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Why reducing your at-home food waste is important and how you can achieve it

Written by: Juliette Ambrogi, We Don’t Waste, Food Recovery Specialist

Food waste is the greatest contributor to landfills, followed by plastics and paper. Once food waste reaches the landfill and begins to decompose, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more toxic than carbon dioxide.

Food can be wasted on a multitude of levels. Airports, hospitals, universities, convention centers, stadiums, and banquet halls produce large amounts of food waste. This is where We Don’t Waste comes in! We Don’t Waste recovers millions of servings of food from these places every year. One place we cannot recover food from, however, is your refrigerator. And unfortunately, the greatest amount of food is wasted at the household level. According to the NRDC, American families throw away approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This is like leaving the grocery store with four bags of food and then purposefully leaving one full bag in the parking lot. Goodbye, perfectly delicious Cheez-its and honey crisp apples. Four a family of four, this loss equates to about $1,365-$2,275 annually.

But have no fear! There is hope to solve this silly problem! There are a multitude of ways we can keep food out of the landfill. And it’s easily achievable.

So, how do we do it?

Plan your meals ahead of time and resist the urge to go outside of your weekly plan. If you’re not going to incorporate that pack of blueberries and that pack of strawberries into your weekly meal plan, wait to buy them! Write a shopping list and stick to it. Focus, focus.

Be wary of Best By dates. Did you know that Best By dates aren’t regulated and do not indicate food safety, except on certain baby foods? Labels are usually put on food items as a best guess, causing confusion to the consumer. A study done in the U.K. found that about 20 percent of perfectly edible food was thrown away because of labeling confusion. The best way to tell whether food is edible or not is by using your sight and smell.

Explore new recipes, like this Clean Out the Fridge soup. When life gives you limp vegetables, throw them all into one pot. This particular recipe allows for many substitutions, so you can use any vegetable that might go bad soon. Making soups and smoothies are great ways to use perishable foods quickly, along with freezing, pickling, and grilling.

Grow your own food! Even if it’s one tomato plant in one planter. By growing your own produce or herbs, only you have to decide when to harvest the food, giving it less time to sit in the refrigerator.

Organize your refrigerator and make sure your food is seen. Food often goes bad because we forget about the broccoli and bell peppers way in the back, underneath the bag of spinach. Check up on the goods in your refrigerator every week or before going grocery shopping so that you can incorporate the food you already have.

Consider your composting options as a last resort. Though food is still being wasted, it is at least getting properly recycled and reused.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that consumers typically do not believe that the amount they waste at home makes a significant contribution to overall food waste. In a 2017 study, however, the NRDC found that consumers threw away an average of 3.5 pounds of food per person per week. This adds up! By committing to reducing the amount of food wasted in our homes, we are committing saving water, energy, labor, land use, and our hard-earned cash! We know that you believe in We Don’t Waste as much as We Don’t Waste believes in you. Together, let’s take on the silliest problem: food waste!