tips, topics, info and insight to help you save money and make our world a little greener

Friday, January 8, 2010

No More Wasted Food

Every year,  millions of tons of trash goes into the waste stream.  While the over-
whelming amount is paper (up to 40%), a disturbing 7.5% is food waste.  Jonathon Bloom blogs brilliantly on the topic of the world-wide issue of wasted food, and what people can do and are doing about it. He states that over 40% of the food produced for consumption in the United States - over $100 billion worth -  is wasted every year.

The problem is worse than rotting food resources and squandered money. Once your over-ripe apples, unwanted leftover lasagna and wilted lettuce leaves have joined the discarded coffee grinds, potato peelings and stale bread in your garbage can, and have found their way to a landfill, it can take only 28 days for the garbage to decompose, creating methane gas as a by-product. Methane is about 20 times more efficient than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, making it a major contributor to global warming.

Until more landfills are equipped to trap the escaping methane and convert it to fuel, keeping food waste from entering the waste stream in the first place is a front-line tactic for improving the world's environmental health.

Here are some easy steps you can take:
  1. Only buy as much food as you will actually consume. Simple, right? But how many times have you bought fruit or vegetables that have turned into brown mush in the fridge? Planning your shopping lists to more closely match your meal plans will help you avoid wasting food - and save you money.
  2. Freeze leftovers and other foods as soon as you realize that you won't be able to eat them before they go bad.
  3. Find alternative uses for foods that aren't useful in their present form. For example, make bread crumbs from stale bread; bake apples that are not as firm as you would like for eating raw; make rice pudding or stuffed peppers with leftover rice; make a big pot of soup with odds and ends of vegetables, leftover pasta, rice and beans; dry citrus fruit skins for pot pourri; make pickles from watermelon rinds.
  4. Make stock or broth from meat bones.
  5. Cut out the bruised, soft or unattractive parts of vegetables and fruits and use them up rather than throw them out.
  6. Offer potato, carrot and apple peelings, wilted lettuce, kale stems and other vegetable remains to a friend or neighbor who raises chickens.
  7. Compost all your organic kitchen waste (except oils, grease, meat and dairy products). The photo above is of my stainless steel kitchen composter whch I use to collect kitchen waste. When it's full, we empty it into the big compost bin the yard. The kitchen composter, which has a carbon filter so it doesn't get smelly) is available from CleanAirGardening (they also have a bamboo version), WilliamsSonoma, Crate & Barrel, Sur la Table and Target, among other vendors.
Even city dwellers can compost their organic kitchen waste. No Impact Man Colin Bevin uses a worm composter he keeps under his kitchen sink. And many New York City citizens take their kitchen waste to the City's Green Markets where the Sanitation Department collects it in big bins.

If you're not quite ready to do your own composting, a subject we'll talk about again, find out if one of your neighbors has a bin and is willing to accept your contributions. Or look into community composting. In the mean time, I'm challening you to make an effort to waste less food. Tell me what you are doing/will do to meet this challenge.


  1. Excellent post Dee. If worse comes to worse, you can always toss the stuff (for me it is strawberries) on top of the dirt in the back yard, and later mix it in the dirt.

  2. thanks Nadine. Strawberries love compost! I have friends who have large wooded properties. They take their kitchen garbage out into the woods and just let it decompose naturally. A great way to do it. The real trick is reducing the amount that gets tossed.I'm still challenged by greens in the crisper drawer of the fridge.