How to Reduce Food Waste at Home: Resources

In March, I rounded out the mini-workshop series on the topic of waste, culminating on a popular topic that many folks are talking about to their peers (and even in mainstream media): food waste. As we are still navigating pandemic-times, many people have transitioned to working from home, resulting in a shift in habits–growing food at home, trying their hand at raising houseplants, and cooking new recipes in the kitchen or supporting their local businesses through takeout and delivery services.

For this How to Prevent Food Waste at Home workshop, I invited two NYC locals, food waste prevention extraordinaire Cait Enz of Hops and Brains, and our city’s favorite four-legged passionate grassroots composting pug Astoria Pug (represented by Lou Reyes) to the conversation. These two individuals presented a wealth of information about how they prevent food waste in their households, and I was also equally as impressed and inspired by our engaged participants who shared the many ways they divert food waste in their kitchens, too!

Throughout the presentation, we presented participants with stats and resources that they could come away and utilize in their efforts to prevent and reduce food waste at home. I’ve shared many of the data sources, additional learning material, and resources that participants have included throughout the presentation for your convenience. If there are other helpful materials that should be added, please feel free to reach out and make your recommendations!

Read (Resources from the Presentation)

Listen

Do

Explore

  • Use the FoodKeeper App to optimize freshness and quality of your food items
  • Visit the ReFED Insights Engine to identify food waste solutions tailored to each stakeholder and reader
Image description: Padlet exercise with participants to brainstorm as many ways to use leftovers, hosted by Cait Enz of @hops_and_brains (IG) during the food waste workshop

Know of a resource that might be helpful to someone looking on this page? Have a recommendation for a future workshop topic? Feel free to post it in the comments below, send me an email, or direct message me on Instagram.

How to Reduce Pumpkin Waste this Season

More than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills every year, peaking the weeks following Halloween. There are plenty of pumpkin-related activities such as pumpkin carving and exploring pumpkin-filled recipes in the kitchen, and plenty of opportunities where perfectly good pumpkin goes to waste! However, there are just as many ways we can meaningfully use every part of this wonderful squash. Here are some ways you can use all the parts of your pumpkins.

Decorating (whole pumpkin)

Pumpkin carving is a favorite past time for many people in the United States. From the traditional jack-o-lantern face, to extravagant pieces of art, try your hand at this family-friendly activity.

If art isn’t your forte but home decor is, pumpkins, squash, and gourds can be used to bring some fall flair both indoors and outside for curb appeal.

Cooking (seeds, pulp, fibrous strands)

I don’t think I have enough fingers on my hands to count the number of recipes that exist using pumpkins! You can keep it simple by roasting pumpkin seeds, indulge your sweet tooth by baking some desserts and pastries, or try your hand with savory dishes for a hearty meal. Some of my favorite foods that incorporate pumpkin include pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin soup! When we were younger, I remember some of my family members always enjoyed roasted pumpkin seeds as a snack.

Skincare (pulp, fibrous strands)

Pumpkins are good for your health and surprisingly are more versatile than serving as decorations or food. There are many recipes out there that incorporate leftover pumpkin so you can treat yourself and reduce your food waste! I’m particularly interested in the pumpkin body scrub and fresh face masks.

Growing (seeds, all parts of the pumpkin)

So you’ve used your pumpkin for decorating, food, skincare, and you’re wondering what ELSE you can do? What about the stem and leaves? What about the seeds if you’re not interested in consuming them? You have two choices here: for your seeds, you can either save them to grow your own pumpkins, or you can compost them with the rest of the pumpkin that you did not end up using.

If your pumpkin is ready to have its final rest, the last thing that’s left to do is compost! Depending on where you live, there may be community events that offer pumpkin smashing to help break down the pumpkin and prep it for the composting facility — try searching “pumpkin smash + your city” to see if there is an event near you.

