mention it takes up 133 million tons of landfill space.

That’s why the EPA and USDA have recently joined forces for the Food Waste Challenge, a nationwide program to recover food for human consumption and recycle discards for animal feed, composting, and energy generation.

To help in the effort, the Natural Resources Defense Council has put together this fabulous flyer on easy ways you can reduce waste and save money at the same time. Why not print it out and hang it in the break room at work or on the fridge at home, as a reminder of the little things we can all do to protect the planet — and our pocketbooks.

So, thank you, Berry Fairy, not only for sharing the bounty, but for reminding me that small individual actions can have a profound impact on huge global problems.

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