Posts Tagged ‘Food Waste’

Posted on November 21, 2011 - by

Bring Your Own Plate and Other Green Party Ideas

Though your neighborhood may be blanketed with white snow, the holiday season is actually one of the best opportunities you have to go green. After all, your holiday gala can serve as a role model for green, resource-efficient practices. We’ve put together some tips and tricks to guide your planning:

  1. Buy local and seasonal. Skip those rock-hard supermarket tomatoes and venture to your local farmers market or natural foods grocery instead for locally farmed, seasonal foods. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the late harvest abundance of squashes, root vegetables, cooking greens and apples. See for a market near you.
  2. Skip (some of) the meat. Raising conventional livestock requires large amounts of fuel, pesticides and fertilizers, making the process a major contributor to greenhouse gases. You don’t have to make your holiday meal vegetarian, but it is worth considering whether you can move from meatcentric dishes to ones that feature smaller amounts of meat as a seasoning. Think sausage crumbles, not steaks. If you do buy meat, purchase from reputable farmers for flavorful meats that are free of antibiotics, growth hormones and E.coli.
  3. Drink local. Consider getting wine from a local, organic winery, with less pesticide intensive viticulture methods. Or, support our nation’s growing craft brewing industry by picking up beer from a local brewery.
  4. Dust off the china and glasses. One of the biggest generators of waste at holiday parties is the use of disposable cups and silverware. Though it’s definitely easier to throw everything away, you’ll find that with a couple volunteers to help you wash dishes or load the dishwasher, everything will be rinsed and dried in no time flat. If you don’t want to buy additional dishes, consider asking each guest to BYOP, or bring your own plate, along with a glass and fork. That way, you will have plenty of dishes to go around, and the dirty ones will go home with their owners!
  5. Organize the leftovers. Once the meal is finished, don’t let it sit idle. Encourage guests to dispose of their scraps in a compost collection. Leftover should be packed or frozen and used for future meals. If there is too much for you to handle, the food should be redistributed for guests to take home. Ask people to bring a container with them, so that they can tote a piece of the dinner home at the end of the night.
  6. Give gifts that grow and inspire. Consider spreading the magic of real food culture through a hands-on cheesemaking kit or a homebrewing kit. Or share your favorite cookbook of culinary fundamentals. A seasonal produce calendar can be a fun reminder of what to anticipate next year at the farmers markets. Seed packets are a cheap and creative way to help develop a green thumb. You can also give postcards or greeting cards that have seeds embedded inside the paper, and can be planted after being read.
  7. Use wrapping “paper” that lasts. Skip the wrapping paper for a practical and stylish alternative. Try using reusable tote bags or light scarves. Reuse old maps, the comic pages from newspapers, and sheet music. If you do have a heap of discarded wrapping paper at the end of the night, be sure to recycle it, along with any other cans and bottles.

Have additional ideas for sustainable dinner parties? Leave a comment below!


Posted on May 23, 2011 - by

Why Food Waste Matters

Photo: SecretFreegan at

In today’s guest post, Jonathan Bloom, author of the book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) shares his thoughts on why food waste is a problem for more than just your wallet. This post originally appeared on his blog,

Today, we also share tips on how to cut back on food waste in your kitchen, helping you to save money, simplify your kitchen, reduce your environmental impact, and make the most of the food you have on hand.

If you’ve ever thought about food waste, this thought has probably passed through your mind: Why do I even care?

Or maybe you’ve heard about wasted food’s ramifications before but find yourself in need of a refresher. In either case, it’s never a bad thing to consider why we shouldn’t squander food. So here goes:

There are environmental, ethical and economic reasons why food waste matters. The environmental implications of food waste alone make it worth avoiding. A massive amount of resources–mostly oil and water–go into producing our food. When we don’t use roughly 40 percent of it, we’re squandering those embedded resources.

In addition, when we send food to the landfill, its anaerobic rotting creates methane. That greenhouse gas is more than 20 times as potent at trapping heat as CO2. Given that and our staggering rate of waste, our food-filled landfills are steadily aiding climate change. Landfills are the number two source of human-related methane emissions. And while some landfills have systems in place to either destroy or harness the methane, they aren’t all that efficient.

