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Food Waste Entrepreneurs: Turning Trash Into Cash

These food entrepreneurs are turning waste into opportunity.

27 year-old Jenny Dawson was inspired by peas. Pristine looking peas that had traveled all the way from Kenya to London only to be tossed aside at a wholesale food market, destined for the landfill. Shortly after that first memorable experience of good food wasted, Dawson saw a crate of apples on a friend’s farm left to rot because they were too small. Inspired to make something of all this perfectly edible discarded food, Dawson launched her business Rubies in the Rubble. With the defining core mantra “Never let a good thing go to waste,” Rubies in the Rubble collects surplus fruits and vegetables before they are discarded and turns them into delicious chutney and jam.

As Dawson explained to CNN, “Preserves seemed almost a natural thing to be doing with a glut of fruit and veg, because it then lasts up to 10 months.”

With staggering reports out from the U.N. and NRDC showing that up to 40 percent of food is wasted worldwide, the food waste crisis has begun to receive overdue attention. Innovative entrepreneurs like Dawson see this as an opportunity to capitalize on great produce.

Last October, the British grocery chain Waitrose achieved its goal of zero food waste. That means no food was sent to the landfill. Instead, any unwanted food was donated or sent to anaerobic digestion plants to create biogas. Following suit, another U.K. giant, Marks & Spencer, has announced a similar goal.

In Berkeley, California, two business school students, Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez, saw an opportunity in discarded coffee grounds. When they learned that mushrooms grow well in the grounds, they saw business potential and Back to the Roots was born. Initially a business of farming and selling mushrooms, they now sell a home mushroom growers' kit. Since founding their business in 2009, these young entrepreneurs have spoken at TedX and have been featured on ABC, NBC and PBS.

While these businesses won't solve the massive problem of food waste, they address the issue in a creative and profitable way, and they help to raise public consciousness. Sustainable America has a goal of increasing food availability 50 percent in America by 2030. We plan to do this is by increasing food production while simultaneously reducing food waste. If we want to be able to feed 7 billion people and counting, then the food waste problem must be addressed.

Click here to add cutting down on your food waste to help feed 7 billion people to your to do list.

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship. This week, measure your carbon footprint. Follow along and join the discussion at #goodcitizen.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Stephen Butler

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