We’re taught not to waste—don’t waste your time on people who don’t give you a second of theirs, don’t waste water when you’re doing the dishes, don’t waste your money on most name brands. What about wasting food? When we live in a society with big portions and even bigger trash cans to toss what’s left on our plates, we don’t think enough about what happens because of our food waste.
Spoiler alert: there’s a lot that happens and we need to advocate for change.
Eliminating Excess Everyday.
Zero waste: it’s one of the latest buzzwords in the sustainable society. From zero-waste wardrobes to zero-waste makeup, even to zero-waste weddings, innovators are crafting brilliant new ways to eliminate excess trash in our everyday lives.
Why has it been such a hot topic recently, though? Have we suddenly produced an unfathomable amount of waste? Or are we simply becoming more aware of the effects a lack of effort in sustaining a green environment can have long term?
Trick questions, it’s all of the above.
Food Waste Doesn’t Stop at Your Garbage Can.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 22% of discarded solid waste comes from food every year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 31% of the 430 billion pounds of food produced was not eaten—so essentially one-third of all food produced for consumption is lost or wasted. And that’s only in the United States, think about how much more waste exists when accounting for the rest of the world.
Up to 40% of food ends up in landfills. This food waste emits methane gas as it degrades and creates environmental stress. While it is often thought that plastic is the primary cause of pollution, food waste is a major contributor to harmful effects on our planet as well.
In addition to what ends up in landfills, American food production has tremendous resource costs—10% of the nation’s total energy budget, 50% of its land, and 80% of all U.S. freshwater consumption is dedicated to the production and distribution of food. These numbers only continue to grow when looking at this epidemic on a global scale.
Because most household trash is produced through food waste, when we are talking about introducing sustainable practices at home, overhauling the kitchen becomes a critical component. Luckily there are many ways to shift your common practices to reflect an eco-friendlier lifestyle.
Much of the solution can be initiated with a shift of mindset. Changing how you think about food is the perfect place to start and an easy fix you can implement in your home.
- Shop smarter: Planning meals and using grocery lists helps reduce the amount of food we might throw out later. When you know what items you actually need rather than guessing and grabbing as you peruse the aisles, you’ll cut down on unnecessary buys. Bonus—you’ll save some cash while you’re at it!
- Understand marked dates: Very few foods have a true expiration date. Most labels will have a “best before” date which indicates the day after which a food may lose some of its freshness, nutritional value, or taste. Expiration dates are only required for certain products that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications which might not be met after the date listed. Understanding date markings will ensure you’re not tossing perfectly safe-to-eat foods.
- Buy local: Purchase food that is in season and grown close to where you live. You’ll save money, but also, you’ll waste less because your food will stay fresh for longer, having travelled fewer days to get to your plate.
- Store food properly: Storing products properly and efficiently will help your food remain fresh and last longer. No more moldy strawberries or soggy carrots. Understanding guidelines to proper food storage will have you prepping produce and storing leftovers like a pro.
- Dine out smarter: Splitting entrées when going out to eat is a good way to cut the “supersize” mentality. And if the portions are still too big, you can reduce food waste by taking home your leftovers (and actually eating them).
Simply Starting is the First Step.
Like many lifestyle changes, zero-waste eating can be daunting in the beginning. Simply starting such change is already a step in the right direction whether you dive in head first or dip your toes in one at a time until you’re comfortable and confident. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make small adjustments and you can feel good about all that you’re doing to protect our environment for years to come.
Here’s to a happier, healthier, and more sustainable kitchen.