Reducing Food Waste

Day 289 – Today is World Food Day! It’s a good time to think about ways in which we can try to reduce food waste. The folks at FoodPrint has created an A to Z list for ways we can reduce our food waste.

  1. Avoid over buying & skip buying perishable items in bulk. It’s not a bargain if you don’t eat it all.
  2. B is for blanching. Partially cook vegetables before freezing to help retain their texture & flavor.
  3. C is for composting food scraps. Get all the info to start a compost bin in our primer.
  4. Don’t throw it away! Edible food is often thrown away due to confusion about expiration dates and/or unjustified fear of spoilage. Learn what date labels mean.
  5. E is for ends. Don’t overlook the end of your carrot tops (which can be given to dogs as treats) or apple cores (use them to make vinegar).
  6. F is for freezing. Learn the best methods for freezing a bumper crop of produce to enjoy those flavors all year long.
  7. Give extra homegrown fruit & produce to friends, family and coworkers. Or find a local food pantry through AmpleHarvest.org to give it to those most in need.
  8. H is for storing herbs properly and using them before they turn to mush in the fridge.
  9. I is for infusion. The stems, peels and extras of ingredients with aromatic flavor — herbs, fruits, vegetables — can be used to create infusions, tinctures and extracts.
  10. J is for jamming. Cooking fruit or vegetables down into jam is a good way to preserve items at their peak.
  11. K is for keeping food fresh. Store food properly and it will last much longer.
  12. L is for loving your leftovers. Take the doggy bag from restaurants; turn them into new dishes at home.
  13. M is for meal planning. Go food shopping with a plan so you don’t purchase more than you need.
  14. N is for using the non-edible parts. Banana peels can be rubbed on bug bites to take the itch away; eggshells and dried-out corn cobs can be used as pot scrubbers.
  15. O is for using leftover oils & fats. Store properly and strain after use, and you can use oil and other cooking fats several times before disposing.
  16. P is for pesto. Use leftover leaves, stems, herbs, greens, carrot fronds or beet greens to make pesto.
  17. Q is for quick pickles! With refrigerator pickles, make a simple brine, pour it over extra veggies and extend the life of your food for another few weeks.
  18. Reduce the plastic in your kitchen. Swap beeswax wrap & cloth towels for plastic wrap; use glass containers instead of plastic ones.
  19. Shop small. Avoid big monthly shopping trips and only buy ingredients for a few days.
  20. Think like a chef! Before you toss out old, stale or wilted ingredients, give them another look. Chefs turn these items into vinegars, sauces & more.
  21. Use every part. Seed, stem, leaf, frond, greens, roots — they can all be used in many different ways.
  22. Vow to keep food scraps out of the garbage. Be mindful of what you are putting into the waste stream.
  23. W is for water waste. Save water when cooking and washing up, and purchase items that have a lower water footprint.
  24. X-amine your waste. Look at your current habits & make note of what you can do better.
  25. Yesterday’s leftovers are today’s lunch. Make a dish brand new by adding fresh herbs or your fridge’s best condiments.
  26. Zest your citrus! Don’t waste this flavorful part of the fruit. If you don’t need it now, freeze it to use later in baking, syrups and marinades.

Reducing your food waste is as easy as ABC.

Tomorrow, the plastic hanger problem.

Celebrating Farmers

Day 285 – Happy National Farmers Day!  It’s a day for everyone to acknowledge the hard work that goes into feeding and supplying a nation.

Here are some interesting farming facts:

  1. There are about 2 million farms in the U.S. – Nearly all these farms are family-run.
  2. One U.S. farm can feed 166 people – Farmers around the world will have to grow about 70% more food than they do now in order to meet demands by the year 2050.
  3. U.S. has more than 900 million acres of farmland
  4. Top farm products in the U.S. are cattle, corn and soybeans
  5. Soybean production is key to making crayons – One acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons.
  6. The U.S. is home to 47 breeds of sheep – Every baseball requires 150 yards of wool.
  7. Net losses at US farms are on the rise – Most farmers need outside work to make ends meet.
  8. Less than 1% of US farmland is organic –  The vast majority of the organic food consumed in the U.S. is imported.
  9. The US is the world’s third-biggest food supplier – U.S. farmers produce 10% of the world’s wheat and 20% percent of the world’s beef, pork, and lamb.
  10. Most farmers’ markets source products within 50 miles – Farmers who supply supermarkets typically live 1,500 miles away. On average, farmers get about 17 cents of every dollar that store shoppers spend on food; those at farmers’ markets take home more than 90% of food dollars.

So if you get a chance, thank the farmers who plow, sow, raise, feed, and harvest to provide the food and materials that our country needs to succeed.

Tomorrow, breaking it down!

Compostable Snack Bags

Day 282 – The days of tossing your chip bags into the trash may be coming to an end. The folks at Off the Eaten Path have created a bag for their snacks that can break down at industrial compost sites. The bags are made from a material called PLA (polylactic acid). PLA is derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane.

