Many times when we talk about zero waste, we focus on the packaging. While packaging is an important aspect to reducing waste, we seldom talk about food waste. In a USDA report from 2004 it was reported that in the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. That is a lot of food that ends up in landfills! The vast majority of households in the United States do not compost. There are ways to reduce or eliminate food waste in your home. Here are a few tips.
Ways to reduce food waste:
- Make a shopping list: Keep a running tab of items that the family will need, and add it to the shopping list. Take your shopping list with you when you make your trip to the market
- Only buy what you will be able to eat immediately, or what can be stored. I don’t know about yo, but sometimes I can get excited about how healthy I will eat, and before I know it, I have a lot of baby spinach that I have to eat or blend into smoothies. This is because I bought way more than me and my family could consume. We power through it, but it would have been better to know my limits.
- Plan your meals: If you plan out what meals you and your family will have ahead of the week, it makes shopping easier. It also helps to reduce how much food will be bought.
- Consider storage needs: Some foods like rice and beans can be stored in canisters for some time. They have a longer shelf life than bell peppers. Learn more about how to store fruits and vegetables so that you are optimizing purchases, and not wasting.
- Make broth: Some vegetables will result in all of it not being consumed. For those items, consider making a vegetable broth, and storing it in the freezer to use in the future.
- Start composting: If you factor in the tips above, there shouldn’t be too much that remains from your fruit and vegetables. Using what remains, try starting a compost bin. If you don’t have the space to have one, try to find a community garden that would welcome your peels.
Zero waste efforts are often focused on the packaging. While this is great, and I by no means intend to discourage anyone. Also consider that food will break down and release methane, carbon dioxide and/or water vapor, all of which are greenhouse gases. We should take this into consideration, zero waste isn’t only about the packaging. Reusable bags are cool, and gaining popularity. What we often aren’t talking about how many of us may be guilty of tossing the banana out because it has one too many brown spots. Prevention is better that cure right?! Let’s look deeper.
I would be interested in learning what besides packaging have you started to consider on your zero waste journey.