Synopsis: This article offers 10 practical tips on curbing food waste. These include shopping and storage; cooking and upcycling kitchen scraps; sharing extra food; and disposing food responsibly.
Every year, more than half of Canada’s food supply is wasted. It’s estimated that nearly $50 billion of that wasted food (2.2 million tonnes) could have been avoided. Here’s another eye-popping stat: this is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 2.1 million cars on the road.
When food waste and scraps are thrown in the trash, they end up in landfill. Why is this bad? Organic materials cannot break down into the soil; instead, they decompose without oxygen and emit methane as a result. Methane is a greenhouse gas considered to be over 20 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.
So before you toss that banana peel in the garbage, think about its final destination and the impact on our planet. Here are 10 simple tips to avoid food waste.
There are many benefits of composting, including soil decontamination, reduced greenhouse gases, avoiding fertilizer runoff, and water retention. Compost can be used for reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization to reverse the effects of industrialization.
When I’m outside and need to discard an apple core or a tea bag, I’ll bring it home in order to put it in my green bin. I also look for green bins around town, such as in dog parks.
Compost collection varies by municipality, so check your local guidelines. If you live in an apartment or work in an office building that doesn’t divert food waste from landfills, talk to management about setting up such a program. Or consider backyard or indoor composting.
2. Plan your grocery trips and don’t shop while you’re hungry
Make a list to prevent impulse shopping, and buy only what you need. Bulk food stores are ideal because you can control the portions you get.
3. Store your food properly
- Be mindful of best-before dates. Near the front of the fridge or pantry, place food that will go bad sooner so that you’ll eat them sooner.
- Use glass jars or containers to store leftovers and chopped food. You’ll be more likely to see exactly the food you have in there.
- Certain veggies like kale, broccoli, carrot, asparagus, green onion, and herbs like cilantro will keep longer when stored in water in a jar. Mushrooms are best kept in paper bags. See more tips on storing fruits and vegetables.
- Freezing will also prolong the life of your food.
4. Order what you need
Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and restaurant menus look tantalizing. But don’t over-order. If you do have leftovers, take them home. Pre-pandemic, I brought my own food containers to restaurants so that I didn’t leave anything behind. (Eventually servers stopped looking at me funny.)
5. The “ugly” and “imperfect” produce are indeed edible
Mother Nature doesn’t always yield Instagram-worthy food. But they still taste great. I like to chop up the not-so-appealing stalks of kale and broccoli, then roast them with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon.
6. Use up food that’s about to go bad
- Fruit can be blended up into a fresh smoothie, or eaten with yogurt or granola.
- With veggies, chop them up and toss them into stir fries, salads, pastas, and soups.
- Make your own veggie broth with onion, celery, carrot, and spices, which also freezes well.
- Got bread that’s starting to turn stale? Cut them into small chunks and bake croutons.
- Turn wilting greens like basil and arugula into sauces like pesto.
- Make spa water by adding strawberry tops and basil stems.
7. Make a natural cleaner
Cleaning your home couldn’t be easier or cheaper. Fill a spray bottle with water, white vinegar, and citrus peels from a lemon, lime, or orange.
8. Dry fresh herbs
Leftover herbs like lavender, rosemary, mint, dill, and thyme can be easily dried by hanging, or placing them in a paper bag, or putting them in the oven. Then use them to infuse water, make tea, add to a hot bath, or make a household cleaner.
9. Share leftover or excess food
If I bought or made too much of something, I’ll give the extras to friends, colleagues, and those in need. During this pandemic, community fridges have popped up around my town — encouraging anyone to give what they can. Find out what food banks and shelters in your area accept food items.
10. Feed the dog
Check with your vet first on what is safe for your dog to eat. Generally, your furry friend can enjoy rice, pasta, sweet potato, beans, chopped veggies, and leftover meat and fish. Get more tips on food for dogs.