Category Archives: Waste

What Can You Do to Help Reduce Food Waste?

What Can You Do to Help Reduce Food Waste?

If we want to build a better food system, tackling the massive global problem of food waste is one of the first things we need to do. In the United States alone, a staggering 40 percent of all food grown or raised is thrown away uneaten—that’s a figure that makes no sense when you think about how many Americans are currently food insecure and how our planet will need to feed nearly 2 billion more people by the year 2050.

It’s not an easy problem to fix, however. Food waste happens at every step of the food production process: At the farm, food is wasted due to overproduction, fluctuations in the market, and strict aesthetic requirements; during the packaging and shipping process, food is often damaged or lost; and the overstocking that happens at retail outlets means that a huge amount of food spoils before it can be purchased. Because of the complexity of the problem, major systemic changes will need to happen, but that doesn’t mean that individual consumers don’t have a role to play in reducing food waste. On the contrary, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, individual action can make a measurable, meaningful difference. If food waste at the household level was reduced even by half, for example, that would immediately result in billions of dollars worth of savings. Read on to learn about some of the actions you can take to help reduce food waste.




In your household:

Tracking your waste—The first step to reducing your personal household food waste is getting a better idea of what you usually waste and why—it’s not until you understand your food waste habits that you can do something about changing your behavior. Tracking your food waste can be as simple as keeping a daily or weekly list of items you throw away, or as in-depth as completing a program like the “Too Good to Waste” challenge presented by Sustainable America.

Shopping smarter—You can reduce your food waste considerably by not buying more food than you need and by only buying items you know you’ll use. To help with this, take time to plan out your meals and write down a shopping list before you head to the store; once you’re there, stick to the items on your list. In addition, work to change your habits about the kind of food you usually reach for. For example, for dairy and other refrigerated items, choose from the front rather than the back. Embrace “ugly” produce by choosing fruits and vegetables that may be spotted or misshapen but are perfectly edible. Finally, if there’s an item you are going to use right away, choose the one that’s closest to its “best before” date, rather than the freshest one.

Storing food properly—Make sure you know the correct way to store your food so that it lasts as long and tastes as good as possible. Check that your fridge is set to the appropriate temperature and that different foods are placed in their “preferred” fridge spots (this infographic from Food Republic offers an excellent guide to optimal fridge organization). Keep partly used foods fresh by wrapping them in aluminum foil or storing them in zip-top bags. If you’re concerned that some of your food might spoil before you have the chance to use it, try freezing or preserving it (for example, overripe fruit can be used to make easy and delicious jam).


In your community:

Spread the word—Help build awareness about the problem of food waste and ways to tackle it by sharing your own food waste reduction efforts with your community. Posting your results of Sustainable America’s “Too Good to Waste” challenge on social media, for example, is a great way to spark a conversation about food waste and to encourage others to think about—and change—their own food waste habits.

Volunteer with food rescue organizations—Volunteering with a local food rescue organization is a practical way to help solve specific food waste challenges in your area. There are hundreds of these organizations across the country, all working to rescue safe, edible food from the landfill and redistribute it to people who need it the most. Check out Sustainable America’s Food Rescue Locator to find a food rescue organization near you.

Support businesses that are working to reduce food waste—Today, more and more food-based businesses are actively working to reduce the food waste they generate and to make their business operations more sustainable. Do a little homework to find out what steps your local restaurants and grocery stores are taking to cut down on their food waste (perhaps they’re composting food scraps or donating unused food to feed the hungry), then make sure your consumer dollars are going to the businesses that are making the biggest effort.


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