No. 1 thing you can do to reduce your impact on climate change
In all of my columns, I write about simple actions each of us can take to help the earth, and when our actions add up collectively, we indeed make a difference. Today, my column is about the power you have, as an individual, to reduce the impact of climate change – the action you can take to reduce and redirect your food waste.
Food waste accounts for about 40% of what is sent to landfill, and is therefore the largest component of what goes into the landfill. When food is sent to the landfill, it breaks down and it produces methane. Methane is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. What if I told you that very soon you could divert 100% of your food waste from the landfill without having to compost at home? It’s true!
First, let’s review some ideas about how to reduce household food waste. Planning ahead greatly helps you to refrain from over-buying food. If you create a weekly menu of meals and a corresponding ingredient list, when you go to the store you will likely not purchase items you do not need. Furthermore, when you plan meals, including a night of leftovers not only gives you a night off of meal preparation, but it reduces food waste even more as the food you already have is getting eaten.
Try to purchase foods that are “in season.” I know, it’s January in Ohio so that’s not really an option now, but it is an option all summer. Seek out locally grown produce to reduce your carbon footprint even more. Remember, the produce that’s not the “prettiest” is still fine to purchase and eat! And a better option? Start your own garden and grow your own vegetables! We are less likely to waste food that we have grown ourselves.
Use expiration dates as a general guideline. These dates are set up and designed by the manufacturers and are not the end-all, be-all. Use your best judgment and don’t just pitch food that is past its printed expiration date. Google something you’re not sure about – I’ve found that any food that I’ve had a question about how long it lasts, etc., I can find an answer to.
Using your freezer more is also a great option to reduce food waste. There are many dishes I make too much of purposely so that I can freeze leftovers for future meals. This ensures every last bite of those meals are eaten eventually. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, and having them readily available in your freezer ensures you’ll have them when needed and they will not go bad.
Getting creative with leftovers is also a smart way to reduce your food waste. For example, when I make chicken on the grill or in the oven, I always add a few extra pieces for use the next day. I will chop up the cooked chicken and make a fried rice using whatever leftover vegetables I have too. And honestly, my kids love the “leftover” fried rice meal more than they do the original meal!
Lastly, when you have the over-ripened bananas or berries, blend them into a smoothie or bake them into a bread! Freezing ripe bananas is a great option too as they taste like ice cream when eaten frozen. Yum!
You’re probably thinking: I do so much of that and STILL end up with food waste and I do not want to compost at home. Yes, some food waste is unavoidable even when we are trying to not have any. That’s OK! There’s something you can do about it! At the end of December the Bay Village Green Team posted a survey on its Facebook site and via email to residents of Bay Village about their interest in obtaining a food waste composting service in Bay Village via a local company, Rust Belt Riders. You can take the survey through the end of January by visiting tinyurl.com/BayCompostSurvey.
What can be composted with Rust Belt Riders? Contrary to home composting, Rust Belt Riders will take ALL food waste as well as BPI-certified compostable products (some disposable cups, plates, utensils, etc.). Cooked food, raw food, citrus, meat, bones and everything in between can be composted industrially. Why can so much more be included? Because in an industrial composting facility, temperatures rise enough to break down all of these foods and products. In backyard composting, the temperatures don’t rise high enough to break that all down so only fresh foods, egg shells and coffee grounds should be composted there.
What does Rust Belt Riders want with all of this food waste? They make it into soil. The soil they make is called Tilth and they have six different types available for purchase.
Each one of us can do a better job reducing food waste and redirecting this waste away from landfills. This action is the largest one YOU can take as an individual to help reduce the impact of climate change. 2021 is our year to do this, so let’s do it!