With the Halloween festivities over, most people will spend the next few days taking down the spine-chilling decorations and tossing the pumpkin Jack-o’-Lanterns, or scary monsters, that they spent hours creating. While the millions of gourds that end up in landfills every November is alarming, even more so is the massive amount of food waste generated since most people fail to take advantage of the fruit’s edible flesh and seeds.
A recent study, commissioned by German food and beverage company Knorr, estimated that the 18,000 tons of edible pumpkin innards, from the 8 million pumpkins thrown out in the UK each year, was enough to make pumpkin pies to feed the entire country. The numbers are even more alarming in the US, where over 1.3 billion pumpkins end up in landfill each year. Things are no different in Canada. While the pumpkin harvests draw thousands of people to farms all over the country, farmer Rob Galey believes most buyers only use the fruit for fall decoration, not to eat.
UK-based environmental waste charity Hubbub has been trying to raise awareness of the growing crisis with a fun #PumpkinRescue, campaign. The initiative encourages people celebrating Halloween to avoid throwing away the edible portions of the fruit during carving, and provides tips on how to turn them into a scrumptious soup, a tasty puree, or a lip-smacking pie. Since the effort began in 2014, the group has reached over 12,200 people through 199 workshops and “saved” the innards of over 17,000 pumpkins from the landfill.
Though Hubbub’s focus has been preventing perfectly good food from being tossed, eating the flesh is also good for our planet. As the pumpkins rot, they release large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide – both of which are greenhouse gases harmful to the environment in such a vast volume. While the U.S. Department of Energy has teamed up with industry experts to try to develop facilities that can convert plant and waste material to biofuels, they are not fully-functional yet. Until that happens, be sure to eat, or at least compost, your decorated gourd. Your tummy and the planet will thank you for it!
Resources: Inhabitat.com, Guardian.co.uk, Hubbub.org.uk