Earth Day was last week, so we’re thinking about ways we can take action to live more sustainably, especially when it comes to food waste. According to a recent study, the average American throws out nearly a pound of food per day. All of this wasted food ends up in landfills where it contributes to climate change (read more about food waste & the environment here ). But there are lots of ways we can reduce that amount—read on to hear how you can be a food waste warrior!
Reducing how much food you end up throwing out starts with how much, and what, you buy. Before you head to the grocery store or farmers market, make a list of what you plan to cook and eat for the week. Always check your fridge and pantry as you write your list, to make sure you’re not buying an ingredient you already have. Take a peek at this guide to meal prep to get some ideas for how to plan and shop for healthy meals. Another great way to reduce food waste (and packaging waste!) at the store is to buy in bulk. Bring your own bags or containers and stock up on pulses, grains, nuts, and more at your local grocery. Here’s a list of bulk food shops by state, and a handy guide to shopping in bulk.
Be a food storage genius
Ok, you don’t have to be a genius. But, there are lots of common mistakes people make when they are storing food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Each variety of produce has its own preferences for temperature, light, and moisture that will determine how long it will stay fresh and tasty. Check out this helpful set of graphics to see where to put your produce! Another commonly wasted food is fresh herbs—ever notice that the bundle of cilantro you brought home to make guacamole goes bad in only a few days? Turns out there are some super simple methods for making your fresh herbs last for weeks—read up on these techniques here. There are also a lot of myths floating around about when food goes bad, thanks in part to expiration dates on most packaged foods. These dates are not regulated by federal laws, and are more an indicator for grocery stores than a measure of food safety. Here is more information about sell-by dates.
Get your hands dirty!
Despite your best efforts, some food is going to be inedible—whether it’s vegetable peels and scraps, or some leftovers that you forgot about before going out of town. But that doesn’t mean it has to end up in a landfill and create lots of nasty methane gas! Those food scraps can be repurposed as compost, and create healthier soil for more food to be grown. If you have outdoor space, you can create a compost bin, but composting in a city apartment is also totally doable and easy (tip: keep your compost in the freezer to avoid odor)! Here’s a beginner’s guide to composting, both inside and outside, and here’s a map of dropoff locations in Los Angeles.
Keep learning & get involved
Like all habits, reducing your food waste is a learning process. Stay open to learning about new ways to live more sustainably, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Food waste occurs all around us, but many of us don’t see the massive amount of perfectly edible food that gets wasted. Whether it’s fruit falling off the trees in our backyards, or truckloads of fresh produce at the Wholesale Market that doesn’t meet cosmetic standards, food waste happens all the time, all around us. It’s built into the fabric of our food system, and it takes a lot of individual and systemic change to make an impact on this problem. But that hard work is well worth it, because reducing food waste is one of the simplest, most impactful ways to change on the future of our planet. Our numbers reflect this: over the last 10 years, Food Forward’s produce recovery programs have offset 26,734 metric tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to taking 5,629 cars off the road for a year.
So keep learning, ask questions, and get involved! Come out to a Food Forward volunteer event, and be on the frontlines of reducing food waste in your community. Donate to support our work and help get food that would otherwise go to waste into the hands of food insecure individuals. Vote in local and national elections for officials and policies that support a sustainable world. If we all pitch in, we’ll create the change we want to see!