Waste is an increasingly more urgent problem in today's world, with a finite amount of resources available and a growing global population year by year. One of the largest impacts of waste annually in the United States is in food waste. How do we define food waste, and what can we do about it?
What is Food Waste?
Food waste is any food items that are tossed into landfills rather than consumed. This can include leftovers that are not eaten and end up in your trash can, but also include expired or spoiled food, excess ingredients tossed from recipes, or parts of foods not typically consumed (such as potato skins, stems of leafy vegetables, or the rinds of citrus fruits.) Food waste occurs in individual households, at restaurants nationwide, and through production lines at food processing plants.
Why is Food Waste a Problem?
So what’s the big deal with food waste? According to the EPA, approximately ⅓ of the food grown or produced in the US ends up not being eaten. Of that amount, most of it ends up sitting in our landfills. In 2019, the EPA estimated that 96% of household food waste were destined for landfills, down kitchen drains, or in combustion facilities.
Landfill-bound food is considered harmful to the environment despite that most food is considered biodegradable or compostable. Landfills in the US are not designed to accommodate airflow, a necessary step in the biodegrading and composting processes. Without airflow, food waste lacks the necessary mechanisms to break down appropriately. This results in more space used up and the formation of noxious chemicals leached into the air and nearby waterways. The more we can keep out landfills, including what’s on our dinner plates, the healthier our planet - and our communities - will be.
How Can We Decrease Our Food Waste?
Luckily, there are some simple solutions to mitigating food waste that you can do right at home! Some are free (or are even designed to save you money) and others come with a small price tag, so you can tailor your food waste prevention according to your lifestyle and budget.
Buy less food. This tip, while simple, is effective and has the extra benefit of saving you money. Make sure you have a plan for the food you put in your grocery cart, and use up the food you've already purchased before it spoils. Meal prepping or grocery shopping more frequently (if it fits into your schedule) can help you achieve this more easily. My partner and I have a hard-and-fast rule in our household that if we buy a package of berries, we must eat them within 48 hours, because otherwise we’ll forget them and they’ll spoil on us. That one small rule has helped us to avoid wasting food and money, and has helped us remember to get in our fruits!
Shop at stores that prioritize reducing food waste. Online marketplaces like Imperfect Foods are revolutionizing the food waste game in grocery shopping. At many grocery stores, only the most visually-appealing fresh produce and packages are chosen to fill the aisles. Low-food-waste grocery stores choose produce that would otherwise be rejected by major supermarkets and sell them directly to consumers. They ensure the taste and quality of their foods, but you may get apples that are a bit wonky-shaped or carrots that look like they’ve grown some little feet!
Explore the world of composting. Another source for mitigating landfill food waste is through the process of composting. This process breaks down food into rich soil that can be used in gardens, and can be accomplished at home or through commercial composting services. If you’d like to compost at home, you can look into vermicomposting (composting with worms in a sealed bin placed discretely in your home) or backyard composting (many people opt for a compost tumbler or simply create a compost pile in a corner of their yard.) If you’d prefer to compost through a professional service, there are an abundance of composting services now available, which will either pick up your compost directly from your home on a routine basis, or allow you to drop off your compost at a drop-off location when you fill up a bag. Learn more about composting and how to start here.
Get clever with rarely-used food scraps. Get crafty in your kitchen to use up scraps from food that you would otherwise toss. Fry or bake up potato skins with some salt and spices for a crunchy treat or toss your unused spinach stems into a fruit smoothie for an extra kick of nutrition. By using more of the foods you buy, you can keep more out of your trash can and get creative with the food you’re bringing into your home. Pro tip: Social media is chock-full of ideas for using food scraps in your everyday cooking.
Shop Sustainably With Us!
At Summit Sustainable Goods, all our zero waste household care and personal care products are truly environmentally friendly and help prevent waste throughout your home and daily routines. No items destined for landfill here! We work with our suppliers to make sure all the products we sell are genuinely safe for the environment and your body - because we believe that you and mother nature both deserve the best. It’s just another way we live into our values of being as environmentally and ethically conscious as possible.
Where can you find our curated selection of high quality and sustainable products? You know we’ve got you covered! Check out our website at www.summitsustainablegoods.eco or visit us at a local pop-up around town. (Info available through our website or socials.) Want to follow our journey and learn about future zero waste events and happenings? Adventure with us by signing up for our email list or follow us on Instagram or Facebook to keep up-to-date on all things Summit.