Every year over 40% of food is wasted in the U.S. That’s 72 billion pounds of food that never reaches the kitchen table. In the spring of 2018, The Nature Conservancy partnered with Sporting Kansas City, a Major League Soccer club, to spotlight this economic and environmental issue through their new initiative, Sporting Sustainability.
Sporting Sustainability aims to raise awareness around the impact of food waste prevention, including greenhouse gas emissions reduction, responsible agricultural land use and fresh water conservation, while utilizing educational tools to encourage the adoption of sustainable practices amongst consumers.
“The Nature Conservancy has a long history of working with partners and collaborating on projects that are rooted in science and advance our mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends,” said Adam McLane, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Missouri. “Through this partnership we hope to advance the understanding that individual choices are made every day around food and food waste and how those choices impact our natural resources. We commend Sporting Kansas City on taking this step to recognize the impacts of food waste and how they can use their platform to make a difference for people and nature.
Graham Zusi with the Assist
Now, in its second year, Sporting Sustainability is getting some help from Sporting Kansas City soccer star, Graham Zusi. “I have always cared deeply about protecting our environment especially through living sustainably,” said Graham. “When I heard about our partnership with TNC, I jumped at the opportunity to help educate others on how they can also live a sustainable lifestyle.”
Sporting Sustainability uses educational tools to encourage sustainable practices among consumers, such as greenhouse gas emissions reduction, responsible agricultural land use and freshwater conservation.
Besides promoting the initiative to fans during gameday activities and public service announcements at Children’s Mercy Park, there is a big push to engage the youth through the Sporting Club Network, which covers six Midwest states, in 35 cities, with players as young as 2 years old.
“Many lifelong habits are formed at a young age. If we can educate and instill these good habits through the youth programs, the future of their world will be better off for it,” said Graham.
The success of Sporting Sustainability relies on the individual actions of people who take the pledge to reduce their household food waste. “You would be shocked at what just one person’s act of living sustainably can do,” said Graham. “All of those small acts build up to create a real impact. You may think you are a small fish in a big sea, but a collective effort can make a huge difference.”
Being a part of this initiative has also made Graham more mindful of his own actions. “One thing that Sporting Sustainability has made me most aware of is how much perfectly good food is thrown away. I have been much more conscious about saving leftovers, meal planning and buying sustainably-made products,” he said.
Last year alone, participants who took the Sporting Sustainability pledge reduced their collective household food waste by 159,360 pounds. It takes 1,752,960 square feet of cropland—or nearly 23 soccer fields—to grow this amount of food.
“It makes me feel proud that Sporting Sustainability and TNC are doing what they can to educate, inspire, and change how we look and act toward food waste and its impacts on our environmental future,” said Graham.
That pride is shared at TNC. “We are proud to be partners with Graham Zusi and Sporting Kansas City on this initiative,” said Adam McLane, TNC’s state director in Missouri. “It’s estimated that 40 percent of food produced is wasted at the retail and consumer level. Reduction of this percentage will have direct impacts on our water and land resources and greenhouse gas emissions.”