Facts About Food Waste

Day 262 – Back on Day 216, I wrote about the app, Too Good To Go. The app connects people with perfectly good food that bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses are trying to sell before being tossed in the trash. The food is offered at a reduced price, giving consumers a great opportunity to rescue food at a discount.

Well, that same app is also a great source of information. The Food Waste Knowledge Hub offers a great deal of information about food waste.

They cover various questions about food waste:

  1. What is food waste?
  2. Where is food wasted?
  3. Why is food wasted?
  4. What food is wasted?
  5. Why is food waste a problem?
  6. Where does food waste go in the end?

By being informed you will discover important information about why food waste needs to be a priority for everyone.

  1. Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, approximately 1.6 billion tons.
  2. That means within a year, we waste around 51 tons every second.
  3. Up to 40% of all food produced in the US is currently wasted and 83% of this is either wasted in food services such as restaurants and hotels, or at home. Currently, a whopping 63 million tons of food is not recycled or recovered, but instead heads to landfill, is incinerated, or remains unharvested.
  4. Food waste occurs at all stages from farm to fork.
  5. The most wasted type of food is fruit and vegetables. Almost half of all fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers are wasted along the supply chain, while one third of all fish and seafood never make it to our plate.
  6. Up to two-fifths of all fruit and vegetable crops are wasted because they are ‘ugly’.
  7. Our food system, and with it food waste, is the number one contributing factor that drives this threatening change in nature through land use change, pollution, and climate change.
  8. More than 70 billion tons of Green House Gases could be prevented from being released into the atmosphere, if we cut down on food waste.
  9. Together, the world’s top five meat and dairy corporations are now responsible for more annual GHG  emissions than Exxon, Shell or BP.
  10. Currently, in the U.S, a whooping 63 million tons of food is not recycled or recovered, but instead heads to landfill, is incinerated, or remains unharvested.

In order to understand the problem, you need to have the information. Spend a little time educating yourself. Most people don’t understand that food waste is a global issue that has a serious impact on our planet and our overall well-being.

What are you doing to fight the war against food waste?

Tomorrow, sustainable plastic products.

Oyster Shells: Creating New Colonies

Day 246 – I have never eaten an oyster, but plenty of people enjoy the salty, slippery mollusk. However, they do so much more than offer a food source.

They play a vital role in habitat restoration with the growing understanding that oyster reefs purify the waters in which they live and create preferred habitats for commercial and recreational fish species. Oyster reefs help stabilize shorelines and mitigate some of the impacts of sea level rise while acting as a carbon sink in part by improving the water’s capacity to absorb excess atmospheric CO2.” – Oyster Recovery

So, it makes perfect sense that making sure these habitats are healthy and thriving would be a major priority. One of the ways this is being done is through discarded shells. The shells discarded by diners are being collected, cleaned and dumped into waterways around the country and the world, where they form the basis of new oyster colonies. Not only is this process benefitting ecological restoration, but it has kept 65 tons of shells out of landfills.

The oyster colonies also are being planted along coastlines as a shore stabilization and storm mitigation strategy: the bumpy underwater colonies can act as speed bumps for destructive waves headed for the shoreline, dissipating some of their energy.” – ABC News

Currently the oyster restoration and and shell recycling program are only offered in states located along the ocean shoreline. Hopefully, the program will expand across the country, where oyster shells continue finding their way to landfills.

Tomorrow, celebrating National Wildlife Day.

Seven Generations Ahead: Building ecological sustainable and healthy communities

Day 242 – Who is Seven Generations Ahead?

SGA works with local government, community and private sector leaders to help communities make the changes they need to build a healthy and sustainable future. Through community-wide sustainability planning and implementation, project design and implementation, educational conferences and forums, community network development, consulting, and programs, SGA is a catalyst for local community solutions to global environmental issues. SGA’s work covers a broad range of sustainability topic areas, including: energy efficiency and renewable energy; transportation; healthy community development; waste reduction; water conservation; green business; procurement; local, sustainable food; healthy eating; open space and ecosystem enhancement; and sustainability education.” – Seven Generations Ahead

Seven Generations Ahead works with various networks, in order to achieve sustainability and healthy communities.

