Food waste is a huge problem in our country, and for many reasons. If we want to get serious about both climate change and social justice, we need to rethink our food systems and our relationship to the food in our stores. It has to come from all sides - and Acterra is sponsoring a challenge in September to draw awareness to what we as individuals can do.
Wasted food accounts for approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it's estimated that 30-40% of food in the US goes to waste. 30-40%!! That is a shockingly high amount, especially as many in the US struggle with food insecurity. When we heard about Acterra's challenge, we were on board to help draw awareness to what people can do to avoid food waste since we strive to avoid waste as much as we can, too!
As an individual, there are a lot of things you can do to eliminate food waste:
1. Buy what you need. Conventional grocery stores tell you how much to buy, and it doesn't usually line up with your recipes. Shopping in bulk allows you to control what you take home - making it much more likely that you'll buy what you will use and not more.
2. Use what you have. Get creative with what's already in your fridge and pantry, and don't be shy about using spices. I once attended a cooking class where the instructor unapologetically told us, "Don't be a baby! Season your food!" and it has stuck with me. Honestly, we now eat better because her voice is in my ear as I cook.
3. Use all parts of the food. Slicing onions? Throw them in the freezer until you have some carrots and celery bits, and then boil them in salted water to make a veggie broth. Use carrot tops in pesto. Soak orange peels in vinegar to make a glass cleaner. Freeze lemon peels in ice cubes to make a beautiful drink garnish. There are so many options, we just need to get creative.
4. At the store, choose the carrot with 2 legs, or the pepper that is too lopsided to stand up straight. Those bananas with some brown spots are actually healthier and easier to digest than the green ones.
As a store, there are things we do to help eliminate waste:
1. STORE PRODUCE IN A FRIDGE. It's unconventional, we know, but it makes produce last longer and it's significantly more energy efficient than the open merchandisers in larger stores. By habit, we aren't trained to look in the fridge for produce, but there are treasures in there that you won't find on our produce table.
2. Sometimes we have to purchase larger quantities of fresh produce items than our volume will sell. Particularly things like 38 pounds of red peppers or bananas in a week... and that's often why you see roasted peppers in our hummus, and bananas that have been baked into banana bread! (In all honesty, the banana bread is becoming so popular that we have to now hold some back just for the weekend goodies!)
3. Juice things! Lemons, cucumbers, apples, ginger... they all taste yummy when they go through our juicer.
4. Spare bits from our hummus and veggies or salads will end up in a vegetable broth. We're still toying with a recipe, and this broth will likely hit the shelves of our fridge in the next week or 2.
5. Prepare foods! This is a great way for us to increase the likelihood that some of that great organic produce will find its way to a belly near you. Plus, we're having fun making some yummy creations. Anything you'd like to see? Let us know!
Join us in this challenge. You'll monitor what food you throw away with a simple tracker, and get a better understanding of your impact. Let us know what's hardest for you as you move through the month, and stay tuned for contests and more.