5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste and Help the Environment
by Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
Fall is the time of year when we start thinking about upcoming holiday celebrations and the beautiful, elaborate meals we’ll be preparing to share with family.
Unfortunately, the holidays have become synonymous with overeating and food waste, where we often buy too much and prepare more than we need.
The Importance of Environmental-Friendly Choices
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated one-third of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste. That amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, which contributes to global food insecurity.
It is a harsh scenario to consider, especially when we are fortunate enough to have food on the fridge or the pantry whenever we get hungry. But this privilege can also inspire us to make more conscious choices.
In a survey conducted by Herbalife Nutrition that concerned plant-based diets, 40 percent of respondents said that their food choices are a result of wanting to be more environmentally friendly. Reducing food waste is an additional, simple action that can have a great effect.
5 Practical Ways to Help the Environment
When planning your family meals, there are several ways in which you can help reduce food waste and live more sustainably. Here are five of them:
1. Plan ahead.
Whether you’re prepping nutritious meals for the week or planning the menu for your next soiree, planning ahead is a great way to ensure you’re preparing only what you can consume and not serving your guests more than they can eat.
2. Consider cooking with more sustainable ingredients.
People are leaning towards more plant-based diets for a variety of reasons, including health concerns, weight loss, or concerns about the environment. For those who are just starting to experiment, it might be best to adopt a “flexitarian” diet or menu, which is a primarily plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. It’s a great way to maintain a healthy, balanced diet while helping to protect the environment by cutting down on energy and resources used to produce red meat.
3. Plate up in the kitchen instead of at the table.
Consider portioning out your meal in the kitchen. Serving food family-style makes it easy for everyone to help themselves, which is why it’s not such a good idea if you’re trying to control portions. With serving dishes on the table, it’s just too easy to have “just another spoonful.” One of the biggest sources of food waste comes from food left on the plate, which often ends up in the trash.
4. Repurpose foods that are reaching expiration.
There are many ways to get the most out of your perishable food items, even when they start to look a little sad. When your tomatoes get too mushy to cut up for salads, consider making them into homemade tomato sauce. Are your bananas getting brown and squishy? Give them more life by unpeeling them, and keep them in the freezer as a healthy smoothie ingredient! Soups and stews are great dishes that can incorporate many different ingredients, such as veggies that might be a little past their prime.
5. Donate extras to those in need.
Clearing out your pantry? Consider donating extra shelf-stable food items to local food banks and charities. You can find local food banks through Why Hunger.
The next time you are cleaning out your refrigerator, freezer or pantry, pay attention to what you’ve tossed and make an effort to reduce food waste in the future.