  1. PlanItGreen is the sustainability plan for the communities of Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois.
  2. The Fox Valley Sustainability Network (FVSN) brings together the public and private sectors from around the Fox Valley to cut across boundaries and create a healthy, sustainable and vibrant Fox Valley.
  3. GreenTown conferences are the best way to work with community stakeholders, civic leaders and passionate citizens to jump start a network.
  4. The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) grew out of a one-year food scrap composting forum planning process to support research, programs, education and policy initiatives.
  5. The Wasted Food Action Alliance (WFAA) aims to develop a working strategy and action platform that makes Illinois a leader in reducing wasted food through collaboration, education, and policy.

Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) works with schools, businesses, institutions, and municipalities to provide support for all steps along a path to zero waste from planning to implementation.

  1. Zero Waste Schools
  2. Food Waste Reductions and Composting

Seven Generations Ahead created the Illinois Farm to School Network (IFSN).

IFSN is comprised of teachers, early care providers, food service staff, farmers, students, and others who are working to change food purchasing and education practices in their communities. The network provides training, connects partners, and shares resources about all aspects of farm to school– including local food sourcing, hands-on nutrition education, and school gardening.” – SGA

Seven Generations Ahead also created a project called It’s Our Future.  The project will equip young leaders in Oak Park/River Forest to advocate for climate change solutions that benefit all members of our community.

Seven Generations Ahead is an amazing resource for any community. They are committed to building a healthy and sustainable future for us all.

Tomorrow, a company that will recycle your batteries, for a fee.

3D Printing Food Waste into Usable Products

Day 233 – I first came across an article about a company in Milan, named Krill Designs, that is transforming inedible food waste into functional homeware products. One of the products is a 3D printed lamp made from orange peels. The “Ohmie” is a compostable lamp made from the peels of two to three oranges that are dried, ground into a powder, and added to a vegetable starch base. That combined material is molded into pellets used in a 3D printing process that layers the material into a textured shade and base. Due to the organic matter that makes up the lamp, the color varies. One of the coolest features is that even as it ages it maintains its citrusy smell.

So, after reading about the orange lamp, I wanted to find out more about 3D printing food waste into usable products. I found two very cool companies that are taking food waste and turning into something quite amazing!

Upprinting Food

Upprinting Food is a company in the Netherlands that is turning food waste into attractive, tasty food using 3D printing.

By blending and combining the different ingredients from residual food flows, purees are created, which then are being 3D printed by a food printer. These prints are baked and dehydrated for crunch and longevity. We currently have created several recipes, both bread, and rice-based, and we are working to create new recipes all the time. We are focusing on collaborations with high-end restaurants to help them reduce their residual food flows and to create a unique dining experience.” – Upprinting Food

Genecis

Genecis is a Canadian company that has figured out a way to recycle food waste and turn it into biodegradable plastics, which can then be used to make everything from 3D printing filament to packaging. Their PHBV plastic has equivalent properties to traditional oil based plastics, without the environmental costs. When the product reaches end of its useful life it can be composted within a month. If it does find its way into the ocean, it degrades within a year.

“Genecis uses biology to convert organic waste into higher value materials. The first product line is PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) biopolymers, which is used in combination with PLA to make 3D printing filaments. It is also used to make high-end flexible packaging and containers. In addition, PHAs makes a tougher and less brittle 3D printing filament. The end product is 100 percent biodegradable, and can be mixed with a variety of colors,” explained Luna Yu, the Founder and CEO of Genecis. “Currently, all PHAs are made from expensive food crops such as corn, sugar cane, and canola. Genecis has developed a novel technology that produces PHAs from mixed food waste, dramatically reducing the production costs.”

The technology is there to help numerous problems that plague our planet. Food waste and plastic pollution could be a thing of the past if companies decide to tap into these brilliant solutions.

Tomorrow, we are at a point where we need to cover our mountains in order to save the snow caps.

Recycling Cooking Oil

Day 220 – My family enjoys french fries. For the longest time we would bake them in the oven. However, once we were introduced to fries cooked in a fryer, we definitely preferred them over the oven baked. Large bottles of cooking oil were purchased and used numerous times. However, once the cooking oil was no longer good to fry with, we were not sure how to dispose of it. Capping it and tossing it in the garbage did not seem like a good solution. Last year, I looked into the Loyola University School of Environmental Sustainability’s cooking oil recycling program. I was disappointed to find out that the program was on pause due to the pandemic.

Well, I’m happy to say that Loyola Biodiesel Program is back in business.