How to Start a Worm Compost Bin

Composting has become more and more popular in recent years as an effective method for people like you and me to eliminate sending our food scraps and organic waste to landfills and incineration. Not only does it drastically reduce the volume of regular trash during weekly curbside collection, but it’s great for the environment!

Not everyone has access to municipal composting programs (unfortunately the NYC composting programs have been suspended through at least June 30, 2021), but there are other ways we can compost, including using worms! This is a great way to reduce food waste in the home, especially if you don’t have outdoor space and need to compost indoors.

Since NYC suspended its curbside collection program and organizations responsible for food scrap drop-off sites have lost their funding, I desperately wanted some way to reduce some of the food waste I was producing at home and decided to try out vermicomposting. I’ll share with you the steps I took to create my bin!

Note: I learned how to build my bin with the help of the NYC Compost Project, one of the programs affected by the city’s budget cuts.

Supplies:

  • red wriggler worms (if in NYC can order from LES Ecology Center, if outside can order from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm; can also find at local bait shops if you’re lucky)
  • paper (i.e. newspaper, kraft paper, packing paper)
  • coconut coir
  • large, plastic container with lid (ideally opaque, but if you don’t have, you can put stuff in front of the containers’ sides to shade it)
  • power drill
  • (optional but recommended) mesh fabric like organza, tulle, or something that is breathable but has very fine holes to keep out pests
  • (optional but recommended) hot glue gun or heavy duty tape

Steps:

  1. Use a power drill to poke holes at the top corners of each of the plastic container. If you’d like, you can also poke holes into the lid. I poked six holes on each of the four sides, but not the lid. These holes will help oxygenate the container so the worms can breathe!
  2. Add water to your coconut coir so it can expand – a little bit of coconut coir goes a LONG way since they more than double in volume! The way I see it, it serves as “soil” for the worms to live in.
  3. Shred paper for your bin. Paper serves as the “brown” waste for your bin and can reduce any kind of smells from your “green” waste, or the foods that you’ll be adding. Shredded paper also helps improve air flow in the bin.
  4. Assemble your bin! Add the coconut coir to the bottom of the bin, then add your worms and some food. You can place shredded paper on top to mask odor, prevent fruit flies from smelling the food, and to absorb any excess moisture.
  5. (optional step) Since I am very anxious about unwanted pests and flies, I used mesh fabric and covered the aeration holes on all sides of my bin, gluing it with the hot glue gun.
Photo caption: Once I shredded the kraft paper and placed it into the bin with the coconut coir, I liberally sprayed with water until it was sufficiently damp (like a wrung-out sponge), and added some worm food supplied by Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, some rinsed egg shells, and chopped up banana peels.

In a subsequent post, I will share some of my learnings since starting my worm bin, as well as some tips to pass onto you so you don’t encounter the same hiccups that I did. Stay tuned!

For additional resources:

How One Pug is Fighting Food Waste in NYC, One Household at a Time

In case you haven’t heard, NYC suspended the citywide curbside compost collection program due to COVID-19 related budget cuts, and New Yorkers across five boroughs are feeling its effects. Some have identified alternative ways to compost during the pandemic, and others are taking this food waste issue into their own hands (or paws, I should say).

Caren and Lou, better known by their composting spokespug Rocky, lovingly known as Astoria Pug, could not sit around knowing the implications of organic waste sitting in landfills and producing harmful greenhouse gases (GHG). With approximately 30-40% of the US food supply ending up as “waste”, they had to quickly find some kind of solution in light of the citywide compost program suspensions.

At first, they thought of community gardens, where they drop off their own food scraps, but realized this solution was shortsighted. If they only looked out for their own household’s compost, they wouldn’t be able to make a substantial environmental difference. With that aha moment, they began their investigative work to identify local farms and community gardens that could accommodate food scraps gathered within their neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. With some luck and willing partners, they were able to begin microhauling organics!

