Someday I’m going to collect all of these somewhere… This one goes back to our food again, a continuing theme this year. We’ve talked about all kinds of ways to reduce the carbon footprint from food consumption, including eating low on the food chain, eating local foods, using cloth grocery bags, and limiting bottled water consumption. Here’s an even simpler one:
Don’t waste food.
That’s all – simple to say, simple in concept, harder to do. Every bit of food and drink that we buy costs energy to grow, process, package, ship, and sell. Even if we eat a steak, at least we’ve eaten it – and gotten some value for that energy that’s been used. When we don’t even eat it or drink it, all that energy is wasted and garbage is created for nothing at all. Only in this western world of over-consumption could such a thing really even be possible, not to mention done every day without a second thought.
When you’re not starving or lacking for money to buy food, and there is a massive abundance of food all around you, there is a tendency to forget how important this is or to take the extra time to make sure that whatever you buy will be used. Example – at a recent staff meeting that would go through lunch, most of us brought our own lunches. One group showed up with donuts and pastries to share – a nice gesture, right? But we all eat pretty healthy and a lot of them didn’t get eaten, and no-one wanted to take them home because we all knew we’d eat them if we did. They were thrown out, since the meeting room had to be clean when we left. It probably would have been better not to bring them and to let staff buy their own in the cafeteria if they wanted them.
Our busy schedules contribute also. I don’t know how often I’ve bought groceries that I didn’t get around to using, and had to throw out because they went bad. This is especially true since I started buying more vegetables. It’s harder for single people to use up all that comes in a package (a loaf of bread for example). My horribly busy work schedule has resulted in a lot of food getting thrown out, which is really sad and wasteful. So now I am really focusing on learning how to freeze things (yes, if you’ve never done it you have to learn what works and what doesn’t). In this situation it is really important to be careful what and how much you buy in the first place. Which takes recipe planning and careful shopping, which takes time. Knowing that it’s contributing to global warming to throw stuff out may actually give me an incentive to work on this more.
Make it a challenge to look around your kitchen and see what odds and ends of things can be used up. You know all those sauce bottles in your refrigerator door? How many of those stay there forever and then get thrown out because when you want to use it, you’re not certain it’s still good? A little bit of planning might help there too. Each of those little bottles takes a lot of energy to create.
So as your parents always said – “clean your plate” and don’t put too much on it to start with :) Learn to make casseroles with odd bits and ends, freeze leftovers and portions of raw foods before they spoil, buy in smaller quantities that you will actually use, plan your meals, and if you really have to throw something out – compost it!