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8 January 2010

How to Waste Less Food

For many people, December included a lot of food. Think back to one of your December meals. Did you buy too much? Were there leftovers you couldn't eat within a week?

In the United States, we waste a lot of food. A recent study of food wastes in the U.S. estimated that 1,400 calories of food per person is wasted every day.

Wasted food and the environment

These wasted calories represent 39% of the available food supply in our country. Because growing and processing food uses significant freshwater and energy resources, wasted food means wasted resources.

There is an impact after the wasted food goes to a landfill, too. Food in a landfill is initially decomposed by aerobic bacteria, as it would be in a backyard compost pile, but after the oxygen has been depleted, the remaining waste is broken down by methane-producing anaerobic bacteria. Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, significant methane production typically begins one or two years after waste disposal in a landfill and continues for 10 to 60 years.

Use all your food - here's how

Buying the proper amount of food and eating food before it spoils will save you money and reduce energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Wasting less requires small shifts in the way we plan our meals and store our food.

Here are things you can do to shift towards less waste:

· Buy proper portions. A website from the UK called Love Food Hate Waste will help calculate portions. It's a cool website, but unfortunately the portion sizes are listed in grams so you'll need to convert them to ounces or pounds. There are about 450 grams in a pound, but rather than remember that here's an online conversion tool:

· Learn to store your food so that it stays fresh. Most veggies keep longer in a humid environment, such as in a plastic bag or crisp drawer in the refrigerator.

· Learn recipes for tasty leftover meals. The Love Food Hate Waste website provides recipes that use small amounts of common ingredients. When searching for leftover recipes, look for ones that are flexible and allow you to use whatever vegetable is in the refrigerator.

· Plan ahead. If you plan your meals in advance, you can buy only what you need at the store. You can cook a meal or two on the weekends when you have time. You'll be less likely to eat out and let the food in the refrigerator spoil if you know that you have a quick and easy meal waiting at home.

· Be careful at restaurants. Portions at restaurants are sometimes too big for one person to eat. To avoid waste, share a main dish or bring a container for your leftovers.

· Compost. Rather than toss your peels and wilted leaves, compost your vegetable scraps in a backyard compost pile or worm bin.

No matter what you enjoy eating, you can reduce the amount you waste. Bon appétit!

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