Today is the last day of Earth Month. And while we haven’t a huge big deal about it—after all, eating in a more sustainable, environmentally beneficial way is always on our minds here at SmartGirlVeg HQ—we didn’t want April to end without giving you some handy tips you could use to lighten your impact on the planet.
I’ve recently become interested in—possibly obsessed with, depending on who you ask—food waste, partially because I wrote this article for Rodale’s Organic Life magazine. Did you know that around one third of all the food produced in the world gets lost or wasted? That’s one in four calories of energy produced!
Us VegHeads often say to ourselves “I don’t eat meat, so my diet is environmentally friendly.” And it is…but that doesn’t give you a free pass. There’s so much more we can do to protect the planet beyond just the food we choose—starting with not throwing half of it in the trash. Here are few ideas to help prevent plate waste that you can put into practice, starting today.
Buy frozen produce. I love berries, but I don’t love how quickly they seem to spoil. I combat this by buying frozen, and defrosting them as I’m ready to chow down. Yes, the plastic bags are a new source of waste—but you can recycle them (as long as you’ve cleaned them well)! And there are brands on the market like Stahlbush Island Farms with 100% biodegradable packaging—score! Frozen produce is especially great if you cook for just yourself and don’t need to cook, say, an entire head of broccoli, each time you make a meal.
Compost. If you have a backyard, you can create a compost pile that magically (okay, okay, it’s science!) turns food scraps and other organic matter into rich humus for fertilizing plants in the garden. It’s a pretty cool process, and it helps you find a good home for much of the leftovers, eggshells, coffee grounds, and more that make your kitchen trash stink. If you don’t have a backyard, I wrote this story about composting without outdoor space (also in Rodale’s Organic Life) just for you!
Reimagine leftovers. Are you someone who gets sullen at the idea of eating the same food a few days in a row, no matter how much extra you have? Here’s my solution: Reinvent it. Tofu stir-fry for dinner? Toss the excess in a whole-wheat wrap with a drizzle of sriracha (spicy sauce) for a totally different lunch the next day. Throw leftover grilled peppers and onions and black beans from last night’s fajitas over crunchy romaine lettuce with a scoop of guacamole and crunched up tortilla pieces for a super salad.
Put ‘em on ice. Bananas turning brown? Peel them, put them in a container, and freeze them. They’ll make amazing smoothies one day. And speaking of smoothies, if you make too much of a blended drink, simply pour it into ice cube trays and freeze; reuse the next time you are in the mood for a liquid lunch but have no ingredients on hand.
Invest in reusables. Not sure if this counts as “food waste,” but a pet peeve of ours is how much garbage is created from eating outside of the home (which, face it, most of us do pretty much all the time). If you’re at a take-out place, there’s the plate or bowl that your food comes in, the silverware, the cup, and so on. And if you bring your lunch from home, that can mean tossing aluminum foil, Ziploc bags, and more. So how about buying a reusable set of silverware that comes in a cute little carrying case that will fit right in your backpack? Or a bento box, like these adorable ones from Laptop Lunches?
Start with small servings. It sounds kind of obvious, but that doesn’t mean we all follow this advice. If you have ever wound up with a $15 bill at the self-serve fro yo place, or make salad bar salads that could feed a family of four because you have way more points on your card than you’ll ever use anyway, you know what I’m talking about. Always opt for the smallest container available, and take as much food as you realistically think you’ll eat—maybe even less. If you’re still hungry when you finish, you can always go back for more. But you can’t unwaste the food you unnecessarily put on your tray.
What techniques do you use for cutting back on food waste?