Rocky the Pug is overseeing the collection of food scraps at one of their eight stops in Astoria, Queens

As a team of two humans and one pug, Astoria Pug collected over 1 ton of food scraps in less than two months. In addition to preventing food scraps from being sent to landfill, they are also actively building a network of Astorians who care about the environment and are willing to compost, and are reaching out to public officials to emphasize the need for citywide composting programs.

Astoria Pug is just one of many activists who are passionate about the movement to #saveourcompost. If you’d like to follow their composting journey to reduce GHG emissions from landfills while lowering their carbon paw prints, find them on Instagram or Twitter. If you’d like to support their efforts and help them continue collecting food scraps in NYC, you can donate to their Venmo @AstoriaPug.

If you don’t live in Astoria but are looking for ways you can compost at home during this time, check out this post!

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

Picture this: you’re standing in your kitchen with your mise en place in front of you, with chopped garlic and onions in neat piles on one side of your cutting board, and the vegetables of your choice on the other. The vegetable stumps and peels and the garlic and onion skins may be collecting in one bowl ready to throw in the trash, but let’s hit pause for a second. That is money literally going into the garbage!

For many of us, we were brought up thinking that certain parts of our fresh produce could be eaten, and that the rest needed to be thrown away. When was the last time you dined at a restaurant that served unpeeled carrots or garlic cloves with their skins still on? I’m here to ask you to save your ends and stems, and your peels and skins, because there are a number of ways you can get some additional use out of these food scraps!

Grow the stumps for a gift that keeps on giving

Most of the vegetables we can find at our local farmer’s markets and grocery stores can be regrown, either in water or in soil. If you don’t have a yard, not to worry because indoor gardening is definitely a great way to bring the outdoors in! One of my favorite things to regrow in water are my scallions AKA green onions–just trim most of the green tops off and pop them in some fresh water and change the water every other day. You can also regrow a variety of vegetables like celery, romaine lettuce, and cabbage. I recommend you have at least two inches of a stump and letting them sit in water, about half of its height. Once they start producing new leaves, you can transfer them into soil.

If you notice your onions are starting to get a little soft but have sprouted, that’s a sign you should not consume them anymore, but you can definitely save the center and regrow new onions! 

Save your peels, skins, and tops for a delicious soup stock

You might be wondering what to do with the food scraps that appear less-than-appetizing, like the skins of your garlic and onion, or the vegetables that have sat in the refrigerator for a little too long and started to look sad and droopy. You can save vegetable peels, skins, and tops in the freezer until you accumulate enough to prepare a nice, homemade vegetable stock.

Make chips out of peels

I have no problems eating vegetable peels and usually skip that step in recipes, but there are some people who are accustomed to peeling their vegetables and fruit out of habit and because they were taught as they were growing up. Did you know that the skin of fruit and vegetables are packed with amazing nutrients? If you absolutely need to peel your vegetables and fruit before consuming, save the peel and make baked chips! Preheat your oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius), lay the peels out on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and any seasoning, and pop the tray in for 10-20 minutes, and take it out when you see the peels crisp so they don’t burn.

Cleaning products

Have you ever thought about how expensive cleaning products at the stores can be? Most of the time, you’re paying for a cleaner which is composed of 90% water! The next time you start running low on cleaning supplies, you might consider saving your citrus peels and make a do-it-yourself, homemade cleaner. There are many recipes online, and the more commonly known two-ingredient ones consist of using citrus peels and either white vinegar or at least 60% rubbing alcohol. Here’s a good zero waste tip: keep your old jars and repurpose them to hold your cleaning products!

Save your citrus peels and make a homemade kitchen cleaner using vinegar or rubbing alcohol! Make sure all of the peels are covered by the liquid medium you are using. If you are using vinegar for your cleaner, you can send your used peels to the compost when you’re done.

