Did you know that 1.3 billion tons of edible crops are wasted each year, around the globe? That’s about one third of food of the food produced by the agriculture industry! Not only is wasted food a tragedy in light of the knowledge that so many people are experiencing hunger in our world, but it’s also a terrible waste of energy and water. In the USA, we use 70 percent of our water for growing crops. Greenhouse gasses equivalent to 33 million cars’ worth of emissions are produced through growing food that never gets a chance to be consumed! Though much of today’s food waste happens in the growing, manufacturing, or packaging phases, there are many small ways that we can all contribute toward lessening food waste in our homes.
1. Plan meals.
Just a few minutes of meal planning can help reduce food waste by ensuring that you don’t over-buy food each week, and that you have a plan to use up the items you place in your grocery cart. It’s a good idea to regularly check in to your refrigerator and pantry to see what foods you have on hand that might be spoiling or expiring soon, and incorporating those items into your next few days’ meals.
2. Don’t buy more than what is needed
Many fruits and vegetables come pre-packaged in plastic in portions that are larger than what we might consume! If you only need a few carrots for the week’s cooking, pick up a few loose carrots and place them in your own reusable bag rather than purchasing a whole bag and risking some of the veggies beginning to rot before they are able to be used.
3. Embrace ugly produce
Much of our food waste in the US comes from fruits and vegetables that are deemed “ugly”- scarred, bruised, misshapen- being passed over and thrown out. Try to make it a habit to buy the non-perfect produce when you see it at your local grocery or farmer’s market, rather than reaching for the shiniest, roundest apple. There’s also CSA services like Imperfect Produce that offer these kind of fruits and veggies at a reduced price.
4. Use your freezer!
If you have fruit that’s gotten a bit too ripe, put in the freezer until you have time to turn it into a smoothie, or use it in a baked good, like muffins or even a batch of pancakes! You can also use your freezer to store the excess if you buy a large package of food that you know might take you awhile to use up.
5. Store foods properly
Be sure that you’re storing foods properly to prolong their freshness! Herbs can be placed in water inside the refrigerator to keep stems firm and leaves unwilted. Berries can be rinsed in a mild vinegar solution to protect against bacteria that could make them go soft too quickly. Check out this list for more tips!
6. Get the most out of your tea!
You can even reduce food waste from your tea: re-use your used tea bags and don’t waste a single drop of goodness! Chill them in the refrigerator and place them over your eyelids for a refreshing treat (the tannins in tea will reduce puffiness). You can also re-brew your tea bags, and use the resulting weak tea for a hair rinse. Place used tea bags in a dish in your refrigerator, or dry them out and place in the bottom of your trash bins to absorb odors. You can throw tea bags in with your compost, which will help your compost to biodegrade faster, and also sprinkle solids on the soil of houseplants to deter pests and nourish soil!
Want more smart sustainability tips from Hannah Theisen? Up next: Going Green in the Kitchen.