Did you know that $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada every year? And, approximately 41 per cent of food waste comes from the home. We can all do our part to reduce waste and keep organics out of landfills.
Why it matters
Reduces waste sent to landfills – It may be surprising to learn that organic waste represents as much as 30% of the waste we generate in Newfoundland and Labrador. Food waste reduction and composting can reduce the amount of waste we send to our overburdened landfills.
Reduces greenhouse gas emissions – When buried in a landfill, food waste breaks down very slowly and without the presence of oxygen. When this happens, methane gas – a greenhouse gas – is produced.
Reduces pollution – When organics break down without the presence of oxygen, as they do at the landfill, a toxic liquid known as leachate (the liquid that runs from a dump) is produced. Leachate can pollute our soil and drinking water sources.
Composting reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides – Finished compost (or humus) is a rich, natural fertilizer that returns valuable nutrients back into the soil promoting the growth of healthy plants.
Saves you money and lowers waste disposal costs – Reducing food waste not only keeps money in your pocket, but also puts less waste to the curb, meaning less waste has to be collected and transported.
What you can do
1. Compost – nature’s recycling
Composting is a natural process that converts organic material – like food and yard waste – into nutrient-rich soil amendment often called “humus” or compost. When we compost organic waste in our backyards, we create a natural environment where decomposer organisms – like bacteria, insects, worms and fungi – can break down organic waste and recycle nutrients back into the soil. Backyard composting lets us recycle just like nature does. Get started with Backyard Composting!
2. Keep waste reduction on the menu
Plan your meals for the week and make a shopping list and make note of what you already have before you go to the grocery store. This will avoid food waste and save you money.
Only buy as much as you can eat by the best before day. If you’ve bought more than you can consume, freeze it for later. Use your judgement when it comes to “best before” dates. If a product hasn’t been opened, it will often keep a little longer. Don’t over stock your fridge and keep it organized so you can see what you have – food that gets lost in the back tends to get forgotten and spoil.
Cook meals from scratch more often to avoid heavily-packaged convenience foods and store leftovers in individual portions. Take smaller portions (and go back for seconds if you want) to leave leftovers that can be eaten later. Have them for lunch or supper the next day or store them in the freezer for a quick meal later on. Pack your lunch for school or work the night before to avoid resorting to expensive and wasteful take out foods.
Plan your next meal around your leftovers. Cooked too much rice? Have fried rice the next day. Have leftover roast chicken and vegetables? Make a chicken pot pie. Plan end-of-the-week meals around what’s left in the fridge. Stir-frys and soups are a great way to use up a variety of leftover produce. Use overripe fruits for baking (like banana bread) or smoothies.
3. Grow a green thumb
Grow a kitchen herb garden to have fresh herbs ready when needed, rather than buying them packaged where they’ll be quick to spoil. Try re-sprouting vegetables. Leeks, green onions, romaine lettuce and celery will all re-sprout when the base (the part you would normally discard) is placed in water.
In the summer, try growing some veggies you consume regularly. Planting a few rows of leaf lettuce (in a container or in the ground) will keep you in salads all summer long and cut down on a lot of packaging. Pick wild berries like blueberries and raspberries when they’re in season for fresher fruit without all the packaging.