8 food waste solutions to minimize your carbon footprint

Like many Americans, I am more than a little shocked by climate change. The recent United Nations climate report is quite scary and prompted me to take a look at the amount of waste generated in my family’s kitchen to see where I could make some small but significant changes. Food waste accounts for 8% of all man-made greenhouse gases worldwide. From another perspective, food waste causes more greenhouse gases than the aviation industry.

Aside from the food we throw away, either because it has gone bad or because we just don’t want it, we also throw away a ton of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Plastic wrap is difficult to recycle, contributes to plastic pollution and can be harmful as it degrades in the environment. While aluminum foil is recyclable, some communities do not include it in curbside pickup and the foil must be free of food scraps to be recycled. The average American throws away about three pounds of foil annually. It takes about 400 years to degrade in a landfill.

The good news is that we can reduce both the amount of food we waste and the packaging we use to store it. Read on for some ideas you can use today.

Better ways to wrap

You probably cut a lemon or avocado in half every day. The half you don’t use will likely be wrapped in a piece of plastic wrap and kept in the fridge. Swap out your plastic wrap for one of the great new reusable options on the market. Oxo’s Cut & Keep Silicone Produce Saver Set ($16.99) comes with two savers with a layer of silicone that stretches to fit inside the onion half or kiwi quarter. The savers are BPA-free and dishwasher safe.

OXO Good Grips Cut & Keep Produce Saver Set

Another option that’s easy to grab and use is from Food Huggers ($10.19) made of BPA-free silicone. I especially like the ones they make for avocados, which are shaped like everyone’s favorite toast and hug the fruit cut in half so they last a few more days in the fridge.

Reusable silicone avocado saver

If you’re trying to reduce the amount of plastic in your life overall, look at fabric food covers. Coyuchi’s are made from fair trade organic cotton and look like well-made shower caps. One set includes a small, medium, and large cover ($58) that are machine washable. They’re the perfect thing to cover a bowl of fresh cherries or a half-eaten salad.

Coyuchi Conserve Organic Bowl Covers

If you’re looking for a solution that works for virtually any leftover product or sandwich, grab a roll of Bee’s Wrap ($29.99). This moldable, rinseable and reusable wrap is made from organic cotton coated with a combination of beeswax, jojoba oil and tree sap. And for vegans, there’s a bee-free version made from wax from the candelilla plant, native to Mexico and the Southwest. You can buy pre-cut wraps in different sizes, make bags and sandwich bags in both versions. The only thing you cannot store in this eco-friendly packaging is raw meat and fish as the high heat required to disinfect would melt the packaging.

Bee’s winding roll

Smart ways to waste less

Every time I read how much food is wasted in the US, it never ceases to shock me. From farm to fork, we waste 133 billion pounds of food going to landfill and producing methane that contributes to climate change. According to the USDA, each of us throws away almost 220 pounds of food every year. For my family of five, that’s a staggering 1,100 pounds of food a year!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by these statistics, but unlike some environmental hazards that we can’t control, there’s a lot we can do to reduce food waste:

  1. Work on buying the right amount of groceries for your household. Planning your meals can help with this. You don’t have to prepare every meal from scratch – just plan the ones you’re going to cook and then stick to the game plan. Because you have a specific use for your ingredients, you’re less likely to waste them. The added bonus is that you save a ton of money by not ordering takeout or eating out.
  2. While I always encourage people to eat more fruits and veggies, they don’t all have to be fresh! Frozen fruits and vegetables help reduce food waste because you can only use the amount you need and then store the rest back in the freezer. Don’t forget that dried fruits like prunes, figs, and raisins count too—and last for months. And I know that huge 1lb container of spring mix you can find at your big department store seems like a great bargain, but the truth is you’re unlikely to use up those greens before they go bad will. Paying more per serving for a smaller container is actually better for the planet because it minimizes waste.
  3. I certainly don’t have a Pinterest-worthy fridge, but I’ll be the first to admit that an organized fridge wastes less food. When you can easily see the ingredients you have on hand, you’re less likely to double-buy. And keeping those leftovers front and center in clear containers is the best way to use them up quickly. Take stock of your fridge and freezer once a week before you go shopping and you’ll be on your way to less waste.

Turn leftover food into garden magic

You’ve reduced the amount of food you buy, but it’s inevitable that some food will still go unused. The good news is that you can turn this waste into compost that benefits the earth. Live in an apartment or don’t have a garden? No problem! Many cities and towns collect compost from the curb, and most farmers’ markets also collect leftovers. Community gardens are another great way to donate your compostable food waste and help your neighborhood. Read on for compost solutions for every home.

countertop composting

If you simply want to collect leftover food in a container that prevents it from smelling when it’s on your counter, there are several options. We like those from Full Circle ($32.99) and Bamboozle ($44.99), both of which look great in your kitchen, don’t take up much space, and are designed to reduce odors.

Full Circle Fresh Air Odor Free Kitchen Compost Bin

Bamboozle food compost bin

Another option I’m personally excited about is the new Vitamix Food Cycler ($324.95), which solves the problem of what to do if your area doesn’t collect leftovers. With this electric implement you can turn anything from egg shells, coffee grounds and lemon peel into compost that you can mix into soil for garden use. You put the waste in a bucket inside the device, turn it on, and in a matter of hours it dries the items and then grinds them into fertilizer, reducing the volume of food waste by 90 percent. And the bucket is dishwasher safe!

Vitamix FoodCycler

Composting in the backyard

This option requires more space and more know-how, but it is quite feasible. And if you’re an avid gardener, you’ll reap the rewards of making a rich (and free!) fertilizer for your flowers and plants. In addition to leftover food, you can also compost garden waste and dead leaves and plants. While some methods can take up to a year to produce useable fertilizer, other methods provide results in less than a month.

Backyard compost needs to be turned or aerated regularly. This allows the microbes to do their job and break down the plant matter. If you’re not too keen on using a pitchfork, you can purchase a composter that can be rotated, like the Multifunction Garden Compost Tumbler ($96.99). Some people use earthworms to speed up the rate of decomposition in their compost pile, but adding them isn’t necessary. You’ll know your compost is ready to use when it turns a deep brown and looks like damp soil.

Multifunctional drum composter for the garden

We all want to please Mother Earth, but don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Find out what solutions will best impact your budget and get started. To find out where to start, take the One Green Thing Quiz TODAY. Here it is to make our world a greener place!

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