How much money could you have stashed away 10 or 20 years from now if, annually, you invested the money that the average American family of four spends on food that goes to waste?
Disclaimer! I am not providing financial advice…results may vary…invest at your own risk…and so on and so forth…
According to the National Resources Defense Council, the average American family of four spends $1,800 every year on food that goes uneaten. That works out to $150 a month! Now imagine if the average family avoided wasting food and invested that $1,800. Or, don’t imagine and check out the graphs below. I’ve come up with four scenarios. For all of them, I’ve chosen to compound the interest daily (I’ve assumed you’d choose mutual funds).
- $150 per month for 10 years, invested at 5 percent
- $150 per month for 10 years, invested at 8 percent
- $150 per month for 20 years, invested at 5 percent
- $150 per month for 20 years, invested at 8 percent
I’ve chosen fairly modest returns of 5 and 8 percent. If you have a higher risk tolerance, you can potentially earn (or lose) much more. And the longer you invest at each rate, the more money you’ll earn, thanks to the magic of compound interest.
Where to stash your money—or not
In addition to the potent methane gas that uneaten food generates in a landfill, every step along the production and distribution of that uneaten food creates emissions. You won’t want to avoid these emissions by cutting food waste, only to turn around and generate emissions elsewhere through your investments.
The world’s biggest 60 banks have provided $3.8tn of financing for fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2015, according to a report by a coalition of NGOs.The Guardian, “Big banks’ trillion-dollar finance for fossil fuels ‘shocking’, says report,” March 24, 2021.
Break up with the Big Banks
If you’ve never invested before, you have the benefit of simply starting fresh and choosing a bank that doesn’t finance/enable an industry hell-bent on the destruction of, well, everything. The largest financiers/enablers of the fossil fuel industry are:
- JPMorgan Chase: the worst in the world, five years in a row
- Citi: second worst in the world
- Wells Fargo: world’s top fracking banker
- Bank of America: another big fracking enabler
- RBC: worst in Canada
- MUFG: worst in Asia
- Barclays: worst in Europe
- Mizuho: second worst in Asia
- TD: world’s top tar sands banker
- BNP Paribas: while better than all of the above, BNP Paribas has nonetheless financed fossil fuel companies to the tune of $121 billion since the Paris Agreement
You can read more about the appalling rankings of these banks and others in the highly respected annual report, Banking on Climate Chaos.
Fossil free investments
Look up any mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that interest you on the website fossilfreefunds.org. From the site:
Fossil Free Funds analyzes the climate impact of thousands of U.S. mutual funds and ETFs and shows you if your money is being invested in fossil fuel companies, or companies with high carbon footprints. We make it easy to know what you own, so you can align your investments with your values.
A credit union is another good option for your banking. Member-owned, not-for-profit credit unions exist to help their members, not big business.
How to reduce food waste
Now that you’re planning what you’ll do with your extra 20 plus thousand dollars in 10 years, you’ll need some strategies for reducing wasted food. I’ve written many posts on the topic. This one lists 23 easy ways to cut food waste. But I’ll repeat my number one tip here: Shop the refrigerator and pantry first.
If you use up food that you have on hand, you’ll waste less food. Pretty simple. So before you buy more food, take a quick glance through your refrigerator and pantry. Think of a dish or two that you can cook with what you find and make a list of any missing ingredients. What else would you like to eat within the next week or few days? Add any ingredients you’ll need to your shopping list.
This simple trick requires a bit of a new (old) mindset. Usually, we pick out a recipe, make a list, shop, cook the dish and then shove the leftover random ingredients into the back of the refrigerator, along with the leftovers. Do that a few times every week and the uneaten food piles up quickly.
You’ll find more ideas in my book, out next Tuesday! I’ve filled it with waste-slashing tips, including end-of-recipe ideas for using up ingredients left over from making the dishes. You can learn more about the book here. Think of it as another investment.