Archive for May, 2011

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 May 20, 2011 - by

Moo-ved to Action on the Right to Raw Milk

Photo: James Buck/The Washington Post

If you happened to walk by the Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill this Monday morning, you might have noticed an unusual guest: a Jersey cow named Morgan munched on the lush grass while volunteers passed out cups of still-warm milk, direct from her teats.

Members of the Grassfed on the Hill buying club, who purchase meat and raw milk of pasture-raised animals from DC-area farmers, brought the farm to Washington to protest the FDA’s attempt to file a permanent injunction against Pennsylvania farmer Dan Allgyer, who sells raw milk to buying club members. If the federal court approves the injunction, Allgyer would be forced to stop selling unpasteurized milk across state lines.

The sale of unpasteurized milk is legal in many states, either in stores or on the farm. Other states allow herd sharing, whereby consumers pay farmers a fee to keep and care for “their” cow, and in return receive a supply of milk. (Use this interactive map from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to learn more about the legality of raw milk in your state.) However, federal law prohibits interstate sales of raw milk, citing safety concerns about bacteria that may be present in “uncooked” milk, including E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.

Consumers who seek out raw milk do so for a variety of reasons: the fuller taste,  health benefits such as gastrointestinal support, a desire to support local economies, or just for making cheese. Protesters gathered at Monday’s rally carried signs demanding the freedom to choose unpasteurized milk.

Are you a raw milk drinker? Why or why not? How should consumer choice and concern for public health be reconciled in this case? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Posted on May 18, 2011 - by

Sustainable Seafood Tools and Gadgets

This is a handy list of tools that can be used to help decide what fish to purchase. It includes traditional wallet cards and mobile phone apps. For more in-depth guides and information, see our resource page for links to aquariums and conservation groups working on seafood issues.

Mobile Phone Apps

Wallet Guides


Posted on May 18, 2011 - by

Sustainable Seafood Organizations and Resources

The following is a compilation of some of the major aquariums and ocean watch groups that provide information on sustainable seafood to consumers. For a list of handy tools that can be used to select your seafood while on the go, see our list of sustainable seafood tools and gadgets.

Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Sustainable Sushi:

comprehensive guide to sustainable sushi



restaurant guide for sustainable seafood consumers

Environmental Defense Fund:

Blue Ocean Institute:

Shedd Aquarium:


Posted on May 18, 2011 - by

A Sea of Questions: The FRESH Sustainable Seafood Series

So you carefully buy eco-friendly steaks and strawberries, but when it comes to seafood, the waters get a bit cloudy. Farmed or wild salmon? How about farmed fish from a closed aquaponic system? Are cod, haddock and whiting the same or different fish? What does it mean when scallops come from a “day boat”?

Given the myriad questions surrounding our fish, FRESH is proud to announce a new series on sustainable seafood. With help from our partners in the seafood world, we will be publishing a series of blog posts with information and practical tips to help you answer these questions and more. We’ll also be organizing campaigns so you can participate in the fight to protect our oceans and seafood resources.

At FRESH, we started thinking seriously about seafood when we realized lots of eco-savvy people are confused about these issues. Take, for instance, restaurant offerings. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant that touted their locally sourced organic pork and fingerling potatoes while listing tuna on the menu? Unfortunately, even conscientious restaurants sometimes turn a blind eye when it comes to sourcing environmentally-friendly fish. Keeping up with the latest watch lists can be an enormous challenge for time-strapped chefs, and it is no easier for regular consumers.

Why is it so much more difficult to find sustainable sources for seafood compared to land-based meats and vegetables? Quipped science reporter Eric Vance,“Counting fish is just as easy as counting trees—except the fish are invisible and move.” Certifying seafood stocks as sustainable involves a certain amount of guesswork and faith. Unlike a herd of cattle, fish migrate from ocean to ocean, are harvested by fishermen in many countries, and battle ever-changing environmental threats. That means the health of a fish population is constantly in flux, and evaluating its sustainability requires knowledge on its origin and how it was caught—a tall order!

