At our co-op we strive to reduce food waste in every way we can. When our Prepared Foods Department makes our kale salads, they take all of the kale stems to the Beverage Bar for juicing. When our Produce Department has fruits and veggies that are perfectly good for eating but not salable for one reason or another they give them to the Prepared Foods Department for cooking or the Beverage Bar for juicing. If we have items they cannot use, they go to The Community Kitchen or to our staff. If food has become inedible, it goes into the compost bin.
We know that food is wasted at all points in the supply chain, from harvest to processing plant to grocery stores and our refrigerators at home. Globally, a third of all food grown for consumption is wasted. In the US, that number grows to 40% being wasted – pretty unsustainable, right?
Another frustrating statistic – food scraps are the number one item that goes into the landfill, where they release greenhouse gases and are a contributor to climate change. According to the EPA, 25% of our methane emissions come from uneaten food breaking down in the landfill. Composting prevents food from taking up limited space in landfills and when it is applied to gardens and farms, it actually takes carbon out of the atmosphere, sequestering it in the soil which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change.
All this wasted food wastes everything – water, labor, fuel, money and more. For a quick glimpse at what’s wasted in the supply chain of a single strawberry as it molds in someone’s fridge, check out this 2-minute video titled “The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry” and the related website Save the Food.
If you’re interested in ways you can cut back on food waste, here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Use those radish and carrot greens
Buying radishes or carrots by the bunch? Use the leaves to make pesto, salads (like Moroccan Carrot Radish Salad), or toss in soup. Think of them as peppery parsley.
2. Savor broccoli and cauliflower stems
Do you discard broccoli and cauliflower stems? Peel the tough skin from the stems and chop the tender cores to use in a dish, or cut in planks to eat with dip. This Creamy Broccoli Soup uses the stems and florets.
3. Cook kale stems like you would celery
Do you discard kale and other greens stems? When cooking with kale, you can simply separate the leaves from the stems, chop the stems, and cook the stems first; they will cook a bit like celery. If you juice, save all your greens stems from meals you prepare, including parsley, and add to your juice for a chlorophyll boost.
4. Flavor stock and other dishes with potato peels
Do you peel potatoes? The peels make a flavorful addition to stock, and even thicken it a bit. Consider whether you even need to peel; many soups, potato salads and even mashed potatoes are more nutritious and filling with the skins left on.
5. Enjoy the flavor and nutrition of apple peels
Baking or cooking with apples? Leave the skins on and you will reap the nutrients and fiber they contain, and save time. If you do peel, add them to soup stock, for a subtle sweetness.
6. Zest your citrus and freeze for future use
Juicing a lemon or lime or eating an orange? Zest your organically grown citrus first, then you can freeze the potent zest in a freezer bag, for adding a hint of citrus to everything from muffins to pastas.
7. Peel overripe bananas and freeze for smoothies or baking
Are those bananas looking a little too brown to put in the lunch box? Peel and freeze them, then add them to smoothies (like Hidden-Spinach Berry Smoothie or Orange Dream Silken Smoothie), or thaw and puree for banana bread, muffins and cakes.
8. Puree and freeze veggies before they go bad
Do you have veggies going soft in the crisper? Cook and puree carrots, sweet potatoes, greens, cauliflower, and other veggies, then freeze. Stir the purees into pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, soups, casseroles and meatloaf for an added veggie boost.
9. Save veggie trimmings for soup stock
Cutting up vegetables for a dish? Save and freeze the skins and trimmings from onions, carrots, celery, sweet potato, potato, parsley, spinach, and other mild veggies (peppers, cabbage and broccoli can be too strong) until you have a good amount to make Veggie Trim Stock.
10. Use up stale bread in flavorful recipes
Do you have bread going stale? Freeze the slices to use later in stuffing, croutons, or recipes such as Ribollita Soup, Creamy Lentil Soup with Wheaty Croutons or Flexible Bread and Veggie Casserole. Make croutons for salads and soups, or crumbs to toss with pasta or top casseroles. Don’t forget about bread pudding and stratas, too.
11. Keep food that needs to be consumed soon front and center
Organize your refrigerator and pantry and put foods that should be consumed sooner right in front. Switch your storage containers from opaque to clear glass, so that you will see that tasty lasagna from last night, because out of sight is out of mind.
12. Turn your vegetable scraps into fertilizer
Do you have room for a compost pile or a worm bin? Ultimately, transforming your plant waste into fertilizer is better than packing it in the landfill.