Earth Day is just around the corner and it’s only fair that we do our part to give back to the Earth, especially because the very first Earth Day started in Santa Barbara in 1970 after massive oil spills in the Santa Barbara Channel. UCSB has great sustainability programs that help conserve our natural resources, but we can still do more. According the most recent statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted each year. In the United States alone, 20 pounds of food are wasted per person per month. This throw-away society has had a detrimental effect on the environment. So this year, let’s show a little love to the earth by cutting down on our food waste. Here’s what you can do in terms of planning, storing and cooking.
- Make a shopping list: Make a shopping list so you don’t get distracted at the market. This also helps you save money! Creating a list of ingredients you need helps you make sure you’re not buying duplicate things you already have in the fridge or coming home with things you don’t need altogether.
- Plan your meals for the week: Planning your meals ahead of time gives you a better idea of how many groceries to purchase and keeping a go-to list of meals and ingredients makes it easier to shop.
- Make sure you know how much you’re buying: Buying in bulk isn’t always a good thing. While it may save you money and a few trips to Costco, if you know you won’t finish all the food you buy, it’s going to go to waste.
- Check yourself: Before you go out to eat, make sure you’re not leaving anything behind in your fridge. Eat your leftovers first because you’ll probably just end up throwing them away otherwise.
- Freeze and preserve: If you do end up buying more than you need, freezing your fruits and vegetables can help them last longer. The thing is, you also need to be aware of what type of fruits you’re storing because different fruits can cause each other to go bad. Bananas are particularly notorious for causing the fruits around them to spoil.
- Wait to wash: Before freezing your fruits, keep in mind that washing berries may cause molding, so waiting until you actually want to eat them to wash them is a better idea.
- Use leftovers: You can use leftover meats and vegetables to make salads, wraps or stir-fry and homemade broth for making soup in the future. You can also use stale or leftover bread to make breadcrumbs and croutons!
- Prepare and freeze: If you have busy schedule, meal prepping is a great option to help reduce food waste. Cook up a few meals that are easily microwavable, freeze them and eat them throughout the week.
- Dining commons: If you have meal swipes, grabbing all the plates of food you feel like eating is tempting, but remember to only take what you need. We can all see how much food students waste when we bus our dishes. Also, consider donating your unused swipes to Swipe Out Hunger.
- Restaurants: When you’re eating out, be aware of portion sizes and if you don’t end up finishing your food, box it up and take it home for another time.
Now that you have this list, try to implement these tips in your daily life to help the environment and enjoy some of these benefits of reducing food waste.
- You save money: When you plan out your meals and only buy what you need, you save money because when you throw out your excess food, you’re throwing away your money.
- It conserves energy: Taking steps to food waste reduction contributes to preventing the pollution that is involved with agriculture and the transportation of food.
- It’s good for the economy: Food waste removal costs are constantly rising, and reducing food waste would lower these costs significantly.
So, this Earth Day, make sure to do your part.
Winnie Lam currently serves as the On The Menu Co-Editor. She has been apart of the Nexus since 2017.