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Managing Food Waste at Home to Mitigate Climate Change

Did you know that reducing food waste saves money and can help combat climate change? Learn eight simple steps to cut food waste at home.

With the growing focus on the environment and sustainability, it’s essential to avoid food waste by buying only what we need and consuming it before it spoils. Food waste is one factor that fuels climate change: One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally.

Why Does Food Waste Contribute to Climate Change?

The answer lies in the double dip of climate emissions associated with food waste. First, food production creates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so food not eaten “wastes” those production emissions. Then, if food slowly decomposes in a landfill, this inefficient breakdown of organic matter also leads to GHG emissions.

Food waste amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, worth approximately $1 trillion, according to the World Food Programme. In America alone, 133 billion pounds of food go to waste every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And in the EU, around 88 million tons of food waste are generated annually, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros.

NSF experts offer simple steps you can take at home to cut down on food waste — and they’ll save you money too!

What Can We Do About Food Waste?

  • Make a Shopping List

    Plan out your meals in advance so you know exactly what you need instead of buying in volume at the grocery store.
  • Size Matters

    Think about the portions you will eat or need for leftovers, and don’t cook more than that at a time.
  • Buy Less, More Frequently

    Do this for perishables to avoid buying fruits and vegetables far beyond what you need.
  • Use Your Leftovers

    Eat them for lunch or make soups, casseroles or stir-fry dishes. This can save you time and money.
  • Clear Up Confusion

    Store leftovers in clear containers so you know what you have. You can use a dry-erase marker to date the containers.
  • Organize Your Kitchen

    Keep your refrigerator and pantry clean and organized to see what needs to be eaten first. If fresh food is “out of sight, out of mind,” it may be forgotten and ultimately wasted.
  • Take Small Steps

    Store food safely by portioning it into individual helpings (so it is more likely to be heated up and served again, unlike huge portions) and then putting them in the fridge or freezer so they are ready to grab and go.
  • Leftovers to the Compost

    Composting is a natural way to turn food waste and everyday household items — such as kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, used tea leaves, vegetable peelings, grass clippings, shredded newspaper, stems and dried leaves — into nutrient-rich material that can be used in gardens. Don’t put meat or bones into your compost. In nature, decomposition occurs naturally, but it can take many years to complete.

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