In many American households, once-unfamiliar sustainability practices have become commonplace. Current data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows a national recycling rate of about 34 percent, more than double the 16 percent rate in 1990. Even so, more than 167 million tons of waste still ends up in landfills each year.
Food waste is a major contributor to landfill excess, representing about 35 million tons annually. However, because food is such an integral aspect of daily life, it’s also an area where small changes can add up to a big impacts.
These eco-friendly tips can make it easier to move toward more sustainable consumption:
1. Plan a weekly menu
If you typically take a casual approach to grocery shopping, you’re likely purchasing ingredients for a single meal that could be repurposed two or three times over. This is especially true with produce; unused portions are left to spoil and ultimately end up in the trash. Instead, determine what meals require ingredients to prepare and create a shopping list that maximizes the use of each item. For example, if you’re planning on burgers one night, consider tacos the next evening to use up any leftover lettuce and tomato.
2. Give leftovers a makeover
If you can’t easily repurpose ingredients or you’re left with a hodge-podge of items, consider making a dish that really shines with an eclectic mix of ingredients. Casseroles, stir-fry and even smoothies are great ways to use up a selection of random ingredients.
3. Shop smart
Buying in bulk may seem like a smart money-saving strategy, but if the food goes bad before you’re able to use it, you’re actually wasting both food and money. Also take time to peruse your pantry before heading out to the store; it’s easy to buy duplicates when you’re not sure what you have on hand.
4. Cut back plastics and packaging
Rely on cloth or canvas totes for your shopping, and when you must use plastic, look for ways to reuse the bags. In a similar vein, avoid purchasing products with excess packaging, which is often produced using unsustainable methods and only adds to the landfill problem.
5. Fill the freezer
Many perishable food items, such as meat and produce, can be prepped and frozen, ensuring they don’t go bad and saving you cooking time throughout the week. Clear, reusable storage bags or containers make it easy to find what you need and a date marked on a small piece of masking tape will help you use the oldest items first.
6. Compost unused food items
The EPA estimates that as much as 96 percent of food waste that could be composted ends up in landfills instead. Rather than tossing foods that go bad, create your own compost pile and put that waste to work as a natural fertilizer for your plants and flowers. Composted fertilizer is a nutrient-rich way to protect your landscape while reducing landfill waste.
It’s been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s also a place where you can easily incorporate responsible, earth-friendly practices that can help nourish the planet for generations to come. Find more tips for sustainable consumption at elivingtoday.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (grocery shopping)
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