Recycling, using a refillable water bottle, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, and not leaving the water on when you brush your teeth are ways, we regularly help save the environment but what are you doing to reduce food waste? Helping the environment also means reducing food waste. The average American throws away over 200 pounds of food per year! (1). Eat with the environment in mind is one of the messages for this year’s National Nutrition Month campaign “Fuel for the Future.” Keep reading to learn how to reduce food waste at home.
Eat with the Environment in Mind
We do not have unlimited resources therefore we need to eat with the environment in mind.
Enjoy more plant-based meals and snacks.
Plant-based meals and snacks typically require fewer natural resources. Eating more beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds throughout the week to replace animal-based protein foods can reduce your carbon footprint.
Purchase foods with minimal packaging.
Consider packaging when you want to reduce food waste. Shop from bulk bins and look for recycled packaging. We cannot control how most of our goods are packaged but most glass, cardboard and many plastic containers can be recycled.
Buy produce in season and shop locally when possible.
As the weather gets warmer, take advantage of locally grown crops and products at local farms, farmers markets and grocery stores. Eating seasonally helps the environment and local communities. For those with a green thumb, you could start a small container or herb garden to grow produce at home.
About Food Waste
Food waste occurs in all areas of the food supply chain, but consumers are unfortunately responsible for the majority of wasted food.
Where and Why Food Waste Occurs
Food waste occurs at every stage from farmers and processers to retailers and consumers. In the United States, 31% of food loss occurs at the retail and consumer levels (2). Food may be wasted due to insects, spoilage, losses from cooking or intentional (3).
Consequences of Food Waste
Wasting food has irreversible environmental and financial consequences; it wastes not only food but water, energy, money, and labor (1). About 95% of discarded food ends up in landfills (3). Americans are throwing away $165 billion in food each year (2).
Benefits of Reducing Food Waste
Reducing food waste by 15% could feed more than 25 million Americans every year (3). Not only could more people be fed but it would provide cost savings, lower our carbon footprint, and minimize pollution.
10 Tips to Reduce Food Waste
- Plan meals based on foods you already have in your pantry, cabinets, freezer, and refrigerator.
- Shop locally and buy produce in season.
- Buy only the amount of food that can be eaten within a few days. Perishable foods like dairy, seafood and fresh produce need to be used within a few days, if not, consider freezing to prolong their shelf life.
- Place foods that spoil quickly within sight. We have all let foods spoil because we forgot about it. If it’s out of sight, it is out of mind so make a plan for your perishables and put them in your view, so you don’t forget to eat them!
- Store produce properly. Use this storage guide to learn what fruits and vegetables should be stored on the counter or in the fridge.
- Understand the different food product dates. More than 80% of Americans discard consumable food because they misunderstand expiration labels (1).
- Get creative with leftovers. Add vegetables to soups or casseroles and fruits to baked goods or smoothies.
- Be mindful of portion sizes. Most restaurant portions are more than needed, so take half home for a later meal.
- Practice good food safety. When in doubt, throw it out! Use the FoodKeeper App | FoodSafety.gov.
- Donate safe to eat foods to local food banks or pantries!
- Bonus Tip! When entertaining, remember the 2-Hour rule. Perishable foods that are not being kept hot or cold should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Waste No More, Save the Food
Not all wasted food can be saved and eaten but there are many ways to prevent food waste at home. Be part of the solution to reduce food waste by buying, storing, and cooking wisely. Reducing food waste saves money, lowers your carbon footprint, conserves energy and resources, and supports your community. During National Nutrition Month and beyond eat with the environment in mind. Along with the ten tips to reduce food waste, what other tips do you have?