As a last resort: compost

Let’s say you’ve exhausted all the ways to repurpose and upcycle your food scraps. You’ve regrown edibles from your ends and stems, you saved the peels and skins to make a savory vegetable soup stock, you put on your chef hat and baked some chips, and you made some homemade cleaning products. The only thing left to do is to send the food scraps to the compost!

What is composting and why is it important? Composting is the process of recycling organic waste (such as your food scraps and many other examples) to produce “compost”, a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used for your growing needs. It’s incredibly important that we compost whenever possible, as organic waste that ends up sitting in landfills produces methane, a potent, harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and when we compost, we are directly making a difference!

I like to use my bullet journal as a creative outlet for climate and environmental advocacy, focused on reducing one’s carbon footprint in easy ways. See more here.

Once you start getting creative with your food scraps by upcycling, repurposing, and finding other ways to consume them before composting, you’ll find that the volume of trash you send to landfill and incineration as a household drastically decreases!

If you have been inspired by this post and have some tried-and-true methods of reducing food waste in your home, or if you’d like to learn more easy ways you can lower your ecological footprint, visit my Instagram. I’m excited to connect with you so we can learn and share with each other!

Note: This blog post was originally published with Bare Biology.

8 Organizations Showcasing Solutions on Food Waste Management and Reduction in NYC

This past September, over 1,000 young climate activists convened in NYC for the historic UN Youth Climate Summit to discuss the climate actions they are taking in their communities and call on world leaders to address the climate emergency (I was lucky enough to be one of the 500 to be nominated and selected to attend!). In support of the Summit and to kick off Climate Week NYC 2019, I was proud to partner with eight incredible organizations engaged in the food waste space to host an event showcasing solutions on food waste management and reduction in NYC.

At this event, we had three main components: 1) a workshop where participants explored the diverse perceptions of our fresh produce from the “beginning” to the “end” of its life, 2) a food supply-chain walkthrough exercise to assess food loss at every stage of the supply chain, and 3) a fireside chat panel where food waste experts engaged in a participatory discussion with participants on why we haven’t solved the global food waste crisis yet. Participants were engaged at the top of the morning, creating literal maps of different foods’ “life journeys”, learning how different organizations are addressing food waste at each stage of the supply chain, and asking pointed questions and making suggestions for how we can all reduce food waste in our homes and in our workplaces.

Participants sat in groups to explore the “life journey” of fresh produce, led by GrowNYC’s Recycling Outreach Coordinator Larissa

As partners from the inspiration, to the ideation, and eventually the implementation phase, these partners were rockstars. For those of you who live in NYC and want to reach out to these partners, I’ve shared some information about them below.

Angel Veza, Food Waste Expert and Director, Hospitality Advisory, First Principle Group, Chief Operating Officer, First Line

Angel Veza originally worked in the education field teaching underserved communities. After working with students for 7 years, Angel received her Grade Diplome at the French Culinary Institute and worked through New York City’s top restaurants including Morimoto and two-Michelin starred Atera and with foodservice companies like Compass Group. During that time, she witnessed the significant amount of food being wasted and then decided to work with ReFED, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing food waste through Economics and Data. As an expansion of that, she worked in supply chain and led strategic sourcing and procurement at Manahtta Restaurant, part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. Angel currently heads the Hospitality Advisory of First Principle Group and is the Chief Operating Officer at First Line.

Angel of First Principle Group / First Line Food led a food supply chain walkthrough exercise, bringing to light the linkages between food waste and climate change

Sabine Valenga, CMO and Co-founder, Food for All

Sabine is a designer and food-tech entrepreneur. After finishing her degree in Architectural Design from Columbia University, where she focused her studies on how technology and design can generate a positive impact on our urban ecosystems, she co-founded Food for All: an app tackling food waste by selling restaurants’ surplus meals for users that buy it for at least 50% off. As their CMO, she now leads their branding and marketing efforts, and is passionate about making “reducing food waste” something that is desirable, easy, and part of our daily lives. 

