Updated: Jul 6, 2020
In my previous post I discussed how hard it has been to remain 'green' during the pandemic. One area of 'green behavior' that we can improve anytime, including during COVID-19, is changing our habits regarding waste. Small changes can make a big difference for our planet.
Today I want to discuss an area of being green and reducing waste that is near and dear to my heart - food waste. I may spend a few additional posts on waste in general and food waste specifically.
In spite of the fact that 815 million people, many children, go hungry every year, worldwide food waste accounts for approximately one-third of all food produced each year (theworldcounts.com). The entire food chain is responsible for this. What does this mean? Here are some examples but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Farmers may have spoilage or too much of a crop that they let go to waste.
Transport of food is very expensive and uses precious resources such as water, fuel, air control, and packaging.
Supply sources such as grocery stores, big-box stores, or small markets waste huge amounts of food due to spoilage, expiration dates, ( and perceived expiration based on store or regulatory policies), as well as items that are not selling or have minor blemishes.
Consumers throw out huge amounts of food - food that has gone bad, food we buy that looks good in the store but looks less appetizing at home, leftovers or products that are stuck in the back of our refrigerator, and food we buy in excess of what we need.
Waste is most problematic for perishable items - meats, dairy, and produce but can happen with other products. Even food banks throw out canned products that are a year or more beyond their expiration dates. I have been guilty of this kind of waste. Whenever I feel food insecure like during this pandemic or my frig is getting empty, I end up buying more than I can consume.
Several years ago I watched a competion show on Food Network where professional chefs were asked to make gourmet meals from food waste - they used food stores and specialty shops that were tossing perfectly edible food . They also suited up and went trash can and dumpster diving. The meals they concoted were amazing. There are those that subsist solely on eating from the trash. As long as you don't mind getting dirty, it isn't difficult to get great meals and food products this way and it is certainly cost-effective.
We can all make a difference in this area. Here are some ways to do this:
Buy locally produced food so transportation, water and other costs and resources are minimized. Pay attention to labels on store bought food for country of origin and stick to locations that are closest to you. Farmers Markets are plentiful even in cold areas. Use them as much as possible.
Eat seasonally. Eating with the seasons means that your diet is composed mostly of foods specific to the season you are in. It is more likely to be local. You can also buy local foods in season and freeze or can them to eat when they are not in season. I have local produce all year round by doing this.
Become vegetarian or vegan or just reduce your meat-based consumption. I know this is not something most people want to do but cows and pigs etc. account for large amounts of methane released into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gases.
Plan your meals for a week and only buy exactly what you need. This is hugely important but can be difficult as most of us succomb to some impulse buying.
If you do buy too much, consider donating it to a food bank, freezing it if possible, or giving it away to someone who will use it. Don't let it go bad.
Grow your own produce, even small amounts.
Eat more of the food that you do buy. For example, most foods don't need to be peeled if they are washed thoroughly. I use the entire stalk of the broccoli, not just the heads. They are delicious cooked any way and contain a lot of nutrients. I eat the ends of squashes etc.
Collect the vegetable scraps you absolutely cannot eat and boil in water for 15 minutes to make vegetable broth.
Use scraps such as strawberry tops ( strawberry tops are edible so I usually eat them) or the ends of a cucumber to flavor your water.
Use overly ripe fruit in smooties or cook them together with other fruits to make compotes. Once they cook down they become thick and delicious and can be frozen or canned.
Make stock out of your poultry bones and parts of the bird you may usually throw away.
8. Subscribe to a service that purchases food that is being discarded but perfectly edible. There are many options. I subscribe to Hungry Harvest and get deliveries every other
week. It is cheaper than buying produce in the market.
9. Lastly, COMPOST all produce that you must discard.
I am going to discuss products you can utilize more fully as well as more about food and other waste next time. I am also a Master Composter and will be providing information that everyone can use to explore the wonderful option of Composting.
I hope you will stay tuned!