I’ve cycled across the USA twice now in the summers of 2013 and 2014, and I can say without a doubt that cycling across the country is absolutely one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling ways that I’ve ever spent my time. I really encourage anyone who’s interested and excited for a long bike trip to go for it. To help out, I’ve written this gear list for The Goodfluence Tour, which was my second bike ride across the United States.
You may have already heard a few appalling facts about food waste but just in case you haven’t, here are a few tidbits of information to catch you up on the issue.
-We throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food per year in the United States. That’s more than the budgets for the United States national parks, public libraries, federal prisons, veteran’s health care, the FBI, and the FDA combined.
-About 50 million of our 317 million Americans are food insecure yet we produce enough food to feed over 500 million Americans.
-To create just the amount of food that ends up in the landfills we waste enough water to meet the domestic water needs of every American citizen.
Even with these mind-blowing statistics you probably still need to see it to believe it. That is where I come in.
This weekend I arrived in New York City from my second bike ride across the United States living on food from grocery store dumpsters. On my first ride dumpster diving across the USA, about 70% of my diet came from dumpsters, totaling up to about 280 pounds of food over 4,700 miles of cycling.
I’m willing to bet that you’ve never thought about laundry detergent caps. I hadn’t either, until I found all of these in the basement of one suburban American home. I was pretty blown away, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. I found that the average American family uses 13 bottles of detergent per year. The pile that you see here has about 250 caps in it, so it took about 20 years for one average family to generate it.
Thinking a little deeper, I wondered how many caps are used in the United States each year. There are 115 million households in the United States, which means that’s nearly 1.5 billion caps! End to end, one year’s worth of America’s caps could line the equator nearly three times! That’s just the caps though. Imagine how much space all of the bottles would take up!
Every time I open a dumpster there’s food in it. Time after time I am finding grocery stores dumpsters filled to the brim with perfectly good food. I’m not going to stand for that anymore!
Right now I am cycling across America eating solely from dumpsters and hosting Food Waste Fiascos in major cities in an effort to drastically reduce food waste in America. 1 in 7 American’s don’t have the food they need yet we throw away enough food to feed every hungry American five times over! My solution is real simple. Grocery stores need to stop dumping and start donating! It truly is a no brainer. Stores that donate are protected from lawsuits by the Good Samaritan Food Act They get write offs, which means it’s profitable to donate, they spend less on dumpster fees, and most importantly they are doing what is right for their community! Thousands of stores are already donating to non-profits and food banks across America but it is a very small fraction of what could be done. The most common excuse for not donating is that they fear liability but according to a University of Arkansas study not a single lawsuit has ever been made against a grocery store that has donated food to a food rescue program. So these stores are either highly misinformed or just plain don’t care about people and the planet. However I know humans with hearts run these stores and we can get them to change for the better! It’s up to us to hold them accountable to treat the environment and our hungry Americans with the respect they deserve.
It’s been a huge week in raising awareness about food waste. I created a little media frenzy and my activism was picked up in La Crosse, Madison ran with it, and it blew up in Milwaukee. 14 stories were done between news, newspapers, and radio, and their stories were syndicated by other news outlets around the Midwest as well. There is no doubt that a big impact was made in the Wisconsin region with this campaign.
My friend Dane and I are on a mission to show how much food we waste in the United States, and we know that we’ve got to come up with some creative ways to get people’s attention in the United States. So we decided to make a huge public display of what we uncovered in the dumpsters of Madison, Wisconsin. In a matter of 48 hours of casual dumpster diving we managed to collect thousands of dollars worth of perfectly good food that you see here. Looking at this photo myself, it’s still hard even for me to believe that every bit of this food came from dumpsters.
Over the last three days I’ve been Dumpster Diving Across Wisconsin to raise awareness about our massive food waste issue here in the United States. Previous to this adventure I’ve been Dumpster Diving Across the USA for a year and a half so I expected this week to be a pretty standard for me. I also expected my home state of Wisconsin to do a good job of not wasting food.
But I’ve been completely blown away by what I’ve found in the supermarket dumpsters. Every dumpster I have opened has been FULL of perfectly good food. In a front page La Crosse Tribune story I did a few days ago, I confidently said, “If there’s a dumpster, there’s food in it” and so far I have proved that to be right time and time again. In just three days of biking across Wisconsin living purely on dumpster food, I have found tens of thousands of dollars worth of food. All of this at a time when 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure. This waste of food is also a huge waste of water, fossil fuels, energy, and landfill space and is a root cause to many of the world’s most pressing issues.
Dane and I are bike riding, dumpster diving, Wisconsin brothers with a simple mission- to show the United States how much perfectly good food is wasted and how Americans can be a part of the solution in their own homes and at the market. On August 9th we hopped on our bicycles at bank of the Mississippi River on a journey to cycle across the state of Wisconsin (250 miles over 7 days) eating nothing but food we find in dumpsters, ie the trash, rubbish bins, waste buckets, or as we’ve come to call them, treasure chests. We had a slight bit of worry that we may go hungry but our first dumpster proved otherwise:
Dumpsters in the United States are full of perfectly good food, and my childhood friend Dane Gottschall and I are out to show this by bicycling across Wisconsin fueled 100% by food we find in dumpsters.
This might sound crazy, but what’s even more nuts is that we throw away $165 billion worth of food each year in the United States. This is slightly more than we spend on our entire public education system from kindergarten through university. All of this while 1 in 7 Americans are food insecure.
We’re going to show you that there is so much food in Wisconsin’s dumpsters that we can cycle clear across the state powered by these supermarket treasure chests. Through this adventure we promise to inform you on the food waste problem in the United States in an entertaining and inspirational manner while giving simple tips on how you can be a part of the solution.
I am happy, healthy, and free.
This is how I often feel when I’m riding my bike, especially on cross country trips like this. The Goodfluence Tour is an adventure in simple living, serving others, and in general just being a good influence on the world around me.
I’ve been planting wild flowers across the nation and I’m helping people to start their own gardens and grow food. Check out the freestyle gardening page to learn more and get involved. I’m also inspiring people of all ages to live happier and healthier by teaching them how to live more sustainably and wrote this lead-by-example guide to help you too.
This blog is a recap of all my Facebook posts from the first month of the journey. Some of it is journals of the adventure itself while other entries reflect my perspectives and thoughts inspired by life on the bike. From my home in San Diego to Far East Texas. I’ve loved every minute of it and I hope you’ll gain something from this experience as well.