Californians throw away nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year, which ends up being about 18 percent of all the material that goes to landfills (CalRecycle)! Methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, is emitted into the atmosphere when compostable materials like food are buried in landfills. By promoting edible food recovery through programs and practicing tricks to extend produce longevity, Californians can alleviate food insecurity while reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Follow these tips to reduce food waste in your home and local community!
Before the Grocery Store
It’s easy to overbuy when food shopping blindly. Before you leave the house, take inventory of the goods in your pantry and refrigerator. From there, you can plan out healthy meals for the week – whether that’s a diverse menu or the same meal prep recipe. If something will expire soon, plan to buy ingredients to incorporate it into a recipe. Make a grocery list of the necessities and stick to it! This stops shoppers from purchasing excess perishable items, which ultimately creates more food waste.
At the Grocery Store
Don’t be a perfectionist when picking produce! We all come in different shapes and sizes, as do our fruits and vegetables. Buying misshapen produce allows farmers to flourish and reduces “ugly” produce that may be disposed of at the end of the day. You can also subscribe to companies like Imperfect Foods or Misfits Market to receive farmer’s unique or excess produce, and lessen food waste.
Storing and Preserving Food at Home
A large part of a food item’s life depends on the storage and preservation methods at home! First, check the temperature setting on your refrigerator (40°F or below) and freezer (0°F). Make sure food is well organized and items that need to be used first are in front, so that older food is not lost behind fresh goods.
Leafy greens should be stored in the fridge with a damp paper towel in a reusable container, while bananas, tomatoes, and others can be left on the counter. Potatoes, garlic, and onions can be kept in a cool, dark and dry place, while fresh herbs thrive in a glass of water. Another great way to avoid food spoilage is by separating foods that can easily go bad from items with ethylene (which promotes ripening). Foods that produce ethylene gas include bananas, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, pears, and green onions.
You can also practice fermenting, pickling, canning, curing, drying, and freezing techniques to preserve food for as long as possible. This is an easy way to always have usable and safe foods at your disposal.
After a Meal
If you are unable to eat your leftovers within a few days, store them in the freezer rather than tossing fresh food. Fruit and vegetable scraps can be made into soups, smoothies, stir-fries, and baked goods like banana bread. You can also save produce stems, butts, and seeds to turn into new fruits and vegetables with a little soil, water, and sunlight. Using leftovers creatively is a great practice!
Any food scraps, food or beverage soiled paper, and yard trimmings should be placed in your compost bin to be turned into a nutrient rich soil additive! RethinkWaste service area residents can even pick up finished compost at our Shoreway facility!
If you have more food on hand than needed, please consider donating to a local food pantry. By practicing edible food recovery and composting, you are supporting California State law SB 1383, which aims to keep organic material out of landfills!
There are endless ways to reduce food waste which save the planet and your wallet. Finding any small or big changes that work for your household is an important step to address food waste and help California reach its goal of 75% source reduction!
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Get more food saving tips at StopFoodWaste.org.