According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over 96 percent of the food Americans throw away ends up in landfills, where it breaks down and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that adds to climate change problems. As someone taking cooking classes in Boulder, you have a unique position to learn about how to reduce food waste at home and take those philosophies and ideas to your professional career in the culinary world. Here are some ways to reduce your food waste and lessen your environmental impact on the world:
Change your fridge
You can rearrange the way you eat and change how quickly foods go bad by moving where you place them in your refrigerator. The higher you place an item on the shelf, the warmer it will be. Place meats and items that are more likely to grow bacteria on the lowest shelf. On the middle rack, place items that are less likely to spoil, like eggs, milk, cheese and deli meats. The top is a great place to put foods that have already been cooked or don’t need to be, like leftovers or beverages. Use the drawers to place vegetables and fruits that can rot and break down at different humidity levels. In the crisper, place veggies that can wilt, like lettuce, carrots, spinach and basil. Keep the vent closed to lessen the effect of water vapor. Place tomatoes and citrus in a medium vented drawer because they emit some ethylene gas and need better air flow. Items that produce a lot of ethylene, like apples, avocados and grapes, should be kept in a low humidity drawer with the vent open. People who rent their homes or apartments find that they don’t have a lot of control in terms of the refrigerator and may not have fridges with humidity options. If this is the case, open the drawers a bit and you will achieve a similar effect.
Plan before you shop
Look at what is in your fridge before going to the store. Assess what you have and what you can make with it before buying more food. This way, you won’t buy more of something you already have. Plus you can make an effort to use what you have before buying more, hence reducing your waste. After seeing what is in your home to cook with, make make a list of items you need to buy to make your recipe. To go a step further, try to plan your meals for an entire week before going to the store. When you get there, stick to the list and get only things you will use that week. When items go bad in the fridge, it is often because we forget that we have them or didn’t have a reason to buy it in the first place. Do you have trouble remembering what is in your pantry or fridge? Take a picture before you go. This will allow you to look back and be sure what you need to buy versus what you already have.
Instead of putting food waste into the garbage where it has to be hauled away to decompose, use the scraps to grow new food. Create a compost area in your backyard or try vermicomposting in your refrigerator. Just be sure your container has proper ventilation and will not attract attention from unwanted critters outside. If you do not live somewhere that you can compost yourself, many neighborhood gardens will accept scraps for their gardens. There are also composting companies and apps that will pick up your waste on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and take it somewhere that can use it.