When we think of environmental degradation, what comes to mind is toxic fumes from factories, car exhaust, or the plastics menace. Rarely do we consider food waste. Apart from throwing away food in households, large scale food waste occurs on cooking shows, on farms, in grocery stores, etc. This waste has massive adverse effects on the environment.
How food waste harms the environment
Wasted food doesn't only refer to what's thrown in the trash. It also covers what it took to grow the food, wasted water and land, the waste disposal methods, unnecessary transportation, and the releasing of methane from food disposed of in landfills.
HOW MUCH FOOD ARE WE WASTING?
Reports by the FOA and the NRDC show that approximately ⅓ of food produced for consumption goes to waste. That's roughly 70-80 million tons of food thrown in the trash.
How can we reduce food waste?
Solving the food waste problem is a slow process, but there's no better time to get started than now. Here are a few tips.
1. Understand the dates
All of the food we buy comes with a sell-by date, expiration date, use-by date, or best-by date. These dates are confusing, and often, we throw out food too soon or leave it at the market, fearing that it's almost gone bad.
2. Purchase the imperfect fruits and veggies
Many people believe the imperfect produce isn't worth purchasing. Such vegetables and fruits end up in the trash.
What these consumers forget is that this produce tastes the same as the 'perfect' one.
3. Store food correctly
Properly storing food minimizes food waste by ensuring food stays fresh for longer.
4. Meal planning
Planning your meals for days or weeks at a time involves using recipes that require a set amount of food.
Doing this results in less food waste since you only cook and use what you need.
5. Buy what you need
Most of the food that people throw away is uneaten food rots. Therefore, it only makes sense to buy what we need. Meal planning and recipes are two simple ways to limit food waste. They have the additional benefit of saving time and money through meal prepping.
6. Bulk purchases
To ensure you buy only what you need, shop from the bulk bins. You won't need to worry about purchasing quantities larger than necessary. Carry your reusable containers and get what you need.
7. Use as much of your produce as possible
A feature of many cooking shows is fancy decoration using food. Unfortunately, this usually causes lots of waste. Try to use every piece of your produce.
8. Reduce the portions you cook
Cooking smaller portions means less food will remain after your meals, leading to fewer leftovers for the fridge or freezer.
9. Save leftovers
Don't throw out your leftovers. Instead, use them to create a new meal.
10. Combine aging produce
Take an inventory of all the produce that's almost going bad. Use them to make stews, soups, casseroles, and sautéed mixed vegetable dishes.
11. Freeze it
You can store food in the freezer for an extended period as long as it's properly packaged.
12. Organize your freezer and fridge
Organize the items in your fridge and freezer to help you keep track of expiration dates and avoid wastage.
Put the food with earlier expiration dates at the front of the fridge and later at the back.
Keep your food or scraps fresh for longer by methods like canning and pickling.
14. Homemade vinegar and jams
Reuse your food scraps by making jams and vinegar. The process takes a few weeks, but it's worth the wait.
15. Track it
Tracking your food waste holds you accountable and forces you to be conscious about your choices. Set up a chart in your kitchen, or anywhere it's easily visible.
Mark the calendar every day that you discard food waste, and tally the weight of food each week. Use these findings to reduce the amount of waste each week.
Several apps offer handy tips on how to keep food waste to a minimum.
17. Educate your children
Teach your children how to reduce food waste by doing it practically. Children pay closer attention to what we do than what we say. They will also keep you accountable when they catch you slacking.
If you've grown or prepared more food than you can eat alone, share it with friends, or donate it to a church, food bank, or charity. The US Environmental Protection Agency also offers tips for better food sustainability practices.
19. Food suppliers with sustainable practices
You can't control how an establishment handles its food waste, but you can educate yourself. Do some research, and you'll find food suppliers who practice sustainable food sourcing and disposal.
Instead of throwing leftovers away, why don't you try composting? If you don't have a garden, you can make compost and donate it to various organizations.
The Sole Toscana Beauty Team