How did you manage your Thanksgiving left overs? What do you generally do with left over food? 40% of the food in the United States is not eaten, and ends up in our landfills causing an enormous waste of our precious resources. Wasting food is an enormous waste of water, money, time, labor, energy and transportation. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has an incredible education campaign to inform the public how much we are wasting. For example the production of one egg takes 55 gallons of water!Their website is savethefood.com
So let’s get creative and “Save the Food.” One of my favorite cooking activities is to reinvent leftovers into a new lunch or dinner. Stir fry, soups, tacos, enchiladas, salads, fried rice, and many other things lend themselves to create special meals of uneaten foods.
Not only does wasting food, waste valuable resources and lots of water, but also food in our landfills decomposes creating and giving off methane gas which is a harmful air pollutant contributing to global warming.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Source: EPA)
Have a fun holiday month, but make a creative difference by reusing, planning, seriously cutting waste, and saving food from your garbage!
Food waste composes about 30% of our landfill waste. If left to rot in landfills it can create green house gases, and if it is burned, it pollutes the air. We can change food waste into a new healthy material for our gardens and plants. The end result of food waste is compost. No fertilizer or chemicals needed with compost!
I am thrilled my city, Minneapolis, is beginning to collect food waste for composting. You need to sign up for a cart by February 1, 2016.
Below is a great video about commercial composting:
If you have participated in commercial composting in your city, give us some tips to help us learn about it.
This is Day 5, of a series of blogs on #31daysofreducingwaste. Today I am posting ideas from the New York Times on ways to reduce carbon waste.
To me these ideas seem easy, and I hope you can find something new you can do to reduce carbon waste and pollution.
Below is from the New York Times
What You Can Do About Climate Change
By JOSH KATZ and JENNIFER DANIEL DEC. 2, 2015
Simple Guidelines for Thinking About Carbon Emissions
Global climate: it’s complicated. Any long-term solution will require profound changes in how we generate energy. At the same time, there are everyday things that you can do to reduce your personal contribution to a warming planet. Here are some simple guidelines on how your choices today affect the climate tomorrow, and reduce carbon waste
1.You’re better off eating vegetables from Argentina than red meat from a local farm.
Eating local is lovely, but most carbon emissions involving food don’t come from transportation — they come from production, and the production of red meat and dairy is incredibly carbon-intensive.
Emissions from red-meat production come from methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Experts disagree about how methane emissions should be counted in the planet’s emissions tally, but nearly everyone agrees that raising cattle and sheep causes warming that is an order of magnitude more than that from raising alternate protein sources like fish and chicken (the latter of which have the added benefit of creating eggs).
According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon, a typical household that replaces 30 percent of its calories from red meat and dairy with a combination of chicken, fish and eggs will save more carbon than a household that ate entirely local food for a full year.
Yes, eating nothing but locally grown fruits and vegetables would reduce your carbon footprint the most. But for people not ready to make that leap, reducing how much meat you eat matters more than going local.
2.Take the bus.
To give ourselves a good shot at avoiding severe effects such as widespread flooding of coastal cities or collapse of the food supply, scientists have determined there’s only so much carbon dioxide we can safely emit. Divvying up this global carbon fund among the world’s population (and making some assumptions about future emissions) gives you the average amount each person can burn per year over a lifetime — an annual “carbon budget.”
The current per capita emissions for Americans is about 10 times this limit, and given the relative affluence of this country, our emissions will not get down to the average anytime soon. But they can still fall from where they are. Consider this: If you drive to work alone every day, your commuting alone eats up more than your entire carbon budget for the year. Taking the bus — or biking! — would sharply reduce your output.
3.Eat everything in your refrigerator.
Scientists have estimated that up to 40 percent of American food is wasted — which amounts to almost 1,400 calories per person every day. Food waste occupies a significant chunk of our landfills, adding methane to the atmosphere as it decomposes. Even more important, wasted food adds to the amount of food that needs to be produced, which is already a big part of our carbon load.
How can you waste less? For food shopping, plan out meals ahead of time, use a shopping list and avoid impulse buys. At home, freeze food before it spoils. If you find yourself routinely throwing prepared food away, reduce portion sizes.
4.Flying is bad, but driving can be worse.
Remember that annual carbon budget we talked about? One round-trip flight between New York and Los Angeles, and it’s all gone. Fliers can reduce their footprint somewhat by traveling in economy class. First-class seats take up more room, which means more flights for the same number of people. On average, a first-class seat is two and a half times more detrimental to the environment than coach.
But as bad as flying can be, driving can be even worse. A cross-country road trip creates more carbon emissions than a plane seat. And while a hybrid or electric car will save on gas mileage, most electricity in the United States still comes from fossil fuels.
If you really want to mind your carbon emissions, taking a train or a bus is best, especially for shorter trips. Or try that Internet thing: A Skype call or Google Hangout produces very little carbon dioxide.
5.Replace your gas guzzler if you want, but don’t buy a second car.
Before you even start driving that new car to add to your first one, you’ve already burned up three and a half times your annual carbon budget. How? By encouraging the manufacturing of all of those raw materials and metals.
Yet there’s a break-even point at which the carbon savings from driving a new, more efficient car exceeds the carbon cost required to produce it. For example, on average, trading in a 15-mile-per-gallon S.U.V. for a 35-m.p.g. sedan offsets the extra manufacturing costs within two years.
Anything you do to improve mileage will reduce your carbon output. Keeping to the speed limit and driving defensively can improve your mileage by more than 30 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Even something as simple as keeping your tires inflated and having your engine tuned up can give you up to a 7 percent bump in m.p.g. — and an average carbon savings of about what you’d save from eating only local foods all year.
