The Dumpster Diet

Canadian filmmakers turned a bounty of “trash” into six months of meals—and a mouth-watering documentary, "Just Eat It."

Just Eat It - A food waste story (Official Trailer) from Grant Baldwin on Vimeo.

When Vancouver filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer discovered that 40 percent of all food produced in North America never gets eaten, the couple decided to try to survive for half a year on expired or thrown-out food only. It was a lot easier than they thought it would be.  

Stores, restaurants, and markets toss mountains of perfectly edible food every day, and Balwin and Rustemeyer were there to collect. The two brought in all they needed for a nutritious diet—bins of unopened hummus containers, stacks of fresh egg cartons, even huge stashes of chocolate bars. After a few months of dumpster diving, they were giving it way, divvying their stockpile up among friends and neighbors (with candy to spare for Halloween trick-or-treaters).

The couple’s six-month food bill? About $200 for the estimated $20,000 bounty of free eats.

Out of the trash heap, Baldwin and Rustemeyer found the ingredients for tasty meals as well as a lively documentary about food waste. Just Eat It is a beautifully shot 74-minute film that follows the endless river of food waste from farm fields to grocery shelves to your kitchen table.

But the film isn’t just about wasting food—it’s about wasting all the water, fuel, and land we use to make that food. Dana Gunders, a staff scientist at NRDC (disclosure) who wrote a report on food waste, explains how Americans squander 4 percent of all energy generated in this country on uneaten food. When it comes to water consumption, Gunders likens the water required for a single hamburger thrown out at your family barbecue to letting the shower run for 90 minutes and never hopping in.

The documentary premièred in the spring and is screening in a variety of locations in Australia, Argentina, and the United States later this month. Its digital release is coming next fall. So go put on some dumpster-diving gear and grab yourself some free popcorn. 


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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