The Biodiesel Program accepts donations of used cooking oil. If you have recently deep-fried a turkey, or have a jar of expired oil…we’ll take it! All vegetable oil (including peanut oil) donated to Loyola will be turned into clean-burning, renewable fuel: biodiesel. We do NOT accept solid fats, petroleum oil products, bacon grease, or pan drippings.” – LBP

Loyola’s student-run enterprise is the first and only school operation licensed to sell biodiesel in the United States, and is a certified green business with the Illinois Green Business Association.

To donate your oil please drop-off your oil in sealed containers at the School of Environmental Sustainability:

6349 N. Kenmore Ave. Chicago, IL 60660

Look for the Oil Donation sign on the left-hand side as you enter the lobby. If the door is locked, please leave your oil in a sealed container outside the door and off to the side so it does not block the door. Thank you!

To find the closest oil recycling near you, click HERE.

Even though we have a place to recycle our oil, we are strongly considering purchasing an air fryer. Not needing to purchase all that oil in plastic bottles would be a nice thing to avoid. Not to mention, I can only imagine having less fried food in our diet would be more healthy.

Tomorrow, keeping the planet in mind while gathering up those back to school supplies.

An App Rescuing Food from the Landfill

Day 216 – The Too Good To Go app is really making a difference on the fight against food waste. To date, they have saved 85 million meals from being tossed in the trash. The concept is very easy and brilliant!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Restaurants, supermarkets, cafes, bakeries (and much more) will, at the end of the day, see how much extra food they have left over.
  2. They will put an add on the Too Good To Go app to notify customers about the reduced priced food.
  3. With the Google Maps function implemented in the app, customers can easily locate restaurants and stores that sell the food.
  4. All the food is discounted, which helps provide people with an inexpensive meal, and it helps restaurants sell all their food.
  5. The planet will be happy as this is a very sustainable way of pushing “leftovers” to consumers and keeping food out of the landfill.

Too Good To Go hopes that the more people that use the app, the more food gets consumed instead of ending up in a landfill. On average, each meal you rescue from going to the trash is equivalent to the carbon footprint from charging your smartphone 422 times.

Lastly, Too Good To Go is a Certified B-Corporation and they’re active in Chicago (and many more towns and cities across the country)!

Tomorrow, celebrating National Underwear Day.

Which is greener? Grocery shopping online or in-person

Day 215 – The pandemic has really increased the use of online grocery shopping. My family used the option a couple times when we had a positive case in the family and quarantined for a couple weeks. I was thankful for having this option and so grateful for those working through the pandemic to ensure we had access to food and all the essentials. After our quarantine was over, we were back to shopping in-person. However, I know many people have really liked the idea of having their groceries delivered and may never consider going back to a grocery store. So, I thought I would write about which shopping method is greener, online or in-person.

While reading a few articles on the subject a few points stuck out.

  1. Large grocery stores use a great deal of energy to operate. Making sure customers and products are at a comfortable temperature takes a lot of energy.
  2. Overstocking in large grocery stores is standard and it’s estimated that 10.5 million tons of food waste are generated from grocery stores each year.
  3. Direct delivery from a fulfillment center has the potential to eliminate some retail inefficiencies. Fulfillment centers eliminate at least one step from the distribution system, can store food in a way that keeps it fresh longest instead of in appealing displays for consumers, and can order only what they know they will sell.
  4. Secondary packaging for delivery – such as disposable bags, ice packs, and foam cushioning – is an additional source of waste.
  5. The number of delivery vehicles in cities is projected to rise 36% by 2030, which could lead to an increase in emissions and a 21% increase in congestion.
  6. Journey consolidation and smart routing powered by artificial intelligence are promising approaches to more efficient, less polluting delivery.

In the end, both options have their negative and positive effects on the environment.

Earth911 came up with a list of questions to ask yourself before deciding which option is best for you and the planet.

  • Are you replacing a drive to the supermarket, or would you have walked or biked instead?
  • Do your deliveries come from a local hub or a large, distant distribution center?
  • Who makes the deliveries? Gig workers in their own vehicles or employees in company-owned electric vehicles?
  • Do they deliver in reusable containers made from recycled materials or disposable ones made from virgin materials?
  • Do they deliver your groceries according to an algorithm that reduces delivery miles or at the time you specify?

For me, the biggest turn off to online shopping is the extra packaging. At times it is absurd as to how much is used. If I can find what I’m looking for at the local store, I will opt to purchase in-person, using my reusable bags.

Tomorrow, an app that is saving consumers money and addresses the problem of food waste.