Larissa Ho, Recycling Outreach Coordinator, GrowNYC

Larissa Ho is a Recycling Outreach Coordinator at GrowNYC. Her work is primarily in recycling, and helping New York City residents divert waste from landfills through education and outreach. In addition to recycling, she works with buildings enrolled in NYC’s Curbside Organics Program to troubleshoot any logistical issues, and promote residents of the buildings to participate in the program. (fun fact: Larissa also visited my office to host a Recycling 101 brownbag session with my coworkers!)

Daniel Litwin, Director of Farm Relationships, Misfits Market

Daniel Litwin is the Director of Farm Relationships at Misfits Market. Daniel started his food journey working as the produce manager for a large supermarket in Brooklyn. It was there that he learned the ins and out of New York City’s produce industry while also beginning to notice its issues. Daniel’s many subsequent roles in the industry have included apprenticing for a local butcher shop in Chelsea, lead purchasing for three Jean-Georges restaurants, and working in farm relations and sourcing for a source-transparent local food distributor. Having seen more than his share of perfectly good food go to waste, Daniel now brings his skills and experience to the Misfits Market team to help tackle the growing crisis of food waste in our country.

Katy Franklin, Operations Director, ReFED

Katy Franklin serves as ReFED’s Operations Director, overseeing operations, fundraising and organizational strategy. Prior to ReFED, Katy has worked on consumer education, implemented food waste reduction programs with corporate offices and at major events and authored academic and market research. Katy also helped develop Further with Food, a public-private partnership convened to address food loss and waste and serves on one of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research’s Advisory Councils. Learn more about ReFED on their website and follow them on Twitter

Robert Lee, Co-founder and CEO, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

Robert Lee is the co-founder of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a nonprofit organization that provides a reliable food rescue service by fostering community connections to reduce food waste and food insecurity. Robert is a Forbes 30 Under 30, CNN Hero, and NYC Food Policy 40 Under 40. Follow the latest Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s news on their website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

Emma Moore, Marketing Associate, Toast Ale USA

Emma Moore became passionate about fighting food waste during her time at Parsons School of Design. Stemming from this passion, she aims to work alongside companies that create a positive and local impact like Toast Ale. At Toast, she manages Whole Foods sales and produces all the creative work including social media content. Emma believes through education, policy development, and impact research, that people in New York City will begin to understand the urgency of food waste and its effect on climate change. Through Toast, she manages to meet like-minded people with the same passion, but over a pint of beer! Follow Toast Ale USA on their Instagram.

Homa and Nahid Dashtaki, Founder and Operations Manager, White Moustache Yogurt

Homa and Nahid Dashtaki are the Founder and Operations Manager of White Moustache, a small batch producer of home-style Persian and Greek yogurt in Brooklyn. Using the whey byproduct of yogurts, they make delicious products ranging from tonics, popsicles, and more!

At the end of the event, I asked participants to raise their hands if they learned something new at the event and/or made a new connection!

What started as a small idea that came from a civil society briefing for the UN Climate Action Summit led to the successful execution of A Healthy Blueprint’s first event thanks to the help of these incredible partners! I hope to be able to put together more events like this in the future, with the gentle but encouraging nudges of some of our participants. 🙂

from left to right: Sabine Valenga, Angel Veza, Belinda Chiu (me!), Robert Lee, Daniel Litwin, Victor Carreño, Larissa Ho

What Sustainability Means to Industry Experts

After a long day at work, I often want to rush home to throw on some sweatpants and lounge around, but this week I was counting down the days and hours to attend an event co-hosted by Bloomingdale’s and The No. 29 Communications to hear industry experts share advice for practicing sustainability and mindfulness.

Panelists included Zahra Ahmed, VP of Marketing and E-commerce at DL1961, Emma Loewe, Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen, Kwesi Blair, Sustainable Brand Strategist, Angel Veza, Food Waste Expert, and Gay Browne, Author of Living with a Green Heart. Between these five panelists and co-founder of The No. 29, Melody Serafino, a few key themes arose.

