Reducing Food Waste in Your Personal Life

Photo by Lenka Dzurendova from Unsplash.

In recent years, food waste has become a worldwide environmental issue. Food waste can affect the environment greatly and in multiple ways. Food waste has lasting effects on the environment such as producing large amounts of methane, wasting resources and energy, harming biodiversity and causing land degradation. According to Move for Hunger, discarding even just two pounds of beef wastes 50,000 liters of water that were used to produce the beef. The same is true for milk. The production of one glass of milk is equivalent to the consumption of 1,000 liters of water. Food waste usually happens when consumers purchase food and fail to properly plan their meals. Therefore, the food spoils because it is too much or the food is never even eaten.

There are many things we as consumers can do to combat food waste. Composting your fruits and vegetables (The city of Bellevue offers composting options) to use as a fertilizer or potting mix for plants is probably usually the easiest solution for consumers to combat food waste. By definition, composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, into a valuable fertilizer that can enrich soil and plant growth. While composting is an extremely common solution, it can be a daunting task. Composting can be done indoors or outdoors. I highly recommend exploring Food Network’s helpful and comprehensive beginner’s guide to composting.

Another way to combat your own household waste is planning out your meals correctly. This includes knowing what you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat it, to determine how much you need to buy and make. You can do this by meal planning, using published recipes to identify the meals you would like to make for the week. If you go grocery shopping on Sunday, eat things that spoil faster, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, earlier in the week. Choosing recipes with ingredient overlap is another way to waste less while also being cost-effective. For example, if you make shepherd’s pie and potato leek soup, these both have potatoes. Also, eat your leftovers instead of making dinner again when you have a fridge full of them.

While we as consumers can try our hardest to eliminate our food waste, restaurants are the biggest contributors to the growing food waste epidemic. While large restaurants are more to blame than smaller ones, they all produce some sort of food waste. According to Ethical Choice, 45% of restaurant food waste happens during prep, 34% comes from scraps left by customers and 21% is due to improper storage. If storage, preparation and management processes improved, leftover edible scraps such as bread crusts, bread slices and meat would be safe for consumption. Restaurants nationwide are taking initiative to reduce their contribution to the epidemic of food waste. I think that if you can, you should choose these restaurants over ones that aren’t taking these steps. These efforts include paying attention to expiration dates, composting or donating overflow food, using leftovers as food for animals, portion planning, menu planning and reusing leftovers. An innovative approach some restaurants are using is called garbage to plate instead of farm to plate. This approach consists of using parts of vegetables and fruits that normally wouldn’t be eaten and making them into meals.

If we all tweak our daily habits just a bit, we can gradually tackle the growing epidemic of food waste together.