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How Can Cutting Your Food Waste Help the Climate?

Food waste is a common problem many households and food establishments are faced with. Throwing away food scraps and leftovers that could have been eaten  Seems like an easy solution but in reality, has devastating outcomes. When food waste enters a landfill, it begins contributing to greenhouse gas emissions due to the anaerobic environment. When food scraps go into landfills and rot, they produce methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases are gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming and drastic weather changes

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 30% of the food produced is wasted with about one-third of greenhouse emissions worldwide coming from the agriculture industry.

Based on the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the loss and waste of food caused 8% to 10% of gases emissions responsible for global warming from 2010 to 2016.  This article will explore the connections between  food waste and climate change.

How Consumers Can Play a Major Role in Addressing Food Waste 

A 2021 survey published in the Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems showed that 58% of participants said they waste 10% or less of procured food. When asked if they’re willing to take additional action to reduce food waste, about 48% of the respondents showed eagerness in doing so. 

The survey conducted at the household level in Montana in the United States is just a tiny portion of the whole population in the world. Unfortunately, for some people, wasting food has become a way of life. 

One reason that much of the food brought by households is discarded could be improper storage of food items. There could also be a misunderstanding of expiration date markings. 

Still, everyone can do their part to save food from going to waste. The FAO has given 15 tips to help individuals minimize food waste. Here are some of the agency’s recommendations. 

Adopt a Healthier, More Sustainable Diet 

When you’re pressed for time, it can be challenging to prepare a healthy and delicious meal. No wonder most people prefer to order fast food instead. 

The work-from-home setup that became the norm during the pandemic may present an opportunity for those working at home to prepare healthy meals for themselves instead of opting for takeout or delivery as often

One way to reduce the total emissions is by going on a low-carbon diet, cutting down on meat and dairy and eating locally-grown produce. Eating a plant-based diet packed with fiber can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
 

Only Purchase What You Need 

Planning your meals will help you avoid overbuying. Each time you go to the groceries or order online, make sure to prepare a shopping list so you’ll have an idea of what to buy.

If you order cooked food and have them delivered, make sure that you don’t order too much or have plans to use your leftovers.  Pay attention to the amount of food that you and your family can consume every day. Correct portioning helps you manage your budget wisely and avoid food wastes.
 

Don’t Be Afraid of Oddly-Shaped or Bruised Vegetables and Fruits

Ugly fruits and vegetables are thrown away because they don’t pass aesthetic standards. Mature”imperfect” fruits and vegetables may not be Instagram material, but they still have the same great taste and nutrition! 
 

Store Food Wisely

The key here is organization. When putting items in your fridge, use labels if they are not in their original containers. Remember to place older food items (the first ones to expire) at the front and the new ones at the back. 

Airtight containers help keep foods fresh. Just make sure you close the packets properly, especially if you place the containers on the countertop or cupboard. This way, you’ll stop insects from getting inside. 
 

Understand Food Labeling

Do not confuse “use-by” with “best before” dates. Sometimes, it’s still safe to eat food items even after the “best before date.” If you’re concerned about safety, try to smell the food. If it smells bad, you’ll know it right away. For example, fresh milk may still be good for several days after the “best before date.” However, tuning into your senses will quickly let you know if it is past its prime.
 

Reuse Leftovers

Keeping chopped vegetables is easy and a great way to meal-prep.  them in an airtight container to keep them fresh. You can also use the leftover proteins (like a piece of pork chop or a chicken) to flavor some vegetable dishes or make soup.
 

Start Composting

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that yard waste and food scraps make up more than 30% of what people throw away. Instead of throwing away your food scraps, composting them returns this organic material to the soil to help grow more plants and food.

The following materials are commonly thought of as “waste" in a household and should be composted: 

  • Eggshells
  • Peels and cores from fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee grounds
  • Paper
  • Sawdust
  • Cotton or wool 
  • Fireplace ashes (in small amounts)
  • Yard trimmings 
  • Leaves  

SB1383: State Organic Law

Did you know the state of California is working to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP)? State Bill 1383 is a new law going into enforcement on January 1, 2022 with goals to The law targets to minimize statewide disposal of organic waste by 75% by January 1, 2025. 

The legislation also seeks to save at least 20% of currently disposed of edible food diverted for donation for human consumption by the same year. SB1383 intends to lessen GHG emissions in light of climate change. 
 

Conclusion

Reducing food waste requires the attention of all. Hence, governing bodies and jurisdictions must coordinate with food suppliers, retailers, and consumers to work together to achieve this goal. This isn’t an issue we need to wait for direction on. We each can take action by cutting down food waste in our daily lives with mindful habits! 

This article was written by Volunteer Fay Smith. 

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