April 19, 2019

Curbing your food waste

Did you know that what we eat — or don’t eat — throughout the day can have an impact on climate change?  

In fact, it’s the food that doesn’t get eaten that contribute the most to greenhouse gases and global warming. In the United States, retailers generate food waste by rejecting imperfect produce. Portions of food are often too large and become waste. And forgotten food in our fridges spoils.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average family of 4 throws away $123 worth of food and drinks every month. Food makes up more of our trash than any other single material. When edible food ends up in a landfill not meant for composting, it isn’t just a waste of resources and money — it rots and decays in the absence of oxygen, creating “the potent greenhouse gas methane that is up to 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over 100 years,” according to the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken.

Here’s the bright side: We can all lighten our impact and keep more money in our pockets by letting less food go to waste.

How to avoid food waste:

Store food in clear containers so you can easily see what you have on hand.

Take inventory of your perishables as you make your grocery list for the week ahead.

Store certain produce items separately: Some fruits produce ethylene gas as they ripen — and can encourage ripening among other produce when they are stored together. Fruits that can induce other produce to ripen include avocadoes, unripe bananas, stone fruits, and apples.

Explore your creative side by making meals with ingredients you have in the fridge — even just searching the internet for “recipe +” whatever foods you have on-hand can often give you some good inspiration.

Bring a reusable container with you when you go out to eat in case you have leftovers (then remember to eat them the next day).

Share if you have extra food!

Save and reuse vegetables: Store your vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer and use them to make vegetable stock. Save broccoli and cauliflower stalks, and stems of chard and kale — these are delicious when peeled (the cauliflower and broccoli), sliced into sticks, and stir-fried with garlic. Use the cilantro stems when cooking with cilantro — it is so flavorful!

Contributor: Ashley McClure, MD