by Debra Caffrey
Earth Day reminds us to be mindful about how our actions can affect climate. While being environmentally aware and going “green” is a great step, most people don’t make the connection between the environment and kitchen waste.
The average household throws away 40 percent of its purchased food. Besides throwing money in the garbage, that food waste ends up in landfills and produces methane, a gas more harmful than carbon dioxide. Additionally, when food winds up in the trash, resources such as the water and energy that produced the food also go to waste. So what can you do to try to reduce your “food footprint” and stop throwing money away, too? Here are six easy steps:
- Meal Plan and Stick to a List. Nothing helps you save money and waste less than planning your meals. A lot of newcomers are intimidated by the process, so they never start and continue to shop as needed. Planning out meals doesn’t have to be overwhelming or rigid. Sticking with a list when you shop keeps you from buying on impulse. Preparing meals you’ve planned and shopped helps you commit to using what you buy.
- Eat More Meatless Meals. You don’t have to become vegetarian to reduce the harmful impact that meat production has on the environment. Serving more meatless meals each week reduces your carbon footprint, and these small changes add up.
- Inventory the Fridge. Glance through your fridge once or twice daily to inventory which perishable items should be used or eaten soon. Encourage your family eat perishable foods by moving them to the front, placing them in a “to eat soon” bin, or asking everyone to make it a priority to eat food before it goes bad.
- Only Buy What You Need. It may seem like a good idea to get the big mesh sack of avocados, but if you don’t actually eat them in time, you’ve just wasted food and your money. Only buy what you need until it’s time to shop again, even if that means you’re getting one onion! Use the bulk sections of the store to measure what you need for certain recipes or snacks rather than overbuying. Shopping this way means you’re reducing packaging waste, which is another hit to the environment.
- Compost: Instead of throwing that banana peel, carrot top, and celery end into the trash, compost them to avoid their contribution to harmful methane in landfills. Composting need not be complicated; it can be done in any type of living situation and is not time consuming.
- Don’t Be a Produce Snob: Embrace the “ugly” fruit in your produce section, or the slightly-less-fresh-looking veggies you’d otherwise not buy. More than likely, stores trash produce that doesn’t sell quickly. Rescue them from having a negative environmental impact by realizing that a slightly weird looking pear or a cucumber with a tiny dent in it are perfectly fine for use. Further, don’t be snobby about frozen produce. Not only is it usually fresher and just as nutritious as fresh, but frozen produce has a longer life expectancy than fresh–just make sure you use it!
Lastly, make every attempt to shop less frequently! Not only will it save you money to stretch your groceries between trips to the store, but less food purchased overall means less food waste. When you still have a few days to go until shopping time, it encourages and sometimes forces you to eat up what you may otherwise replace too quickly if you run to the store. Reducing food waste on a daily basis requires some commitment, but it’s also a promise you’ll be glad you made for the environment and your wallet!