What is Food Waste and How Can it be Avoided?: Understanding Food Waste, Part 1

Have you ever stopped to consider how much food you throw away in a week? In a month? It’s something I hadn’t really given much thought to until I had to buy my own groceries, and then I started thinking about how much money I might be wasting. If you are conscious of food waste in your household, you may also be familiar with its impact. If not, here is an opportunity to learn a bit more about food waste.

Why talk about food waste?

First, there can be significant environmental impact with food waste due to the methane it produces once it hits landfills. Greenhouse gases absorb radiation, thereby heating our atmosphere and causing climate change. Second, wasting food accounts for water waste due to the amount of water required to produce the food products. Finally, food waste also negatively affects biodiversity. In some cases, certain land is destroyed to make way for land used for food production. In other cases, fisheries affect the marine ecosystem due to unsustainable practice, leading to depletion in the population. (This is one reason the Common Market works with Seafood Watch—to ensure the fish products our customers purchase use sustainable practices, thereby decreasing the environmental impact.)

Aside from the environmental impact, why is this an important topic?

Reducing food waste can save money, reduce the negative environmental impact, and support your community.

How can food waste be reduced?

If you’re concerned about household food waste, there are a few ways to reduce it.

  1. Plan meals

Planning meals means you are more likely to only buy food you will use in those meals—including the type product and amount of said product. You can buy non-perishables in bulk to have them on hand—especially if you will be using them frequently—but avoid buying perishables in bulk.

You can check out meal planning tips for beginners here. The Common Market is also hosting a meal planning class August 11th.

  1. Store Food the Right Way

Part of reducing food waste is knowing how to properly store food, especially perishables. You can freeze or preserve any extra fruit or vegetables.

  1. Prepare Foods as Soon as Possible

Don’t just throw your groceries into fridge when you get home. (I can’t be the only one guilty of this.) While you shouldn’t wash fruit before storage (the gases they can give off during ripening can cause quicker spoilage), you can wash and prepare (i.e. cut, chop, etc.) other foods and store them in storage containers in your fridge. Not only can this help with spoiling, but you will also have easy access to those foods for cooking or snacking. Convenient, right?

  1. Be Smart About Food Use

Yes, reducing food waste is all about being smart about how we use food. This also means looking at the food you already have before going grocery shopping. If you have ingredients you haven’t used, find new recipes. (I use Pinterest for recipe inspiration.) If some produce seems like it may be past its “prime,” you may still be able to use it for cooking. Soups and baked goods are great for this. (For instance, you can use overripe bananas—which would usually be thrown away—to make banana bread for a friend or colleagues.) Some products may even be able to be re-purposed–stale bread can be used to make croutons, and if you find a small spot of mold on cheese, simply cut away the mold and use the remainder of the cheese as normal.

What do you do to limit food waste?