From an ethical standpoint, it’s pretty simple. When you consider that 15 percent of U.S. homes are food insecure, throwing away food is morally callous. And no, the food you leave on your plate isn’t going to feed anyone (here or in a developing nation). But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t donate excess food instead of preparing too much. Or buy less food–to reduce the amount you’ll discard–and pass the savings along to your local food bank.

And finally, it doesn’t make much economic sense to throw away a good without using it. That holds true for individuals, families, institutions and government. Depending on spending habits, a family of four throws out between $1,300 and $2,200 a year. And on the whole, America squanders $160 billion annually. In both cases, it’s a waste of money that could better be spent elsewhere.

To be fair, we’re never going to completely eliminate food waste. There will always be some stuff that slips between the cracks. But for all three of the above reasons, we should strive to reduce the waste we do create. Do you care enough to make an effort?

Jonathan Bloom is the author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It). He writes the blog and his freelance work has appeared in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, TimeOut New York, and other publications. He is also a certified barbeque judge.


Posted on May 23, 2011 - by

How to Cut Back on Food Waste

Photo: Watt_Dabney/Flickr

Americans waste 40% of the food that they buy. One of the major culprits? Our oversized refrigerators, packed with food that we buy, store, and then neglect. Take a look at your refrigerator shelves right now. Is that a wilted head of lettuce in the back? Or a jar of moldy, half-used pasta sauce? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there!

One simple change will dramatically reduce your food waste and save you money: keep your fridge half-empty with food! It’s hard to resist the temptation to fill up your fridge, but you’d be better off leaving some breathing room in there. When you can immediately see everything you have available, you’re less likely to buy more than you can cook or forget about leftovers. This means you should shop more often and buy less so that you eat food when it’s fresh and appetizing. When you come home from shopping, put newer items behind older ones so you’re sure to use those up first. For a real eye-opener, label each item with a Post-it note stating its price: you’ll be more inclined to make the most of your food when you can see that food waste is literally money in the trash.

Here’s a few more simple ways to further reduce your waste:

  1. Plan your meals in advance.

    Making yourself a menu for the days ahead may take some extra effort, but it will cut down on time you spend mentally inventorying your cupboards at the grocery store and ensure you bring home exactly what you need. Make a list and stick to it at the store, and try to use up leftover ingredients from one meal to create another as you plan.

  2. Serve sensible portion sizes.

    The more we put on our plates, the more we’re likely to eat. For children, serve kid-friendly portions so that they can finish their plates. This portion calculator from LoveFoodHateWaste allows you to enter the type of food you’re cooking and how many adults and children will be eating it, then tells you how much of that food you should cook to achieve sensible portion sizes.

  3. Don’t be a slave to expiration dates.

    Let your senses be the judge: if it still looks the right color, smells appetizing, and tastes good, it’s almost certainly fine to eat.

  4. Make the most of your leftovers.

    Bring your dinner leftovers to work for lunch the next day, jazz them up by using them in a new dish the second time around, or…

  5. When you can’t eat it, freeze it.

    Just like your fridge, don’t overcrowd the freezer, but do realize its potential as a tool to prolong the life of all sorts of foods and meals. LoveFoodHateWaste shares some excellent tips for how to freeze everything from potatoes to lemon juice to milk.

  6. Learn to compost.

    The food waste in landfills emits methane while it rots, which is 20 times “better” at trapping heat than CO2, speeding climate change. By keeping your food waste out of the garbage, you’ll significantly reduce your kitchen’s environmental impact and create valuable “food” for your or someone else’s garden.

  7. Put old milk jugs filled with water in the back of your fridge.

    Energy conservation caveat: Refrigerators run more efficiently and stay colder when they are full. To avoid filling it with food, place old milk jugs or other containers filled with water in the back of your fridge. The water can later be used for other purposes, like drinking, cooking, watering plants or pouring into your washing machine. If you are shopping for a new fridge, considering getting a smaller, European-style model which will cut electricity costs and give you more space in the kitchen.

For more information on why food waste matters, see our guest blog post by Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It).

More tips on avoiding food waste, crowdsourced from readers of Jonathan’s blog, can be found here. Drop by and add your own, or include them as comments here!


Posted on February 1, 2011 - by

No Rubbish Ideas: Rethinking Household Waste

How much trash did you generate last week? In an impressive feat of conservation, last year the Strauss family managed to pare down its waste disposal to merely one bag through vigorous recycling, growing their own food, and buying directly from producers.

