Once fall begins, pumpkins are everywhere. They're in pie or your PSL (or at least, the flavoring associated with them is in your coffee). They're in the patch, on your porch as jack-o-lanterns, or on your dining room table as decoration. They are essential to the season. Even if you're like me and don't like them, they're unavoidable. 

The Problem

pasture, pumpkin, vegetable, gourd, squash
Allison Beckner

The pumpkins' overwhelming presence contributes to food waste. According to 2012 data from the USDA, only a fifth of pumpkins produced are processed for food items, like canned pumpkin. 

That means most pumpkins grown in the US aren't eaten. Instead, many of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins produced each year are used for decoration. They're carved and placed on porches, then tossed out when they start to rot. 

While some people roast the seeds, most of the perfectly edible flesh is wasted. 

cereal, nut, pumpkin seeds, coffee, pasture
Marina Poole

On top of the large amount of pumpkin waste, the US Department of Energy says pumpkins emit greenhouse gases when they are thrown in landfills. These gases contribute to global warming. So what can you do about it?

The Solution

pasture, grass
Allison Beckner

While you could simply stop carving pumpkins or using them for decoration, that's not realistic. Jack-o-lanterns are an essential fall tradition, and not much rivals the experience of picking your own pumpkin from the patch. Plus, those plastic jack-o-lanterns look tacky. 

However, you can be less wasteful when carving pumpkins by turning as much of that jack-o-lantern into food as possible. Shortly after carving your pumpkin, scrape out as much flesh as possible and puree it to turn it into soup (like NPR did) or pie. You can also turn it into a pumpkin roll, or other various desserts.

If you don't want to eat pumpkin—and who can blame you, really—you can compost them. Or, if you don't have a garden or need for compost, you can donate them at your local farmer's market to be composted. 

If anything, simply be more conscious of the waste you're creating before tossing your jack-o-lantern in the trash.