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Barriers to Zero -- How to Reduce Food Waste


 Hello Zero Wasters, We waste an awful lot of food. On average, Americans throw away 20 lbs of food waste per person per month. The impacts of this are many fold. On the "upstream" side, think about the time, energy and water resources that were used to grow, harvest, process, package, transport and store all of our food. On the "downstream" side, our food waste has to be collected and hauled away, where it is then dumped into landfills -- and our landfills are filling up! Furthermore, the anaerobic breakdown of organics in landfills results in the production of methane -- a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as harmful as carbon dioxide. And that's just for starts. Of course, some waste is inevitable-- we don't usually eat carrot tops, melon and banana skins, lettuce and apple cores, for example. This waste can be collected for your compost bin. However, some strategic planning helps minimize the amount of food that you throw away. Here are some examples:

  • Meal planning and buying in bulk saves time and reduces fuel expended on extra trips to the market. We recommend to bulk-buy only as much as you can actually use or can safely store for future use.
  • Store unused food in clear, labeled containers.
  • Consider "planned-overs" as opposed to left-overs, where food leftover from family dinners can be re-packaged for lunches later in the week, or frozen for use at a later date.

 Holiday Waste In the United States, we generate an extra five million tons of household waste each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, which is three times as much food waste as at other times of the year. How can you reduce your waste?

  • For large group meals, consider making smaller servings of the dishes that are most perishable.
  • Encourage self-serve:  by allowing guests to serve themselves, choosing what, and how much, they would like to eat, you'll help reduce the amount of unwanted food left on guests’ plates.
  • Ask guests to bring their own reusable containers and send them home with leftovers.
  • Consider sharing your leftovers with a neighbor who might enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Start a Movement You really can't talk about food waste and not talk about composting. In fact, 40% of San Diego's landfill consists of organic material. Oceanside is one of the few San Diego neighborhoods that actually composts the yard waste placed into curbside green bins. Mother Nature recycles her own organic waste through decomposition, which fosters the return of nutrients to the soil. Composting is our way of mimicking and optimizing this natural decomposition process.

 ----------- New legislation concerning organics recycling (AB 1826) will soon require that food-generating businesses divert food scrap from the landfill. Every ton of landfilled food waste results in 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. --------- Composted food waste is a win-win for landfills and Mother Nature. However, a significant amount of our wasted food is still edible. At a recently attended a family wedding, a bountiful feast was provided at the reception, much of which was untouched. As we packaged up leftovers, knowing that most would ultimately be discarded, we realized belatedly that there was a food bank in the neighborhood where this food could have been donated to serve a much greater need. This is where the work of great organizations, such as Feeding America, comes in. The first priority in food diversion is to feed hungry people. The US EPA has published a Food Recovery Hierarchy, which discusses the higher order uses of food waste. The 1996 Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which was created to encourage food donation to nonprofits by minimizing liability, makes it easier to donate food.