Food for thought

Written by Donna Stuckert. Posted in Featured

Published on February 21, 2012 with No Comments

If you’re like most people, you buy food such as produce and meats with the best of intentions: You’re making the most of a sale, planning a dinner or even intending to eat healthier. Yet sometimes the best of intentions don’t result into the anticipated actions. A week or two later you happen to re-discover these products in your refrigerator and become disappointed in yourself for letting them spoil, especially when there are populations of people in our world that wonder from where their next meals will come.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated in 2010 alone, more than any other material category with the exception of paper. Food waste in our landfills doesn’t “compost” as some people may think. It does break down, but creates methane gas which has a huge impact on our environment.  Methane, according to the EPA, has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. 

Challenge yourself to create less food waste, help the environment and save some cash with some of these helpful tips:

1.    Don’t buy more than you need. Will you eat two pints of strawberries that you purchase for the price of one? If you’re not sure, don’t buy them. If it’s a great deal that you just can’t pass up, share that extra pint of strawberries with friends or neighbors.

2.    One tip that works for me is to deal with my produce within the first day of my purchase. For instance, if I purchased broccoli for a dinner later in the week, I will wash it and cut it up ahead of time. That way, all I have to do is cook it. This process stops me from ever making the excuse of not wanting to fuss with it later in the week and then ultimately forgetting about it. It’s ready when I need it.

3.    Rotate the food in your refrigerator and cupboards to use the older ones first.

4.    Plan your meals. Know what you have and what you need to buy. Then, go to the store with a list. You’ll stop buying things you don’t need.

5.    Analyze your garbage for a month. What foods do you continually waste? Next time you need to purchase them, buy less or plan to freeze your excess. For instance, do you find yourself throwing away a lot of bread? Start freezing half of the loaf.

6.    Buy from local farmers. Buying locally helps to insure freshness so your produce will last longer since much of it is picked that morning. Produce at most grocery stores spent the last few days or longer in transit.

7.    The “Global Food Losses and Food Waste” study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations found that fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers, have the highest wastage rates of any food. Are you discarding an apple because of one bad spot? Last month, the Food Network ran a program entitled “The Big Waste,” featuring four chefs challenged with preparing recipes from food destined for the trash. A rather disgusting thought for some. But really, how much of what we throw out is really still edible? Cut the rotten parts off and use the rest.

8.    Don’t throw food out just because it’s “dated.” The sell-by date is the last date you should purchase it, not discard it. The use-by date is the last date the producer says the product is at optimal freshness. Just because it is beyond the use-by date doesn’t mean it has spoiled. Use texture, odor and color as the real indicators of a product’s usability.

9.    If you can’t get around your food waste, compost it!  If you’re interested in learning about composting at home, the Recycling & Waste Reduction District will hold backyard composting classes in May. Registration begins online in April. Visit www.ItMeansTheWorld.org to register. Composting is a very easy process, and your food waste will ultimately turn into some vitamin rich soil for your gardens and houseplants. If you don’t have a yard to compost, vermicomposting is an option that also will be reviewed in these workshops.

Two other brief announcements:

First, the district is once again hosting rain barrel workshops in March. Staff will be on-hand to teach participants about water conservation and how to set up and maintain their barrels. The $45 fee includes one rain barrel.

Also, the district continues to seek exhibitors for the seventh annual Northwest Indiana Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 21. The event connects attendees with organizations, vendors and programs that inspire and educate them to live greener lives.

For more information or to register for either event, visit www.ItMeansTheWorld.org.

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About Donna Stuckert

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Donna Stuckert is the Community Education Coordinator for the Recycling & Waste Reduction District of Porter County. She is a communications professional with more than 20 years of experience who enjoys working for the greater good and inspiring others on making a difference. For more information or to reach Stuckert, e-mail DStuckert@ItMeansTheWorld.org.

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