Every year billions of pounds of edible foods—mostly nutritious fruits and vegetables—meet their demise, not in the belly of a sated diner, but in a landfill. What’s more, that wasted food releases methane, a gas with 20 times the greenhouse emissions of carbon dioxide. Coupled with the fact that food insecurity affects 1 in 7 Americans, these statistics make a compelling case to end food waste in our homes and in our greater community.
The exorbitant use of resources that ultimately leads to food waste is staggering. According to Hana Dansky, Executive Director of Boulder Food Rescue and Food Rescue Alliance, “We spend 10% of our national energy budget, 50% of our land use and 80% of our freshwater resources in the U.S. producing food, yet we throw away up to 40% of everything we produce. Food waste is a tangible problem that greatly impacts economic and environmental systems as well as hunger and obesity.” Organizations across the country, like those convened by Food Rescue Alliance, are collaborating to tackle issues associated with food production and food waste, one community at a time. By joining into this movement, individual households can not only make a positive impact on people and on the planet, they can also recoup up to $1,500 that is typically lost on wasted food (per household) each year.
If composting is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ending food waste, you’re on the right track. But, for many people, due to neighborhood restrictions or lack of resources (like not having a yard), composting isn’t possible. You can still make changes at home and in your home community that can help to reverse food waste. Here are a few to try out.
Plan Your Meals For the Week
Planning meals, and developing a grocery shopping list, can help to reduce food waste and whittle down your weekly grocery bill. Make meal planning fun by perusing old cookbooks or looking for easy, new recipes online. If you have kids, get them involved by asking them to help you plan (and cook) a family dinner each week. Knowing what your week in meals looks like in advance will help you to buy only what you need, and ensure that you and your family enjoy fresh foods that need not go to waste.
Use the Whole Vegetable
Apply the “nose to tail” approach when cooking with produce by looking for inventive recipes that use the parts of a vegetable that are typically discarded. Often what goes to waste is what is also most nutritious. The greens on root vegetables like beets are packed with iron, which helps your body produce oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Sauteed beet greens are a tasty accompaniment to eggs, grains and meats. Similarly, carrot greens can be transformed into a delicious pesto to top a pasta dish. And cauliflower leaves can be rinsed, chopped and tossed raw into a salad or roasted along with the florets. You may have to ask your grocer for a bundle of veggies with the greens intact as they are commonly cut off before produce is put on display.
Feed a Neighbor (or Two or Three…)
Whether you’re cooking for one or even a family of four, nailing portions can be tricky. If you often find yourself overwhelmed by leftovers, invite your neighbors over for dinner or load up a plate to deliver to an elderly single down the block. Not only will the excess food be put to its proper use, a shared meal can also nourish your neighborhood’s soul. Come mid-summer, when you start to see surplus zucchini appear with a “Free” sign on the curb, grab them and organize a neighborhood gathering around a pot of creamy basil zucchini soup.
Start a Food Rescue in Your Community
If you want to take combating food waste to the next level, consider launching a food rescue in your community. Check out Food Rescue Alliance’s comprehensive guide to doing just that: The Package Deal will propel you through formation (i.e., becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization) to implementation—like identifying partner grocery stores—to celebration. Food Rescue Alliance provides a network of knowledge and support that allows for individual organizations to transform from “an idea to action.” Just about anyone can develop and launch a food rescue all by their lonesome, but collaborating with a supportive community will get you making food salvage deals with your local grocer, fast.
Through her work at the certified B Corp Cultivation Center, Blair Young supports nonprofits and socially purposed businesses to thrive. Blair and her family travel as much as possible by bike to have the most fun while making the least amount of impact on the planet.