Here at Home ReSource we live and breathe the daily reality that if we all just do a little, a whole lot gets done: we champion the small, everyday actions each of us can take that add up to the big changes we all want to see. And – as you well know – one of our biggest efforts is reducing waste. We know that, during this holiday season (with all the complexities and joys it can bring), with a little bit of thought and effort, we can do a whole lot to minimize waste. Food waste, in particular, is especially prevalent during this time of year. In our vision of a just and vibrant future, everyone has enough healthy, nutritious food and none of it ends up in the landfill.
The USDA estimates that between thirty and forty percent of the food supply in the United States is wasted. Food accounts for approximately 22% of municipal solid waste sent to landfill in the U.S. Not only is food waste a problem because of its end-of-life impacts in the landfill (organics emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as they decompose in landfills), but, more significantly because of the up- and mid-stream impacts – the wasted water, energy, inputs, money, labor, land, and other resources required to grow, process, transport, and store that uneaten food. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “If food wastage were a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world,” releasing 4.4 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide every year.
We need to enact many changes to address these problems and improve the tangled food system that creates this challenge for all of us – on the global, national, local, institutional, and individual scale. In the U.S., the majority of food waste is generated at the household level, telling us that, although this is a systemic problem, individual actions do still matter. We love that you are here to help! But how?
Here are some tips, tricks, and resources to empower you to have a food waste-free holiday season (and rest of the year!). And then let us know what worked and what didn’t!
1. Plan ahead
Prevention stems from preparation – knowing what you need and shopping accordingly is one of the best ways to reduce food waste. Tools like Save the Food’s Guest-imator help you calculate how much food you’ll need based on the amount of people you’re serving. The No Waste app allows you to make shopping lists, plan meals, and track your food so none of it goes to waste. You can use shopping list templates and premade meal plans, or keep it old school with a pen, paper, and cookbook! Hint: Shop for at least one fewer meal than you actually think you’ll need throughout the week – most of us tend to overestimate how many new meals we will cook in a week.
2. Store food properly
Did you know that the different areas in your fridge are optimal for different kinds of foods? Proper storage keeps food fresh longer! This handy fridge organization guide and A-Z storage guide can help. Save the Food also created a storage guide, and here are a few more food storage tips.
3. Use up what you have
Keep track of what you have on hand with an inventory list (or an app like No Waste) and plan leftovers accordingly. This handy tool from SuperCook (and similar apps) provides recipe suggestions based on ingredients you already have. Need Thanksgiving-specific leftover ideas? Here are some recipe suggestions (and vegetarian recipes!).
Expiration-date confusion is another major source of wasted food. Check out this food spoilage worksheet and date label guide to help you decide whether to eat or toss. Or use the USDA’s FoodKeeper app to check how long different types of food last.
After taking steps to prevent, reduce, and reuse as much food as possible, you can compost whatever is left! Build your own compost pile, drop off food scraps at Garden City Compost, or utilize a local compost collection service (Soil Cycle, Missoula Compost Collection, or Recycling Works).
5. Keep learning
Hungry for more? Check out these resources:
- 100 Ways to Reduce Food Waste video
- Eco-Leaders Training Webinar: Food Waste
- Virtual ReCook Cafe webinar recording and handouts
- Stop Food Waste: Food Saving Tips
- What Do I Do With Food? – ZERO by FIFTY Missoula
- Zero Waste Chef + Thanksgiving Archives
- EPA Food Waste Reduction Hierarchy
- FAO Food Waste Infographic
- NRDC Food Waste Report
- Oregon DEQ Strategic Plan for Preventing the Wasting of Food
- Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED)
- Save Food Campaign