To minimize packaging waste, the family opts to bring their own containers to the butcher and deli, and puts loose fruit and vegetables into reusable bags. All food leftovers are turned into new dishes or composted, and the lights run partly on solar energy. Cereal packaging is transformed into sandwich bags, and plastic ties from toys are used to stake tomato plants.

The average American produces 4.5 lbs of waste every day. About 31% of that is packaging and container waste. Food scraps account for 12.7% of waste, and only 2.5% of that gets composted. Less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled each year. However, it costs $4000 to recycle one ton of plastic bags, while the recycled product can be sold for only $32. (Source: Clean Air Council)

Rachelle Strauss reflected on the progress they’ve made since they first embarked on their zero waste project.

”It’s taken us 18 months to get to this level and we’ve put a lot of determination and effort into it. But if everyone just takes a few more steps towards recycling they can make a huge difference across the globe. A simple first step is not taking plastic bags at the supermarket and finding out from your local council where recycling points are.

”You can’t just buy something because it’s on offer or because it looks nice but you need to think seriously about how you’re going to throw it away when you’ve finished with it.”

At the end of the year, the only things that were thrown out were a few razor blades, broken toys and old felt tip pens.

You may not be ready to commit to that level of packaging austerity, but there are several steps you can take to reduce the amount of food and packaging waste you produce.

  • Find out how you can take advantage of municipal recycling programs.
  • Support local farmers and green retailers who use ecofriendly packaging.
  • Purchase products that use smart packaging, with biodegradeable polymers and minimalistic design.
  • Reuse packages to store other products.
  • Talk to your friends and family about the magnitude and consequences of our waste problem.
  • Think ahead when purchasing groceries and plan meals so that your food is used before it spoils. Take inventory of your refrigerator regularly.
  • Cooking can be a community experience! If you are a single-person household, pot luck with your neighbors to share excess food.

Is the Strauss family batty or ingenious? Do you regularly bring bags to the grocery store? Write on the backs of every scrap of paper? Send e-cards rather than buying Hallmark? What other steps do you take to reduce waste?

For more information on the Strauss’ feat, check out their website at


Posted on November 17, 2009 - by

Restaurant Composts Food Waste (VIDEO)

By: Rebecca Gerendasy
Co-founder of Cooking Up a Story and video journalist
Originally posted on Cooking Up A Story
I started composting at home almost 2 years ago. My plan was to build a few vegetable garden beds, start growing some of my own food, and go from there. For my small gardening endeavors in the past I’ve used fish emulsion, coffee grinds, and egg shells as my typical sources of ‘food’ for my food. But it was time to step it up a notch. I wanted organic matter to build my soil, so what better way than to create my own.

It was easy to do. Next to my sink I have a handy container to hold the grinds, eggshells, carrot tops, uneaten bread crusts, and more. At the end of the day I add those organic ingredients to the compost bin, throw in some grass clippings or fallen leafs (depending on season), give it a mix, and let nature take over. What really surprised me, after doing this a few weeks, was how the amount of garbage going into my city collection bin was drastically reduced – by nearly half!

That got me thinking… What about restaurants? What do they do with all their leftover, uneaten food? What if they composted it? What’s involved – is it that big of a deal? Why isn’t every food establishment doing this?

I visited restaurateur Kathleen Hagberg, owner of the bijou, café in Portland, Oregon, to get her perspective of why she composts and why others do not. She says doing by example is always important, and ultimately, for the folks at the bijou, “It’s as easy as throwing out the garbage.”

What makes it possible is the cooperation between city officials and local businesses to provide the local infrastructure. In 2005, Portland’s Office of Sustainability partnered with Oregon Metro to tackle the issue of the large amounts of food waste going to landfills. The result was Portland Composts!, a program designed to help restaurants and other food institutions learn how to easily incorporate a composting system into their business. In addition they connect interested parties with commercial waste haulers who collect and take the organic matter to a commercial composting facility in Washington.

Turning organic waste into a useful product, and at the same time helping to reduce carbon emissions provides an excellent example for other municipalities to follow. San Francisco recently made recycling and composting mandatory within the city limits.

Who’ll follow, I wonder?