June 23, 2018

Husky Habits | #17 – Reduce Food Waste

When you think of pollution, you likely think of car exhaust, industry fumes, and plastic litter. But do you ever think of food waste? Not many of us do, but with nearly a third of all food produced for human consumption wasted, it’s actually a significant contributor to world greenhouse gas emissions. Much of this waste occurs at earlier points along the supply chain, such as in production or distribution. However, as consumers we have the responsibility to reduce waste once the food is in our hands. Whether you are a student, faculty, or staff buying food on campus or simply buying food for your home, below are some tips on doing your part to reduce food waste.

1. Buy only what you need
The first step in reducing post-consumer food waste (and a great way to save money here at UW or at home) is planning ahead. How many meals per day do you need? Are you making meals just for yourself or for a family of five? Choose meals to cook throughout the week that share similar ingredients so you don’t end up with extras. Have you noticed you don’t eat your full meal? Make note of how much you eat and think about a smaller meal next time. Another idea: buying dry ingredients in bulk is also a great way to reduce food waste. You can either purchase the exact amount of ingredients you need, or you can stock up so you can shop less often. UW has its own student-run bulk food store in the HUB, called the Bean Basket. Bring your own bags for a discount, and stop by to purchase locally sourced and organic rice, beans, nuts, and more!

2. Get creative with leftovers
Instead of composting produce that’s nearing expiration, try to use it in a stir fry, soup, or smoothie. You can even freeze veggie scraps to turn them into homemade vegetable stock, or overripe bananas to make banana bread.

3. Don’t be afraid of ugly produce
The American food system is built upon food that not only tastes good, but looks perfect. Produce that has a funny shape, color, or size, even though it might taste just fine, is rejected by supermarkets and doomed to the landfill. Companies like Imperfect Produce are trying to tackle this problem by selling this “ugly” but yummy produce at a discount. However, if you see produce like this at the store, buy it! Chances are it does just what it’s supposed to do (nourish your body and taste good), and you’ll be saving it from being wasted.

4. Compost!
Throwing away food is okay if it’s going in the compost, right? Well, kind of. Composting is much better than sending food to the landfill, but it should still be used only as a last resort. Significant resources and energy are used to grow food, transport it through the supply chain to the consumer, and then get it to a composting facility. Make sure to compost your food scraps, but when it comes to usable food, do your best to eat it before it goes bad!

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