Luckily, we’re going to help you navigate these murky waters. Over the next few weeks, FRESH will give you background information on why our seafood stocks are in peril, and what choices you can make to improve your health and the health of the planet. To kick start our series, we’ve compiled a handy list of tools that can be used to help decide what fish to purchase. We’ve also included links to major ocean watch groups and aquariums that provide resources for consumers. Check it out!

If you have an issue that you’d like to see covered, drop a line. If you are involved in the sustainable seafood realm and would like to be a guest writer, we’d love to hear from you too. You can leave tips and comments below, or send them to


Posted on May 10, 2011 - by

Never Say Never: Mobilizing Support for a Smash-Hit Community Screening

Photo: David J. Owen Photography. Used with permission.

Minneapolis restaurateur Tracy Singleton has been putting local food on the map in her community since 1995, long before the locavore entered public consciousness.  That was the year she opened the funky Birchwood Café to carry on the legacy of the neighborhood grocery store that had occupied the spot since the 1940s, and the community dairy there before it. Minneapolitans flock to the Birchwood for “good real food,” much of it sourced from area farms.  So it was only natural that Tracy should play a leading role in rallying the Twin Cities around a movie like FRESH.

When she signed on to cater an urban agriculture conference in the spring of 2009, Tracy had no idea what an outpouring of passion she was about to unleash, both within herself and among the community. She was speaking with urban farmer Will Allen, who would be headlining the conference, when he mentioned FRESH. Tracy was intrigued, so Allen put her in touch with Ana Joanes, the film’s director.

“I spoke with Ana over the phone and felt a really immediate connection with her and her worldview,” Tracy says. “I hadn’t even seen the film yet, but I was so inspired by her and by Will, it just lit something up in me. I knew this was something I wanted to be involved in.”

A short Minneapolis run was already lined up for two weeks away—two sold-out screenings at a small cabaret theatre with a capacity of about 45 people. “I said to Ana, ‘More people need to see this film…we need to do better than that,’” Tracy recalls, “and I went nuts!”

With no time to lose, Tracy leapt into action, booking the Riverview Theatre—which seats 700 people—for a third showing, mobilizing the networks she’d built over the past 15 years as a community fixture to spread the word.  She brought the Land Stewardship Project, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Twin Cities Natural Food Co-Ops on board as co-sponsors and sold tickets at the Birchwood Café and through a community ticketing site online. Through contacts at Minnesota Public Radio, she managed to score an on-air interview for Ana on the day of the Riverview screening. She arranged a panel of local food experts to speak at the event, recruited volunteers to keep everything running smoothly, and even made sure the popcorn came with butter from Hope Creamery, one of the only independent creameries in the state still churning butter in small-batches from local cows’ milk.

The screening was s smashing success: the movie played to a sold-out crowd of 700, the FRESH e-mail distribution list grew by several hundred names, and the crowd moved over to the Birchwood for a community party following the show. “I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time,” Tracy says, ever humble about the integral role she played in making it all happen. “I had no idea of the effect this event would have on me personally and on my business. The film has been like a ‘shot in the arm’ for the local food movement here: we’ve seen a huge jump in the proliferation of CSA subscriptions, farmers’ markets, and the popularity of home gardening since 2009. The Homegrown Minneapolis Initiative was taking off then. The timing was just perfect.”

What advice does she have for others interested in organizing a community FRESH screening? “Use the screening resources on the website. Try to engage the audience by making room for conversation. Have a farmer there to talk to if you can. And meet people where they’re at: even if they can only do one thing, whether it’s buying one CSA box, or making one trip to the farmers’ market, or yes, trying local butter, that’s one step closer to plugging into the local food movement. If they like it, they’ll tell others.”

And as Tracy herself has proven, one person can make a big difference.

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