Our Ongoing Mission to Reduce Household Food Waste


It takes a lot of resources to plant, grow, harvest, transport, package, store, sell, and prepare the food we eat. As a result, food production heavily contributes to climate change; some 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. When food goes uneaten (as 40% of everything we make does), all of the water, soil nutrients, emissions, energy, and man power that went into making it are wasted as well. Worse still, food waste is the single largest occupant in US landfills. There, it releases methane as it decays, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide and responsible for 8% of global greenhouse emissions

We have a broken relationship to food. It is a product of our time to be able to eat tropical fruits year round, or a head of lettuce in the dead of winter in the Midwest. It’s tough to give up that convenience, and it is a lot to ask of people, particularly those struggling with food insecurity (but that’s another topic). There exists a massive disconnect between the consumer and all the effort, time, resources, and people that produce the food we eat. This is a deeply systemic problem that is going to require bold, cross-disciplinary solutions, partnerships across industry and, ultimately, a fundamental mindset shift. How might we encourage people to respect and love every bite of food?

I started studying these facts as a philosophy student at the University of Portland, and quickly learned that climate change can feel not just overwhelming, but down-right paralyzing. I’m not the type to sit idly by, especially when the world’s biggest threat has already begun to affect ecosystems and people around the world. So, what’s a way to have a measurable impact on the food waste problem using the resources at my disposal? How might I make a difference?

Helping people see the problem is principally important. Accessible food waste education and compelling resources that spell out the situation clearly are crucial. Next, I wanted to offer an easy way to be just a bit better, to waste a bit less. I decided to target something niche but massively problematic – household shelf life of fresh produce, and Produce Mate was born.

Produce Mate is a mission-driven startup company dedicated to fighting food waste. We make an antimicrobial kitchen mat that extends the life of your fruits and vegetables. Simply place one on the counter top or in the crisper drawer of your fridge, load produce on top, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Produce Mate is a straightforward way for real people to make a real difference. We believe that the power of cumulative action starts with making conscious decisions about the food we buy and eat. Produce Mate makes it super easy to cut back on food waste at home, helping reduce your carbon footprint and saving your family up to $300 a year in wasted fruits and veggies. Getting a few extra days out of your tomatoes is all it takes to save them from a one-way-trip to the landfill. Plus, we’re getting consumers thinking about their food and wasted every single time they open the fridge and see our mat.

This is just the beginning. I’m not sure that climate change can be innovated away, nor do I think that a bunch of trendy startups are the best way to solve big systemic issues. I am however convinced that giving people actionable ways to be a bit more environmentally friendly is a crucial piece of the puzzle. It’s going to take all of us, doing lots of small things to shift our habits away from blind consumerism and towards a sustainable economy.

Now I’m asking myself harder questions. How do we continue to improve our processes to be more environmentally sustainable? Who are the right partners for us? How can a small company support non-profits and other leading organizations that are doing great work?
I’m so excited to be a part of this group of food systems leaders to begin to look for the answers to those questions. Please reach out if you’re interested in what we’re doing, or if you’re willing to chat on the phone about these sort of ideas! I’d love to hear from you.

One last plug - we’re live on Kickstarter right now and need your support!
Check out this page for lots more information about what we’re up to:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dagan/produce-mate

Thanks for your time; I hope to hear from you!
Here’s to kicking food waste’s ass,

Dagan Kay
CEO @ Produce Mate 
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Dagan Kay
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