Taylor Swift albums as food waste reduction solutions

Choose your favorite Taylor Swift album to find out how you should tackle food waste like a Super Bowl champ

Taylor Swift on the Eras Tour concert at Sofi Stadium

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Danielle Melgar

Former Food & Agriculture, Advocate, PIRG

Taylor Swift became the only artist ever to win Album of the Year four times when her latest original album, Midnights, earned the top prize at the Grammys on Sunday. As if that wasn’t enough of a news day for Time’s 2023 Person of the Year, she used her acceptance speech for Best Pop Vocal Album to announce a new original album that she would release this April.

In light of that announcement, months ago I, resident Swiftie here at PIRG, put together a guide to pair you with your new favorite food waste reduction solution based on your favorite Taylor Swift album. Now that THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT (the aforementioned new album) has dropped, I’m back with an updated version of this blog. Because, as the TikTok trend goes, we’re advocates! We’re gonna tie our favorite pop culture moments to our cause.

How to End Food Waste (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift (debut): Run a consumer education campaign

While Taylor’s self-titled debut album is by no means the most impactful of her career, it laid the groundwork for her success. Likewise, a solid consumer education campaign–like these campaigns in Ohio and California–is an important introduction to the enormous problem of food waste and a critical entry point after which consumers find themselves paying attention to it more and more.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version): Use food scraps creatively to create bonus meals

The album that gave us romantic, fairytale-inspired hits like “Love Story,” “White Horse,” and “Today Was A Fairytale” is all about fantasy. You know what feels like a fantasy but isn’t? Bonus meals conjured from edible food scraps most people throw away. Whether you roast your leftover squash seeds, turn vegetable scraps into soup stock, or make strawberry milk from the last bit of strawberry jam in the jar, these hacks will have you falling in love with eliminating food waste. Check out our top recommended social media accounts for more tips.

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version): Advocate for K-12 school dining changes

Taylor Swift’s first completely self-written album is a celebration of the power and value of girlhood. It’s only fitting that it be paired with this solution that puts kids in the driver’s seat. Kids can make an enormous difference, not just reducing waste in their schools, but also influencing their parents and peers to reduce waste at home. Check out our Green Schools Guide and our guide to tackling food waste in your kids’ school lunches for ideas for taking action with your kids! If you want to lead an effort to implement dining changes in your school, check out Seven Generations Ahead’s toolkit.

Red (Taylor’s Version): Support improved food donation networks

Taylor Swift is the queen of love–and breakup–songs, and on Red she explores both what makes love great and what makes it messy. Likewise, while donating food to those in need is an important, worthwhile cause, the landscape of food donation is incredibly difficult to navigate. The good news is, while we may not be able to make finding love any less confusing, we absolutely can make food donation easier. Check out Food Recovery Network’s resource center to learn more.

1989 (Taylor’s Version): Promote upcycled foods

Just like Taylor’s first full pop album, upcycled foods – foods that are made from ingredients that would have been discarded, from “ugly” produce to edible but traditionally discarded byproducts – are trendy and hopeful. They get people excited about the possibilities for ending food waste, rather than feeling restrictive and a little boring, like committing to eating the food you already have at home. It’s giving youth, #girlboss, “Welcome to New York” optimism.

Reputation: Learn about anaerobic digestion

Of all Taylor Swift’s albums, this one is by far the biggest spectacle. It is the perfect representation of the resource-intensive, attention-grabbing anaerobic digestion. Just as we don’t yet have the re-recorded Taylor’s Version of this album, so too are we waiting on good examples of scaled-up anaerobic digestion technology outside of the controversial version that factory farms are employing. That’s one reason the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks it relatively low in its hierarchy of food waste solutions.

Devoted Swifties won’t listen to this album until its Taylor’s Version comes out. Likewise, we should consider whether it makes sense to invest our limited resources in this technology while there are so many other solutions to scale up. “Don’t Blame Me,” but it’s “Delicate” and we might not be “Ready For It.”

Lover: Grow, harvest, produce, and buy only what you need

From the title track to “Paper Rings” and “It’s Nice to Have A Friend,” this album and era is about slowing down, consuming less, and finding peace by doing less and appreciating the beautiful things you have. We could save ourselves a lot of resources by taking these lessons to heart when it comes to our food system.