If you do not have commercial composting available to you, you can ship your bags to TerraCycle and they will compost them for you. For every bag returned to TerraCycle, Off the Eaten Path will donate $1 to Ocean Conservancy (up to $192,000), helping to protect our ocean and our planet.

When you think about the number of snack bags that are disposed of on a daily basis, it is very clear that having a compostable bag would be a serious game changer. Hopefully, the other snack companies will follow suit and help in the fight to save the planet.

Tomorrow, electric composters and their efficiency.

The Impact of Being a Vegetarian for a Day

Day 274 World Vegetarian Day was founded in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS). October 1st is the annual kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month. Even if you have no desire to become a vegetarian, you can still use this day and the coming month to work toward reducing your meat consumption and increase your produce intake.

The North American Vegetarian Society created a list of reasons why you might want to become a vegetarian.

  • Reduce the risk of major killers such as heart disease, stroke and cancer while cutting exposure to food borne pathogens
  • Provide a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops
  • Save animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and suffering of slaughter
  • Conserve vital but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources
  • Preserve irreplaceable ecosystems such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats
  • Decrease greenhouse gases that are accelerating global warming
  • Mitigate the ever-expanding environmental pollution of animal agriculture

So, to celebrate World Vegetarian Day consider skipping the cheeseburger or pork chop and grab an eggplant or potato.

Tomorrow, ditching the junk mail.

Compost Program Starting in Chicago Neighborhood

Day 273 – I have written about composting on numerous occasions (Day 2, Day 118 and Day 149). The posts talk about an easier way to turn your food scraps into rich soil, without needing to do much work. The process is commercial composting and all you have to do is put your food scraps into a bucket and someone comes by and picks it up. No turning of compost piles and no worms necessary. It’s all very easy and so very important. Keeping the food out of the landfill helps reduce carbon emissions. My family of 6 can fill a 5 gallon bucket each week. I can only imagine what the local restaurants are throwing out. Imagine the impact if we could keep all that food from entering the landfill.

Well, a new pilot program in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood is trying to make this a reality. WasteNot Compost has partnered with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce to launch Clark Street Composts. The program started on September 13th and includes over 20 restaurants, bars and other businesses, wanting to keep their compostable waste out of the landfill. The hope is that this program will be the gold standard for sustainable business practices and will encourage other businesses to start composting.

“Chicago’s 2.7 million residents rank final in the nation in phrases of recycling habits, with meals waste estimated to make up over 50% of landfill contents, and 17% of greenhouse gasses produced in the U.S. are a product of meals waste rotting in landfills.” – USA News Lab

It’s time Chicago starts becoming a leader in the environmental movement. We have been dragging our feet long enough.

Tomorrow, World Vegetarian Day.

Would you pay $3 to help make a difference?

Day 271 – The folks at Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse (4655 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago) sure hope people will consider $3 a small price to pay to help save the planet. For many of us, including myself, the pandemic has opened our eyes to how much waste and more specifically plastic waste is created. Baker Miller decided to start using reusable takeout containers to address the problem. The steps needed to be part of this environmentally friendly takeout experience are quite easy.

  1. When placing an order at Baker Miller, be sure to choose the returnable container option.
  2. You will be charged $3 for the container.
  3. Next time you’re in Baker Miller, drop off the container. It will be cleaned and used again.
  4. On your next order, you can either receive your $3 back on more food or put it toward another reusable container.

The hope is that more restaurants get on board with the reusable containers. If there’s more involvement than more drop off locations can be created for the reusable containers. New York City and Portland, Oregon have shown it’s a business plan that can work.

We all need to support businesses that are making an effort to help the planet. Thank you Baker Miller for your help in making a difference.

Tomorrow, sustainable pet products.

AmpleHarvest.org: Connecting Gardeners with Local Food Pantries

Day 266AmpleHarvest.org has created a way to connect home and community gardeners with local food pantries. Instead of letting unused food go to waste, it is given to those in need of it most. AmpleHarvest.org is a free, opt-in, nationwide registry that enables gardeners who’ve grown too much food to easily find food pantries in their area.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Food Pantries tell AmpleHarvest.org the days and times they want to receive fresh food.
  2. Gardeners find pantries on AmpleHarvest.org, and bring their surplus of locally grown, fresh food.
  3. People in need have healthier food options available to them.
  4. Food is not wasted.

Click HERE if you want to find a pantry to donate to.

Click HERE if you would like to register a pantry.

Click HERE if you are in need of food.

There are 7,974 food pantries listed on AmpleHarvest.org. Produce donations have increased from 8.6% to 23.1% at food pantries around the country, since AmpleHarvest.org was founded.

It’s a perfect partnership!

Tomorrow, organizations working to create a more sustainable and equitable world.

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.