In 2018, I watched a documentary called Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story and learned just how big the problem of food waste and food loss really is (food waste vs food loss). This has led me down a learning journey all about food surplus, food waste, food loss, and the impact it is having on our planet.
Here are some astonishing facts from ReFED:
- In 2019, 35% of all food in the United States went unsold or uneaten (they call this surplus food) – that is $408 billion worth of food.
- Most of this became food waste, which went straight to landfills, incineration, down the drain, or was simply left in the fields to rot.
- Uneaten food is responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. alone!
- Uneaten food is the number one material entering landfills.
- The average American family wastes food equal to $1,866 annually (money that can be used on other household necessities!) (this fact from Stop Food Waste Day).
While this information may seem overwhelming, there is so much we can do just in our own kitchens! Consumers can do A LOT to help reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills. Making simple changes and intentional choices can have a real and positive impact on the health of our planet. Simply, less food in the trash equals less food in landfills, which means less greenhouse gases. Here are some ways that I limit food waste in my own kitchen that are simple and easy:
- Eat those leftovers!
- Put extra servings in the freezer for a quick meal another night.
- Use smooshed or bruised fruit in smoothies or a fruit cobbler with an oatmeal crumble.
- Shop with a specific grocery list, stick to it, and plan for a specific number of days.
- Use citrus peels to make your own cleaning sprays.
- Swap ingredients in recipes for the ingredients you already have instead of buying more.
- Use remaining produce in stews, soups, and stir-fries.
- Read expiration dates but trust your nose and your tastebuds. While expiration dates are useful, make sure you aren’t throwing away perfectly good food.
- Don’t forget to buy unpackaged produce and use reusable bags too (we don’t want to waste food packaging either!)
- Make veggie, chicken, or beef broths, using vegetable scraps and leftover bones.
- Make candied citrus peels (it’s really easy!).
- Feed your dog those veggie pieces like apple cores and carrot tops (just not onions, garlic, etc.).
- Put all those bites of leftovers on a plate and call it a tapas meal!
Lastly, the documentary also introduced me to gleaning (collecting and utilizing surplus food on farms). I immediately researched gleaning opportunities and stumbled upon a nonprofit called UpRoot. I reached out to them, and I have been volunteering for them ever since! UpRoot’s mission is to increase nutritional security of Coloradans by harvesting and redistributing surplus, nutrient-dense foods while supporting the resilience of farmers. I greatly enjoy my time volunteering with UpRoot because I can get out onto farms, help to harvest food which gets donated to local food banks, and meet fellow volunteers who are passionate about preventing food waste and boost food security. Learn more about volunteering with UpRoot and about the great work they are doing at uprootcolorado.org.
There are so many ways we can pitch in to reduce food waste/loss, save money, and combat climate change. I am still learning and hope to make a bigger impact with time. My goals are to learn how to grow some of my own food and learn how to compost when I have the space to do so. But for now, I get creative in the kitchen, utilize every last bite, and reduce the amount of food that ends up in my trash. 😊