The United Nations estimates that, every year, one third of all food produced worldwide – 1.3 billion metric tons of food worth about $1 trillion – goes to waste during harvesting and transportation or is thrown away. That results in a colossal waste of all the resources that went into producing, transporting, and processing the food.

Meanwhile, according to the World Food Programme, “Right now, the world produces enough food to nourish every child, woman and man on the planet. … All the food produced but never eaten would be sufficient to feed two billion people. That’s more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe.”

If we focused on making better use of all the abundance we already create, we could right size our food system and feed the world with fewer resources.

folklore: Invest in community compost

Community compost is an old solution that’s been updated for the modern era. Likewise, Taylor’s “the last great american dynasty” and “epiphany” draw parallels between the past and present day. The album also emerged in a time of great isolation, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and brought fans together in community, much like community compost arrangements connect neighbors through their shared commitment to the environment and the communal resource they are creating. Finally, its earthy sound naturally lends itself to a comparison to compost – breaking down what’s dead so that it can support new life. To learn more about how composting works, check out this guide from the EPA.

evermore: Get your city to commit to centralized food scrap recycling

As the sister album to folklore, evermore of course has to be another compost* solution. While folklore borrows heavily from the past, evermore leans into plant motifs. “ivy” highlights the powerful influence of this fast-growing plant that forms a network wherever it grows, much as expanding compost infrastructure quickly grows its effectiveness. “willow” is about how easily and naturally one bends to powerful influences in their environment, just as access to curbside food scrap pick-up makes it easy to divert food from landfills.

Cities and states across the country are starting to move in that direction, with Vermont and California requiring food scrap recycling statewide, New York City adopting universal curbside food scrap pick-up, and Chicago launching a new food scrap drop-off program.

Bonus: The title track is a poetic rendering of the feeling of taking your food waste out to the bin in the midst of a long Chicago winter. I present as evidence: “and I was catching my breath / staring out an open window / catching my death / and I couldn’t be sure / I had a feeling so peculiar / that this pain would be for / evermore.” I rest my case.

*Food scrap recycling doesn’t always mean composting! Many food scrap pick-up and drop-off programs actually send the food scraps to an anaerobic digest (see Reputation for more info).

Midnights: Meal plan every week

As the album’s title suggests, it is about the thoughts that keep us up at night. Maybe you’re tossing and turning over food waste – did I waste that bag of lettuce because I forgot to pack salads for lunch this week?. Maybe you’re just trying to figure out when, what, and how you’re going to feed your family.

If you’re plagued by “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”s, give meal planning a try. It can save you time, money, and stress and save the planet, taking you from “Anti-Hero” to “Mastermind.” Use the EPA’s guide to meal planning to get started.

THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT: Support simplifying and standardizing date labels

More like The Tortured Produce Department. Figuring out when your food goes “Down Bad” shouldn’t take as much work as Swifties put into deciphering hidden meanings in Taylor Swift’s songs.

Her latest album is drawing attention for its lengthy 31 song track list, but there are almost double that many different labels people encounter on food, ranging from “Expires on” to “Most wholesome if used before.”

Arguing over the hidden meanings and obscured subjects of the 31 tracks on THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT (TTPD) might be a time-honored tradition for Swift fans. But we shouldn’t have to creatively interpret the labels that tell us whether our food is still safe to eat. Date labels vary in meaning from state to state and from one company to the next, and don’t have a standardized definition. 

We’re hoping that will change with the passage of the Food Date Labeling Act later this year which, much like the surprise that TTPD is in fact a double album, would give us a double feature: the Act would eliminate over 1 billion pounds of food waste annually, while also alleviating barriers to food donation and ensuring more food gets eaten.

Hopefully, with less creative interpretations needed in our fridge, we can spend more of our word-sleuthing skills where we really want them: figuring out what Tay’s lyrics mean.

Need some extra motivation to get started tackling food waste in your life? Turn on your favorite Taylor Swift album as you dig into our tip guides and other resources. In the meantime, I’ll keep a “Blank Space” for the next album and the next breakthrough solution to food waste.


Danielle Melgar

Former Food & Agriculture, Advocate, PIRG