Reusable Takeout Containers

Day 211 – The number of plastic takeout containers we collect at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup is significant. When I think about the number of plastic and polystyrene disposable takeout containers used day in and day out, across the city, the state, throughout the country, and around the planet, it makes my head hurt. There is a solution to this problem and people are beginning to take action.

In New York, the restaurant DIG (691 Broadway in Manhattan), has started a program called Canteen. Those who enroll in the program will install a smartphone app, Canteen by Dig, and consent to a fee of $3 a month for the service. In return, they’ll be able to take their lunch with them in a hard-shelled, reusable bowl made from black melamine, complete with a white plastic lid. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Create your account to start using Canteen by Dig. A membership costs $3 per month and allows you to check out one bowl at a time.
  2. Enter the four digit location code and click “Use Canteen Bowl”. Show the Good to Go screen when you place your order to have it packaged in a Canteen Bowl.
  3. By using Canteen by Dig reusable bowls, you’re saving resources, energy, greenhouse gas emissions and single use trash from landfills.
  4. Return the bowl to a participating Dig location. Find the Canteen Bowl Return sign, Open your app, click on the “Return Your Canteen” and scan the QR code on the sign to check the bowl in. Leave the bowl in the designated return container.
  5. There is no limit to the number of times you can check out and return a Canteen Bowl each month, so reuse often.

Before there was Dig, there was Go Box. Go Box started offering reusable takeout containers at food carts in 2015. The program has expanded to include 110 restaurants and food vendors across Portland, Oregon. Consumers purchase monthly subscriptions, which start at $3.95 per month and show a QR code to participating food vendors to have their to-go orders packed in reusable containers. The used containers are deposited in drop boxes at restaurants and participating partners such as bike shops and banks; Go Box washes and sterilizes the reusable container before restocking with vendors.

Companies like RePlated are making reusable food containers for people who want to enjoy takeout, without feeling bad about waste. The containers are designed and made In Australia from recycled plastic. Each lunchbox saves eight soft drink bottles from landfill. RePlated helps businesses build flexible systems to make single-use plastic containers a thing of the past.

More and more companies are popping up to offer this service and it is one we desperately need. We can only hope that reusable takeout containers are not something we have to seek out, but will be part of our everyday takeout experience.

Tomorrow, a look back on Plastic Free July.

IGLOO’s Coolers are Going Green

Day 205 – Many of us have an IGLOO cooler. It may be very large or it could be very small. They come in all sizes and colors. Now they’re even environmentally friendly. IGLOO has created the first hardside cooler made from recycled plastic. The ECOCOOL collection is the first of its kind to be made with recycled resin. The resin is made from post-consumer plastic. They are taking discarded plastic yogurt cups and milk jugs that would otherwise end up in landfills throughout the world and transforming it into a recycled resin used in the outside body, liner and/or lid of each ECOCOOL cooler, all made at their facility in the USA.

IGLOO has also partnered up with the Parks Project. A special edition collection of ECOCOOL™ Playmates is now available with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the National Parks Conservation Association.

IGLOO also offers the Packable Puffer cooler bags, which is made with recycled plastic bottles from the inside out: PrimaLoft® insulation and REPREVE® exterior. With a fully scrunchable, compressible construction, this cooler folds into its own front pocket for ultimate packability. All this and the Packable Puffer still provides 12 hours of ice retention.

Lastly, IGLOO has created the world’s first 100% biodegradable cooler. It’s biodegradable, compostable and recyclable, RECOOL helps eliminate the need for those harmful, single-use polystyrene foam coolers that had once been so commonplace. Since they released RECOOL in 2019, it’s gone on to receive eight innovation awards, and have sold 575,000 and counting. Less polystyrene foam in the world is a good thing.

IGLOO not only wants to keep your food and drinks cold, but they are doing their part to help keep the planet cool.

Tomorrow, an important message from the U.S. Coast Guard.

We Have Reached the Half Way Mark!

Day 183 – Half the year is over and my family has made a lot of changes for the better. However, we still have another half to go, to learn and share ways to help protect our planet. Some changes have stuck, while others didn’t make the cut. I thought I would share what is working and what has not.

