Words by Tess Becker
Food waste is a gargantuan issue in the United States, with 119 billion pounds of food discarded each year at a cost of $408 billion, according to the nonprofit Feeding America.
About 40% of food produced in the country is discarded by Americans - whether that be individuals in their homes, grocery stores, or restaurants.
Imagine how that food could otherwise be used! All those ingredients could go towards 130 billion meals and save the average American household more than a month's worth of rent.
It's an open goal for tackling food waste, hunger and poverty all at once - a three-pronged solution that Prateeksha Chandraghatgi is keen to offer with her app, CutWaste.
This innovative app automates household shopping and meal prep in order to cut waste and costs. It auto-builds shopping lists based on households consumption habits then converts shopping receipts into waste-reducing recipes.
The seeds of the idea for CutWaste were sewn in Prateeksha's childhood. Growing up alongside keenly eco-conscious family members, she became aware of planetary limits at a young age. Her environmentalist roots led to a journey of discovery, from which CutWaste later emerged.
“I wasn't particularly focusing on sustainability up until last year, when I went through an introspective phase,” Prateeksha tells Smiley News. “I want to be doing something that's more rewarding and more in line with the world that I imagine my future kids or future generations.”
Her curiosity led her down a path of solutions-oriented research, on which she explored how she could best pursue climate justice.
“Food waste space jumped out as an issue that was very surprising in terms of the impact it had on sustainability,” she says. “I calculated made up 11% of global emissions and 22% of water use.”
Responding to this daunting environmental footprint, her app harnesses AI to track when food may spoil, by scheduling recipes.
It aims to make household meal preparation more convenient while also reducing household waste.
“The two main reasons why people throw away food are 1) that you buy more than you can eat... and 2) you just have so much in your two refrigerators and a pantry nowadays, you cannot realistically keep track of everything,” Patreeksha says.
CutWaste does that work for you, making homes more efficient.
“It just gives a simple way for you to see what's going to spoil in the next couple of weeks,” she says. “So out of the 500 items in your pantry, there might be 20 items that you should incorporate into your next meals to reduce waste.”
Ultimately, Prateeksha hopes people will see that sustainability is available to everyone.
She says: “I just want people to realize that there is a simple, easy and convenient way to make this positive change in their own lifestyles, and it benefits them in many different ways."
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Beacon Food Forest. This is one of the largest food forests in the country. Find out more and support them here.
Cultural Survival. They are an indigenous-led nonprofit focused on empowering indigenous Americans and helping the planet. Find out more.
American Forests. A conservation organization focused on preserving and protecting American forests. Support them here.