6.Buy less stuff, waste less stuff.
It’s not just car manufacturing that adds to carbon emissions. Other consumer goods can have a huge impact: Making that new MacBook Pro burns the same amount of carbon as driving 1,300 miles from Denver to Cupertino, Calif., to pick it up in person.
At the other end of the product life cycle, reducing waste helps. Each thing you recycle is one fewer thing that has to be produced, and reduces the amount of material that ends up in landfills. But the recycling process consumes energy as well, so — depending on the material — it may not be as helpful as you might think. Recycling a magazine every day for an entire year saves less carbon than is emitted from four days of running your refrigerator.
It’s better not to consume the raw materials in the first place, so you may want to think carefully about whether you’re really going to use something before you buy it.
Tonight on MSNBC, “Ust Eat It!” http://civileats.com/2015/04/22/food-waste-is-a-massive-problem-heres-how-you-can-fix-it/
As we face a serious drought, many cities in California and elsewhere are working hard to waste less water. But we as a nation have yet to fully comprehend the equally important impact of wasting food.
Nearly one-third of the fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, and packaged foods produced across the globe gets tossed out every year. In the U.S., that figure can climb as high as 40 percent, to the tune of $165 billion in losses each year. Americans throw away an average of 20 pounds of food each month—costing them each between $28 and $43.
As Dana Gunders, staff scientist and “food waste warrior” at the Natural Resources Defense Council says in the new film “Just Eat It,” which airs tonight on MSNBC, that’s like leaving the grocery store with four full bags of groceries and dropping one in the parking lot. But it’s not just our pocketbooks that feel the strain—our landfills, waterways, and atmosphere all suffer when we produce more than we consume and waste it in the process.
Much of the wasted food ends up rotting in landfills, releasing methane—a potent greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere. Nearly 25 percent of all freshwater consumed annually in the U.S. is associated with food waste. That’s a little more than the volume of Lake Erie. And where there’s wasted food, there’s also wasted energy; approximately 2.5 percent of the U.S. energy budget is “thrown away” annually as food waste. “We’re creating climate change from our kitchen waste bins,” says Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food, in the film.
On the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, tackling the issue of food waste couldn’t be more critical. Small actions actually can make a big difference. As consumers, we can help curb the growing problem by understanding more about expiration dates, buying less, purchasing “ugly” fruits and veggies, and snatching up that last bunch of lettuce.
And there are also real opportunities for cities and businesses to keep mountains of food waste out of landfills. Now more than ever there is a spotlight on the issue via social media campaigns, online maps, food trucks, dumpster dining, businesses being built around waste, as well as chef Dan Barber’s recent pop up dinner series, wastED. There’s even an app to help us “eat down the fridge.”
In “Just Eat It,” filmmakers and food lovers Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin set out to survive for six months on discarded food (and what friends and family offer). They end up spending just $200, while rescuing food worth $20,000. Together, they dive into the issue of waste from farm to grocery store, all the way to the back of their own fridge. In one memorable scene, Baldwin stands over a giant dumpster full of hundreds of perfectly good hummus in tiny plastic containers. The visual effect (and the reality) is stunning.
Food waste is a sizable, but solvable problem, and all hands on deck are needed. On a federal level, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been working to raise awareness and work towards change. The United Nations also has a plan in place to tackle food waste over the next decade and a half, and the U.S. is poised to set its own reduction targets as part of that plan, which could set the stage for much needed programs, attention, and funding to the issue.
While the industrial agriculture industry claims we need to scale up production to feed a growing population, the incredible level of wasted food suggests that having better policies in place could go a long way. As the U.N. noted in its report on world hunger, we grow enough food to feed the entire world population of 7 billion people—a lot of it just isn’t getting to them.
One of the first thing policymakers can do is take on the confusion caused by “sell by,” “use by,” or “best by” food labels. According to a report called The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America, most people don’t know that these dates are currently neither regulated nor standardized. Other than for infant formula, there are no federal or state laws regulating the length of time between when a food can be produced and/or packaged and the date on the package. And while these dates are not necessarily linked to food safety, they can have a major impact because many consumers throw away food they perceive as having “expired.”
The European Union is aggressively moving to reduce food waste by addressing these “best before” labels. As Bloom has noted, the shift could also prompt action on date labels here in the U.S. If that happens, American lawmakers could help trim million of tons annually from our collective household food waste.
There are other policies taking place nationwide, with several cities and states taking matters into their own hands. San Francisco passed the first city ordinance in 2009 that makes composting food waste mandatory. It’s now illegal to throw food and food waste in the trash in Seattle. In Massachusetts, businesses or institutions which throw out more than a ton of food a month are prohibited from sending it to a landfill. Vermont, Connecticut, Portland, and New York City are all reducing or working on sending less food waste to their landfills. As Gunders told me, while this on its own doesn’t ensure that people will eat all the food they buy, it does help make the huge volume of food going to waste more visible, which in turn can lead us to use it better.
Towards the end of “Just Eat It,” activist and author Tristam Stuart of Feeding the 5000 says poignantly that wasting food “is one of the most gratuitous acts of humans culture as it stands today. We’re trashing our land to grow food that no one eats.”
In a country so blessed by agricultural abundance, it’s a shame to allow for such an embarrassment of wasted riches. There are many social environmental problems which are monumental, but, as Gunders puts it, “Food waste we can handle. We can do something about it now.”