Less Food Waste Helps Save the Planet. Eat Smart. Shop Smart. Eat Eggs.
As I consider topics for my Gemperle Farms blog, I’m constantly bombarded with issues concerning the environmental. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about food waste. It always hits me hard when I read the statistic about how much food we waste here in the US. As a traveler to many developing countries …. India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Honduras, Thailand, Nepal …. I’ve seen firsthand how families can put together a meal with a few potatoes, onions, flour, rice, beans and lentils. Adding a couple eggs to a dish is an extravagance to the general population in a country like Nepal. Most of the developing world would never consider throwing away food. Even the scraps and peels find there way to feed the pigs or chickens.
Our Earth is in a crisis, -drought, mega-fires, mega storms, global warming, to name just a few. Each of us need to do what we can to use fewer resources and lower our carbon, water and environmental footprint. If we can reduce our food waste, we can assist our Earth on its way to healing this crisis. It’s the responsibility of each one of us to do our part whether in reducing our food waste, installing LED bulbs, shortening our shower, or using an electric car…. whatever is possible for each of us.
So here are some of the hard statistics concerning food waste that will shock you and hopefully inspire you to change a few bad habits.
- Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted.
- Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
- Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
- Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).
- Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
- At retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.
- In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions
- In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month
Note: Statistical data from UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI)
Tips to Lowering Your Food Waste
Here are a few tips that can help your family lower your food waste, reduce your environmental footprint, and lower your grocery bills. Remember, food loss amounts to a major squandering of resources, including water, land and energy, thus contributing to climate change.
- First, patrol your pantry. Identifying which items should be eaten soonest. Plan your meals using these foods first. Learn about the best ways to store food. There is lots of info on the internet …. below are a few basics.
- Foods to put inside the fridge after purchase. Apples, berries, cherries, grapes, kiwi, lemons, and oranges. Most vegetables and herbs.
Cilantro stays fresh up to two weeks longer by placing stems in water in the fridge. Keeping your food fresh longer reduces the chance of waste.
- Ripen these fruits at room temperature then refrigerate. Melons, nectarines, apricots, peaches, plums, avocados, pears and tomatoes. Refrigerating right after ripening keeps them fresh longer.
- Eggs last in the fridge for 3-5 weeks while meat lasts only 1-2 days. So keep your fridge stocked with eggs as your main animal protein. They also have the lowest carbon footprint of any animal protein. Omelettes or baked eggs with creamed spinach make an easy dinner.
- Keep celery and lettuce crisp by wrapping in a moist paper tower and placing in a plastic bag or reusable container in the fridge. It will last 3-4 times longer.
- Outside the fridge store Bananas, mangoes, papayas, pineapples in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
- Store potatoes and onions in a dark cool place. Root vegetables stored properly will last for weeks.
- Keep fruits and vegetable in separate bins in your fridge. Some fruits can give off natural gases that hasten the spoilage of nearby produce. Bananas, apples, and tomatoes should be stored by themselves.
- Use those wilting vegetables like kale and spinach to make an egg scramble with a few sauteed onions — don’t throw those wilted greens away!
- Purchase storage bags and containers designed to extend the life of produce. These really work!
- Don’t wash your berries until ready to eat. That helps prevent mold from growing.
- Get creative with using leftovers. That leftover chicken can make a great soup. Leftover rice make a quick fried rice for dinner. Eggs work great to bind leftovers into a casserole ….. mix leftover potato, grilled veggies and a bit of cheese with a few eggs and you have a crust-less quiche. There are lots of website where yo can get ideas for using leftovers. Become a leftover artist!
- Make stock from vegetable trimmings or a chicken carcass.
- Your freezer is your friend. Freeze your leftover soups for a quick diner a few weeks away. Freeze fresh herbs to use later. Those brown bananas can be thrown right in the freezer peel and all for future banana bread. Freeze oil rich flour grains (like whole wheat) so they don’t get rancid. Chop and freeze older fruit for smoothies.
- Understand food dates. A “use by” date is very different from a “sell by” date and do not accurately indicate food safety.
- If you are going on vacation, give your perishable vegetables and fruits to your neighbors or freeze what is freezable
- If your kids need a science project, have them track your trash and analyze what being thrown out and why? They will think twice before throwing out that half eaten apple
We are all culprits when it comes to food waste. The key is conscious awareness of our behavior. Awareness of how much we buy, how much we cook, how we store our foods, what we already have in our pantries and what we eat. Eating a low carbon footprint protein like eggs, that can be stored for weeks in our fridge can help us greatly lower our waste. Conscience awareness of our food waste not only helps us become more socially and environmentally conscience but also helps us reduce our food budget and helps us save money. Also, remember when we throw away food we are wasting the water, energy and many resources and labor used to produce the food we put on our plates. So hopefully I have convinced you to think more mindfully and challenge yourself to reduce food waste in your family.
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