Our Top Ten Most Loved Changes

  1. Composting – On Day 2, Day 118 and Day 149, I have written about how awesome composting is and how using Waste Not Compost has changed our lives. For anyone wanting to make a difference, this is my #1 suggestion. Since, starting back in December 2020, my family of six has diverted 258 pounds of food waste from the landfill. Instead that food has created nutrient rich soil. Anyone that can add $10 to their weekly budget, should be composting!
  2. Recycling through the North Park Recycling Center – On Day 4, I wrote about how my family stopped putting our recyclables in the blue bin. After finding out how dismal our recycling percentage is in the city, I decided to send our recyclables to the North Park Village Recycling Center. We go once a month and sometimes I can stretch it out to two months. If you can avoid putting your recyclables in the blue bin and can find a reliable recycler, I encourage you to go that route.
  3. Using a Zero Waste Box – On Day 77, I wrote about how we invested in a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box. It has actually been three boxes. I first purchased a candy wrapper and snack bag box, thinking that would cover a lot of non-recyclable waste we were producing. I then moved into the kitchen box, which accepted many other things, like plastic packaging, paper Packaging, cleaning accessories, coffee and tea accessories, party supplies and dining disposables, interior home furnishings, prescription drug packaging, fabrics and clothing. I have finally came to the realization that the All-in-one box is the way to go. Just a few of the items accepted in the All-in-one box: art supplies, books & magazines, E-waste, eye wear, home cleaning accessories, fabrics, and clothing, office supplies, pet products (non-food), plastic cards, shipping materials, storage media, plastic and paper packaging, kitchen gear, filters (air/water), coffee capsules and coffee bags, party supplies and dining disposables. With the help of zero waste boxes, we have gone from two bags of garbage a week to one bag of garbage every three weeks.
  4. Reusable produce bags and storage bags – On Day 13 and Day 34, I wrote about how we switched to reusable produce bags and storage bags. This has been a game changer. The amount of plastic produce bags and Ziploc Storage bags (of all sizes) that we have avoided is substantial. This change is a no brainer and very easy to do!
  5. Blueland Products – On Day 21, I wrote about switching our cleaning products to Blueland and their line of plastic free products. We have know had a chance to use every product, but the glass cleaner and dish soap (still working on our original supply). We love every product, especially the foaming hand soap and dishwasher tablets. It feels so good to avoid purchasing all those cleaning products in plastic bottles. It’s also awesome that all the Blueland tablets arrive in compostable packaging.
  6. Who Gives a Crap – On Day 26, I wrote about switching to Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. This has been a real feel good purchase. Not only are we saving trees by using toilet paper made from recycled paper, but the company donates funds to build toilets in countries without such facilities. Love this company!
  7. Cloth Napkins – On Day 38, I wrote about how we have cut back on our paper towel use. A big thanks goes to my sister-in-law for making us cloth napkins that we use everyday, for every meal. Because of these pretty pieces of cloth, we have drastically cut back on our paper towel use.
  8. Plastic free laundry detergent – On Day 51, I wrote about ditching the liquid laundry detergent in the plastic bottle and going with Meliora’s powered detergent in a reusable canister. I have been using the detergent for months and have been very happy with it. I love that cleaning my laundry has become plastic free.
  9. Reducing the purchase of food in plastic containers – This one hasn’t been easy, but by cutting some products out of our lives and switching to glass or aluminum packaging, we have reduced our plastic waste. We no longer purchase spreadable butter and have avoided purchasing fruit in plastic packaging (strawberries and blueberries), just to name a few changes we have made. We will continue to work on this one.
  10. The switch to plastic free toiletries – We have made the switch to bar soap in plastic free packaging, bamboo toothbrushes and plastic free deodorant. We recycle our toothpaste tubes and shampoo bottles though TerraCycle.

What didn’t work out

  1. Reusable shaver – On Day 71, I wrote about how I switched to a reusable shaver. Unfortunately, I have found that I am not a very skilled shaver. I had numerous cuts, but the last one was a doozy. I decided that for now, I needed to go back to a safer option. I am using a Gillette razor with replaceable blades and recycling those blades through TerraCycle.
  2. Misfits Market – On Day 36, I wrote about how we started a biweekly (every two weeks) subscription to Misfits Markets. We received shipments for numerous months. A couple weeks ago we decided to suspend our prescription. We had three orders with items missing and replaced with products we did not want. I was also not a fan of the packaging. Even though it was all recyclable, there was a lot. We are making a point to visit farms markets this summer to enjoy locally grown produce.

As you can see, almost all the changes we have made are working and we don’t mind doing them. They are all easy and not too difficult to implement. What changes are you ready to make?

Tomorrow, celebrating International Plastic Bag Free Day.