Just when we thought the sharing economy couldn't get any hungrier, a new app has launched, allowing enterprising San Franciscans whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs to sell the food right off their plates.
In other words, you can gorge yourself at Mission Chinese and then turn that Tiki pork belly into digital dimes.
While skeptics debated the site's provenance, we confirmed it's actually not a joke. Seattle entrepreneur Dan Newman says he and a few friends conceived the idea for LeftoverSwap a few years ago, on a night they ordered way too much pizza and couldn't fit the remaining portions in the fridge.
"We were like, 'We don't want to throw this out, and it would just be great to broadcast that we have extra pizza to share,'" he recalls.
The idea really started to take shape after Newman hosted a couch surfer in his apartment who self-identified as a "freegan" -- meaning he only feasted from other people's plates, or from the spoils of dumpster dives. "That was enough to spark initiative in me," Newman says.
Then he did a little more research into the food system, and found that humans actually do waste tons of food -- up to 40 percent of what we produce, according to stats re-purposed on his website. While Whole Foods and other retailers make a concerted effort to donate their surplus to local food banks, much of it still winds up rotting away, or fattening an unwanted population of rodents and microorganisms. It's become such a vexing problem that sustainable food activists have launched their own cottage industry to help tackle it -- mostly by publishing books and generating TED talks.
To Newman, the most effective solution lay in modern technology. His AirBnB-style app, which is still in Beta, would connect overzealous diners to hungry buyers within the same zip code. Selling your leftovers is simple, according to the website: Just snap a picture with your smartphone, name your price, and arrange for a pick-up.
If the thought of that is making you dyspeptic, just think of how much it will save the planet, Newman says. "Through increasing the efficiency of each plot of land dedicated to food production, we can reduce our intensive use of natural resources, and reduce our expansion into sensitive environmental areas," he writes in the site's elevator pitch.
Sure, he and the other LeftoverSwap founders go a bit overboard in suggesting that their service will also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and save an endangered population of Northern Spotted Owls. But they are right about one thing: 99 percent of us don't need that second helping of beef lo mein.