Sustainability is a personal journey.

Everyone will embark on a different journey toward sustainability, and we all have different paths to get there. It can start with that aha moment at specific points in our lives, ranging from beach clean-ups and witnessing the volume of food waste while working in the restaurant industry, to waking up to the realization of one’s unintentional complicity working in the fashion industry after the Rana Plaza tragedy.

Sustainability is practicing the ‘leave no trace’ rule.

We enter the world with nothing, and we should also leave it with nothing as well. When we visit beautiful places of nature such as national parks, there is an unspoken rule to leave nothing behind, as if no humans set foot in that space. The same should apply through our entire lives.

We need to be more conscious of the waste we produce and think about how we can reduce it wherever possible. Our current practices of factory farming, deforestation, disturbing nature for crude oil, waste management, among other things, need to drastically change.

Sustainability is about making better choices.

What defines “better”? Better implies that there will be comparison, and there should be when talking about sustainability! We should be comparing brands to see if they have sustainability standards, and if so, how specific do they get? How are our clothes made, for example, and how are the materials sourced? Can we substitute single-use plastic items for something that does not have to be thrown away? Can we educate ourselves on different parts of a vegetable to reduce the amount of food scraps we toss in the compost?

Sustainability is about thriving with the world around you.

Having a community of individuals who are passionate about sustainability really struck a chord with me. I wasn’t just inspired by the experts sitting across from me, but I was grateful to my peers in the audience who came out to learn how to thrive on our planet through different facets of our lives. It’s great to see companies like Bloomingdale’s support sustainability efforts by providing the space and platform for this information to be shared – I’m looking forward to more companies following their lead!

From left to right: Zahra, Kwesi, Melody, Angel, Emma, Gay

How You Can Protect the Planet’s Health through Food

Growing up, you were probably told that a balanced plate of food consisted of 50% fruit and vegetables, 25% complex carbs, and 25% proteins (which often is interpreted as animal proteins in Western cultures). Despite this general guideline, we have moved away from this rule of thumb for a number of reasons: food deserts and lack of healthy options, poverty, trends that higher incomes correlate with greater meat intake, and more.

“Unhealthy diets now pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.”

EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

By 2050, we are looking at a global population of 10 billion people that the planet will need to sustain, and our current food systems are not cutting it. We dedicate a portion of our grain crops to serve as animal feed for food animals, when we could be using these grains to feed the people who are experiencing hunger, for example.

The EAT-Lancet Commission brought together 37 scientists from 16 countries to evaluate our current systems and make recommendations for the future. This week, they launched the report at the United Nations with Professor Walter Willett elaborating on the report details to explain how we can achieve planetary health and sustain a population of 10 billion people in 2050. I was fortunate enough to sit in on this event and provide a recap of what was discussed.

In order to achieve planetary health and sustainability, we need to see a transformation of the global food system, specifically production (how we produce food) and final consumption (what we eat in our diets).

Healthy diets (final consumption)

Image result for eat lancet plate
This depicts the recommended revised plate: 50% fruit and vegetables, 50% consisting of primarily whole grains, plant-based proteins, unsaturated plant oils, and optional small portions of animal-based proteins
Photo Credit: EAT-Lancet

We need to dramatically shift our diets in order to have a healthy diet for ourselves and for the planet’s health, such as doubling our fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts intake, and halving our global consumption of added sugars and red meat.

Sustainable food production

In many parts of the world, especially in the US, we have completely shifted our agriculture habits from planting diverse crops to large-scale monocropping of corn and soy. This depletes the nutrients in the soil and also risks crop failure due to disease and pests, making us heavily dependent on chemicals and pesticides.

Of the corn we grow in the US, 45% are fed to food animals, 35% are used to produce fuel, 15% are used for manufacturing products i.e. high fructose corn syrup, and only 10% is left for human consumption.

