According to the Drawdown book, one third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. From produce not purchased by supermarkets due to visible imperfections (crooked carrots for example) to food rotting on trucks while being shipped long distances, the opportunities to reduce waste in the food supply chain are plentiful.

Considering the rankings of the Drawdown strategies we discuss in this education series, reducing food waste is the #3 most impactful thing you can do to reverse global warming and combat climate change. Maybe you can’t live without air conditioning (Strategy #1: Refrigeration), or perhaps wind power is not available in your area (Strategy #2: Wind Turbines – Onshore). However, if you shop at a grocery store or dine out at a restaurant, every meal is a choice and a chance to do your part.

Not wasting any of this produce!

Here are some tips to help reduce food waste:

In Your Kitchen

To reduce waste in your own kitchen, use a monthly inventory. Take a piece of paper and write down every type of food in your refrigerator, freezer, pantry and cabinets, from half-empty mustard to freezer meals to the spice cabinet. Make a list of all the ingredients you own so you know what you have right now, and take note of any expiration dates that are coming up soon or any produce that is wilting. Now use that inventory to create a list of meals/recipes using those ingredients and work that into your meal plan. For example, if you discover that you have half a box of pasta in the pantry and half a jar of pizza sauce in the freezer, combine those ingredients with any fresh vegetables you have on hand and some Italian seasoning for an easy weeknight dinner. As with most waste-reduction strategies, this way of “shopping your pantry” also saves money. Tip: Don’t forget to inventory your long-term food storage like the garage freezer or any emergency food storage you have on hand.

Loving that leftover life

At Restaurants

This is a huge opportunity for folks who dine out often… clear your plate! If you don’t like to eat leftovers, consider sharing an entree with a friend or order your meal split in half (one part to eat in the restaurant and one part packed to go). Also, skip ordering appetizers to avoid filling up before your entree arrives, and share an entree with your little kid instead of ordering their own full kid’s meal. If you aren’t able to bring your extra food home from a restaurant (perhaps you’re traveling and don’t have a refrigerator), look for opportunities to give your leftovers to someone else. Our team started this practice when traveling to the Greenbuild conference every year – most conferences take place in big cities with plenty of hungry folks out and about, so we get any extra food from business meals packaged up and hand it out on the way back to the hotel.

Starting with small portions to reduce food waste

When Shopping at the Grocery Store

Grocery stores operate on the basic supply and demand model – if no one purchases the bruised bananas, they stop ordering bruised bananas. Look for the “ugly” produce at your supermarket and buy it so it doesn’t get thrown out by the produce team. This is especially practical if you are using the food in a soup or smoothie (where do you think the deli gets its vegetables for soup? the ugly shelf!). Also, you can often find discounts on produce and bread that is marked down for quick sale – snatch up these deals and stick the food in the freezer for when you need it (smoothies anyone?) Remember to review your kitchen inventory and see what items did not get used up quickly enough before (i.e. specialty ingredients used for only one recipe) and see if you can substitute something more versatile (peanut butter instead of tahini, or blueberries instead of acai berries).

Smoothies can hide lots of unsightly produce

Actions You Can Take Today:

  • Consider supporting any of these organizations working to combat food waste around the world
  • Donate any of your extra food to organizations such as Feeding America
  • Clear your plate!

Related LEED® v4 Credits:

  • LEED BD+C, MRp Storage and Collection of Recyclables (required)