CAN: Act Sustainably
Lifestyle Choices - Food Waste
Our Food Waste Problem
In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. Much of that is out of our control since that is food that never makes it into our homes. Let's take a look at the portion that is totally under our control.
The impact of our household food waste
Though we may have little control over the food waste that occurs before it reaches our home, we have full control over reducing food waste in our home. On average, U.S. households waste between 30% and 40% of the food they purchase. The average family of four throws out $1,500 of food a year. Beside the humanitarian and economic impact of food waste, there is an environmental impact. First, energy is used to produce and transport the food. Then energy is used to dispose of the food waste. Twenty-one percent of landfills consist of food waste where it emits methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gasses. Other food waste is incinerated. No wonder that California just implemented a law to require composting of organic and food waste to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and New York State now requires large businesses and organizations to compost food waste.
Start reducing food waste today. It’s easy.
Easy Tips for reducing your food waste Today
Ideally we are purchasing only what we need and not wasting what we have. Some simple techniques to help us do this include meal planning, creating shopping lists, organizing the refrigerator and cabinets to ensure we use food that is nearing its expiration, learning how to best store food, and reducing clutter in the refrigerator so that we know what we have.
Don't throw out leftovers - use them! Create sandwiches, add them to salads, bring them to work for lunch. Be creative. Add a flourish like pickles or another condiment to add some spark. There are also techniques to make foods, such as lettuce, perk up again.
Turn the food into something else, like stews and soups. Find recipes online that will use that ingredient. If you have fruit that is beyond its time and not moldy, cut it into pieces and put it in a suet cage and hang it from a tree, or leave it on a rock for fruit eating birds. You can also make yourself a smoothy. See the following section for great ideas on how to recycle those ingredients and leftovers into delicious new meals.
Eating foods in season increases the likelihood that they are produced and procured locally, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of transport from other regions and countries. For a useful app that tells what is in season locally, click here.
Understand Food 'expiration/Best Used' Labeling
Unfortunately the confusing dates stamped on our food is leading to unnecessary food waste. So let's examine what these dates mean and why most food is perfectly fine after these dates.
Best by date/Best if used by date is just informative and not to be taken too seriously. It means that the food will probably be at its peak freshness before or on that date. Most foods are fine well after that date and do not need to be discarded. Expires on/Expiration date is the only date regulated by law and food should not be sold or consumed after that date. Sell by date means that the food is nearing its expiration on that date - it may be fine for awhile after that date. To be sure, just consume those products closer to the sell by date. Check out this great article that walks you through how to determine when food should not be eaten. Basically, it is not the date on our food that determines when food must be tossed. The article will explain how to use your smell, vision and taste to identify rancid food. This is a technique that has worked since humans arrived. In most cases keep the food and don't throw it out! Soups and stews have always been the delicious repository of not-so-fresh, but good, ingredients.
Cooking To Deliciously Reuse
Generations before us knew that food was a precious resource and, as such, never to be wasted. Many of the traditional techniques to get the very last use out of food have created our cherished comfort foods: soups, stews, quiches, pot pies, chilies, and more.
A great and delicious way to reduce our food waste is to use leftover ingredients in other dishes. Soups and stews can accept vegetables that have seen better days as well as all parts of the vegetable, including the ends and even the leafy tops. This is a great article on ways to creatively reduce your food waste through cooking. If you are the chef in the family, consider these food saving tips.
Here are some recipes to inspire you to get started:
Amazing Waste Cookbook - 50 recipes to recycle your food
Jamie Oliver's recipes to reduce food waste. All you have to do is the metric conversion. It is worth it!
15 clever recipes to reduce food waste
If you have too much of an ingredient or an ingredient nearing its end of life, there are apps and sites that will provide you with recipes based on an ingredient.
Food Scrap and backyard composting 101
Compost your food waste
We can make a difference in reducing food waste through thoughtful purchases, creative cooking, buying locally sourced products, and dropping off food scraps right here in Ardsley at Anthony F. Veteran Park. Your meat, fish, veggies and more can be turned into compost in this Town of Greenburgh food scrap program. If you have green or brown food/garden waste (not meat or dairy products) you can compost them through your own backyard compost system.
We were honored to partner with Greenburgh Nature Center for one of our Ardsley 2021 Earth Month events to learn about composting and food waste reduction from Lindsay Cohen, Greenburgh Nature Center's Director of Sustainability at that time. Listen to the recording of the webinar here and view Lindsay's informative presentation here.
Learn more about simple composting in this GREEN Growing article.