Professor Walter Willett, MD, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

We will need to shift our agricultural priorities in a way that benefits the planet and the human population if we want to sustain 10 billion people by 2050. How can we do this?

1. International and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets

We as a global community need to get on board with the idea that if we want a livable future, we need to shift our diets to a more plant-based diet. Please note, the report is not saying you have to stop eating meat altogether. It is recommending that you eat less of it, and that you purchase responsibly (buy local, sustainable, antibiotic-free meat, for example). But if you can do without meat for a few meals per week, that would be great for your health and for the planet’s as well!

2. Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food

Agricultural and marine food production systems need to focus not only on being able to sustain a growing population, but also giving us a wide range of healthy options to choose from as well. We also need to rethink our current practice of growing crops to feed food animals and shift it toward feeding the human population.

Photo Credit: Cosmos Magazine

3. Sustainably intensify food production to increase high quality output

Our agricultural systems need to be more efficient in how we fertilize and water crops, return phosphorus and nitrogen into soil, and diversify our crops. As mentioned before, we are practicing monocropping around the world: corn, soy, palm, coffee, sugar cane, and more. By not practicing crop rotation, you do not allow your soil to replenish its nutrients, and you risk pest infestation or disease and the complete destruction of all your crops. We need to start changing up our crops, not only for healthy soil, but also for our own health! It is great to have different options of nutritious vegetables, legumes, and fruit to change up our meals.

4. Strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans

Deforestation and overfishing are two of the greatest threats to the land and oceans, and in order to protect the integrity of our planet, we need to set strict, enforced policies that 1) ban deforestation for the purpose of creating new agricultural land, especially where there is rich biodiversity such as rainforests; 2) reforest areas where trees were once plentiful; and 3) regulate fishing to protect fish stocks.

5. Cut down food waste by at least 50% based on the SDGs

I’ve written a blog post about food waste and the enormous economic and environmental costs to throwing away food at all stages of the food supply chain (from the pastures, in transit, at the markets, to the home). We have to do better about preventing our food from ending up in landfills by ensuring we purchase only what we need, changing our perceptions of what is “good enough” to take home (I’m talking about ugly food that is still good to eat!), working with food vendors so they can donate their excess supply to those in need, informing the public about sell-by dates that are not regulated in the US, among other things.

If this is a lot to take in, that’s okay! The Commission created a helpful 2-pager that summarizes their report in digestible content. The recommendations entailed in this report will need the global community’s support, but more importantly government leaders’ and policymakers’ support and power to enforce regulations that will pave the way for the general public to practice a planetary health diet.

With these findings and recommendations, what will you do to contribute to the health of the planet starting today?

How You Can Reduce Food Waste this Holiday Season

Food production is the single biggest cause of deforestation, freshwater use, habitat and biodiversity loss. With all of the environmental costs of producing food, you’d think that we as global citizens could be better stewards of the food that ends up in our homes or on our plates at restaurants or on the dinner tables. However, 40% of the food we produce is going to waste in the US.

“Waste is sinful, criminal, and financially foolish.”

Quoted in “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”, food waste costs us approximately $1 trillion dollars per year. That’s about 1.3 billion TONS of food. With nearly one billion people who are hungry in the world, the problem is not about producing more food, it’s about changing the systemic problem that is food waste in our countries.

So how can we waste less food, especially given it’s Thanksgiving this Thursday?

According to the documentary, we can waste less food by:

  • Feeding people.

Many food vendors opt to throw away their food instead of donating their food at the end of the day. I think it’s because they fear that they could get sued for someone getting sick from their day-old food, but here’s a fun fact: the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act basically protects any establishment from civil or criminal liability if someone gets hurt or sick from donated food…so no excuses, food vendors and restaurant owners!

  • Feeding livestock.

There’s a silly standard that the produce that ends up on our grocery store shelves must be perfect, and anything that has the slightest imperfections never even make it off the fields.

