Posts Tagged ‘food waste’

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions – Part 2

 

Food Loss

Food loss occurs during the production, post harvest and processing of food. I was shocked to learn that in California’s Salinas Valley where so much of our produce is grown, improperly filled, labeled, sealed or damaged food containers are thrown into the landfill, even though the food itself is fine. According to the National Geographic article, One Third of Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done?, “Between April and November, the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority landfills between four and eight million pounds of vegetables fresh from the fields. And that’s just one transfer station out of the many that serve California’s agricultural valleys.”

In developing nations, often without adequate food storage facilities and transportation, food loss is even greater. The National Geographic article states that in Africa, they lose 10 to 20 percent of the continent’s sub-Saharan grains, which is about four billion dollars’ worth of food or enough to feed 48 million people for a year. India loses an estimated 35 to 40 percent of its fruits and vegetables. Similar loss exists in other developing nations.

Solutions

When you think about all the hungry people in the world, these facts are all the more shocking, but governmental agencies,  environmental and service organizations are working to solve this staggering problem. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance for one is working with supermarket chains to reduce waste by clarifying expiration dates, donating more food and making changes in manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of wasted food.  These groups also work with large restaurant chains to reduce portion size; many small restaurants already offer small and large portions. Orchardists are working with juice companies and packers to develop more secondary markets for ugly or less-than-perfect fruit. One group called The Pig Idea is pressing the EU to allow feeding food waste to swine and other livestock.

These are good solutions, but as with most problems, the best solution is to prevent food waste and food loss in the first place.

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/26/us/food-waste-is-becoming-serious-economic-and-environmental-issue-report-says.html?mabReward=A4&action=clic

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Food Waste/Food Loss/Solutions

As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.

According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”

Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.

The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.

Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.

Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste.  It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!

Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions

 

Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Benefits of Buying in Bulk

Bulk food buying is the hallmark of eco-conscious consumers.  Buying in bulk doesn’t just mean buying huge quantities of items to save money, which makes sense for staples like toilet paper and paper towels if you have the space.  It also means buying from those bulk bins you see in the grocery store.  There are several advantages to doing so.

Bulk items are usually cheaper.  With no packaging, companies are able to keep costs down. According to the Bulk is Green Council, “organic bulk foods on average cost 89% less than their packaged counterparts”.  Wow!

You can buy only what you need.  If a new recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of a specialty item that you don’t have on hand, you simply buy what is called for.  Buying this way also allows you to experiment with certain spices, grains or flours that you don’t usually buy without committing to a whole bag or box.  You significantly reduce food waste and save space in your pantry by buying only what you need. How many unused spices are in your spice drawer that have been there for years?  To insure freshness and for peak flavor, spices and most food items are better bought in smaller quantities anyway.

Bulk buying also keeps tons of packaging out of the landfills. A study from Portland State University found that if Americans switched to bulk bin buying for common items, it would “it would save tens of millions of pounds of trash from entering landfills each year.”  Specifically, the Bulk is Green Council states, “If all Americans purchased coffee beans from bulk food bins, 260 millions pounds of foil packaging would be diverted from the landfills per year.”  Or, “If all American families bought peanut butter from bulk food bins, about 749 million pounds of waste would be diverted from landfills per year.”

When buying from the bulk bin, you can either bring your own glass container or use the plastic or paper bags provided. Calculate the price per ounce, pound, etc. A scale is usually right there beside the bins.  If you bring your own container, make sure to weigh the container first before adding the item, then subtract that weight to determine the cost of the item you are buying.  If you are concerned about bin freshness or cleanliness, feel free to ask the store manager.  And, don’t forget to recycle or reuse the plastic bag after transferring your bulk items to a glass container at home.  Store them in the pantry or dark place.  I love the way the pantry looks with attractive glass containers or reused mason jars, which is all the rage today.

Items You Can Find In Bulk Bins:

  • Dry beans
  • Flours (including GF options)
  • Seeds (including flax and chia)
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Spices and herbs
  • Ground and whole bean coffee
  • Powders (such as baking powder)
  • Cereal and granola
  • Trail mix and dried fruits
  • Dry pasta
  • Nutritional yeast and other odds and ends

During the holiday season when we are baking, cooking and trying new recipes more than usual, buying from bulk bins makes even more sense.  Try it and enjoy saving money and waste!

Information compiled from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15918/the-benefits-of-buying-in-bulk.html and http://www.bulkisgreen.org/.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Turn Your Kitchen Waste Into Gold!

One more Vitamix advantage that I neglected to mention in last week’s blog – When making a smoothie or juice drink in your Vitamix, the whole fruit is juiced, which includes the juice and the fiber.  The fiber contains valuable nutrition that is missing in extracted juice, making your Vitamix drinks even more nutritious!

Several of my readers have asked me about composting.

Composting means recycling food waste or organic material to the soil, which is then broken down by natural bacteria and turned into compost or a dark, soil-like humus and an incredibly rich (and free) organic fertilizer!  Compost adds nutrients to the soil and improves soil structure, eliminating the need for high nitrogen-based chemical fertilizers, and produces thriving, pest resistant plants.  Compost is unbelievable fertilizer for your gardens and lawn.

Composting is just as important as recycling cans, bottles, papers, plastics or anything else.  According to the EPA, “ In 2011 alone, more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only four percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting.” When food is thrown away and goes into the landfill, it rots and emits methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

You can compost all organic matter – kitchen waste including fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, and tea bags, (but avoid meat and dairy which turn rancid and attract scavengers and citrus which is toxic to the worms); grass clippings; and yard waste including leaves.  Do not add weeds or chemically treated grass clippings.

I keep a compost bucket with a charcoal filter (to prevent odors from escaping) in my kitchen sink, which I then empty into the compost pile in the backyard. You can buy compost bins online or from garden centers that cost approximately $30 – $100, but you can easily build your own. It takes about a year before the organic materials are broken down into compost and ready to add to your garden soil. Regularly turning the pile and occasionally adding a compost inoculant to help break down organic material speeds up the process, but isn’t necessary.

For Apartment Dwellers

Some cities like San Francisco and London offer kitchen waste pick up service, but most don’t.  You can still compost however, even without access to a yard.  There are two fun options.

One is vermicomposting, or composting with worms.  Vermicomposting involves buying a shallow worm container and lid (punch holes in the top and sides for drainage and ventilation), making a bed for the worms using torn newspaper mixed with leaves and potting soil, then adding kitchen waste (it works better if it is small pieces) and about 2000 red wriggler worms, sold at garden centers or ordered online through commercial growers.   Leave the lid off so the worms will burrow underground; they are sensitive to light.  In two to three months, your worms will produce dark, rich, nutritious worm castings or organic fertilizer, which your plants will love.  Click here for more information.

A second option is bokashi bin composting. Bokashi means fermented organic matter in Japanese.  This method uses a mixture of “effective microorganisms” in a medium like wheat bran.  You simply add your food waste to the bin and then sprinkle the microorganism mixture on top.  The microorganisms help to break down the scraps and if managed properly, there won’t be any smell.  This system works fast – it makes compost in two weeks!

With both indoor systems, be careful not to compost too much food waste at once.

I never stop marveling at the beautiful rich soil transformed from my kitchen waste.  It’s another one of nature’s miracles.  Get ready for spring and start composting now!

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from www.bokashicomposting.com, http://www.howstuffworks.com, epa.gov, and www.ecolocalizer.com