If we are what we eat, then what about all of what we don’t eat? Food waste accounts for 10% of all greenhouse gases. Of all that waste, 40% comes from our own kitchens! The good news: When it comes to individual climate action, reducing food waste is low hanging fruit (insert Fozzy Bear’s classic refrain, “Wocka wocka!”).
For those of us in a hurry, I’ve compiled 5 quick tips I learned while listening to NPR’s podcast Code Switch.
1. Take stock of the things you’re throwing out each week. Keep a tally and you’ll start to notice your habits. From there, plan your meals better. Whatever is leftover from making a meal, plan to make something else from that instead of letting it wilt away in the fridge.
2. Repurpose food you think is “going bad.” Just because greens are wilted doesn’t mean they’re bad. You can put them in ice water to perk up. Then sauté those greens with garlic and onions or fried rice. You can put tomatoes that are a little squishy into stews or soups! Generally, heat kills pathogens in terms of food waste, so what you think is on its way out might be just fine. However, use your noggin: if it doesn’t pass the smell test or looks bad, don’t risk it.
3. The freezer is your friend! Freezing locks in flavor for everything from fish and veggies to rice and bread. Fun fact: Frozen fish with the @mscbluefish label is usually flash frozen right off the boat, so it’s still got that sea salty freshness when it makes it to your freezer.
4. Better understand the sell-by date. We often misinterpret this date as the expiration date, but unless “expiration” is written on the package, this date is the manufacturer’s best guess of when the food is freshest, not when it’s expired. So relax a little if something is passed that date, especially if it still looks and smells fine!
5. Compost foods when they have finally gone bad. Nearly one-third of all our food waste is compostable. By composting the material that would’ve otherwise been discarded, you’re keeping waste from landfills that can be reused in a positive and eco-friendly way! If you’re an avid gardener, it will save you money on fertilizer costs. If you live in a city, you’ll be pleased to know you’re part of growing contingency that’s making the planet healthier. Learn more about composting in a city in my blog post here.
While these tips are borrowed ideas, the spirit of sharing waste reduction, planet-friendly actions will help us all to make a cleaner, healthier world! What are some of your tips for reducing food waste or repurposing items in your kitchen? Leave a note in the comments below!