Every year 10 million tons of produce are not harvested.

Instead of tossing them, the otherwise produce that would get thrown away could be used to feed livestock instead of inefficiently using half of the corn yields to feed food animals.

  • Using food scraps for renewable energy through anaerobic digestion.

Let’s be real. Fossil fuels is no longer a long-term viable option. They are contributing to climate change; polluting our land, air, and water; and there is no unlimited supply. We need to explore other options for energy, and there have been incredible innovations in the clean energy world, but even more interesting, scientists are exploring creating renewable energy using food waste!

So what are some initiatives happening around the world? The documentary shared some examples:

So we’ve seen some amazing ideas started at the community, organizational, state, and country levels, but what can you do as an individual?

  • Purchase only what you need when you go grocery shopping.

A helpful tip is to make a shopping list before you go shopping, and don’t go on an empty stomach (helps you avoid craving temptations heh)

So you found a bell pepper with an extra bulb or a slight dent, but you’re directly helping prevent this item from ending up getting tossed because you’re gonna make good use of it in your kitchen, right?! 😉

Imperfect Produce is one of the companies working to keep ugly foods out of landfills. You can also check out the farmers’ markets for some perfectly imperfect produce

  • Take home leftovers, and bring your own container if you can to avoid producing plastic waste 🙂

If you know you won’t eat it the next day, you can freeze it so you can eat it another day.

Unless it’s a raw meat or dairy product, other foods typically last longer than their sell-by date, so do the smell test and eyeball your food to see if it still looks good so you don’t throw out perfectly good food!

  • Compost.

We should be avoiding sending food waste to the landfills at all costs. It can take decades for that food to fully decompose. And while that happens, it is releasing methane gas into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Instead, compost these items–apple cores, meat bones, fruit peels, and more! More information about how to compost in NYC can be found here.

  • Upcycle food scraps.

You can also upcycle food scraps and use them for other purposes. Your eggshells can be used as a natural snail or slug repellent for your garden. The vegetable shavings could make for a great vegetable soup stock. The possibilities are endless.

As a society, it is our duty to be responsible for the food we produce and try to not be wasteful. There are plenty of opportunities to prevent food from ending up in the garbage, and all different levels of society are taking part in this #zerowaste movement to eliminate food from the waste stream, because it’s not only the reasonable thing to do, but it’s morally right (for people and for the environment) and because it’s financially the smart thing to do!

I’m keen to hear how your country is tackling food waste. Please leave your comments below so we can share these amazing initiatives!

Visiting a Family-Owned Farm

This weekend my family and I happened upon this family-owned farm in New Jersey called Two Lazy Farmers. Catchy name huh? This mom and pop farm where you get off the highway and make some turns onto a long winding road until you see a small produce stand on the side of the road. You can drive off to the side and park on the grass to find rows and rows of produce as far as your eyes can see! It is truly a green Wonderland and it seems surreal that you can find a small farm just about an hour outside of the city.

They have seasonal fruit and vegetables nearly year-round, and our selection during our visit included but wasn’t limited to: watermelon, cucumber, heirloom tomato, cherry tomato, a variety of chili peppers, bell pepper, squash (you can pick the squash blossoms too if you’re making a fancy meal!), eggplant, flat bean, long bean, collard greens, bitter melon, other melons and striped squash, fresh basil, okra, just to name a handful…

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It’s a whole different experience to hand-pick your own produce from the fields compared to driving to your grocery store and getting pre-packaged produce or only the “pretty” produce. Did you know that usually 25% of crop foods are immediately thrown away or given to farm animals as feed before they even hit the shelves because they don’t meet the aesthetic expectations of vendors or consumers?

By going straight to the farms, you get to pick your own produce and intentionally pick those fruit and vegetables that may have a slight imperfection but otherwise is perfectly good to eat! You’ll be doing the farmers and the environment a favor by reducing food waste 🙂

See a similar post on supporting farmers’ markets here!