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Celebrating 50 years of Earth Day – Reducing Food Waste

Co-authors: Holly Abeels, Alicia Betancourt, and Dr. Ashley Smyth

April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “climate action”. Climate change is the biggest challenge the world faces today. But it’s a challenge and issue we can solve together. Here are some resources and actions you can do to help combat climate change.

What You Can Do

Often the simplest things you can do are related to behaviors in your day to day life. Actions like reducing your water or energy use, reducing food waste, and cutting down on vehicle emissions all have an impact. This week we’ll take a look at actions you can start doing today. We’ve already looked at how you can save water and energy. Today we’ll talk about reducing food waste.

Part Three: Reduce Food Waste

In 2015, the U.S. EPA estimated that 39.7 million tons of food waste was generated with 30.3 million tons of that going to landfills. That same year the U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the first ever U.S. food reduction goal of 50% reduction in food waste by the year 2030. Reducing food waste has many benefits including saving money, reducing methane emissions from landfills, conserving energy and resources, and supporting your community. By changing how you plan, prep, and store food you can easily help in reducing food waste.

Planning tips
  • Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and only buy what you need to make those meals.
  • Include quantities on your list and which meals that food will be used for to avoid overbuying.
  • Look in your refrigerator and cupboards before heading to the grocery store to avoid buying food you already have.
  • Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves you money if you’re going to use it before it spoils.
Storage tips
  • It’s easy to buy too many fruits and vegetables that you don’t end up using before they spoil. Find out how to store these so they stay fresh longer.
  • Freeze, preserve, or can extra fruits and vegetables.
  • Many fruits give off gases as they ripen and this causes other nearby produce to spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.
  • Wait to wash berries until you’re ready to eat them to prevent mold from growing.
Prep tips
  • Prepare perishable food items soon after bringing them home. When you get home, take time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and cooking.
  • Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t get to eat before it may spoil.
  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time.
  • Prepare and cook perishable items and then freeze them.
Thriftiness tips
  • Look in your refrigerator first and see if there’s anything you can eat or cook before buying more.
  • Produce that might not be as fresh when you bought could still be used in soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked good, or smoothies.
  • If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally don’t eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons and vegetable scraps can be made into a stock.
  • Learn the difference between “sell-by”, “use-by”, “best-by”, and expiration dates.
    • A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
    • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
    • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date (except for when used on infant formula).
    • A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • Are you likely to have leftovers? Great! Store these for future meals through the week or use them in casseroles, stir fries, soups, and smoothies.
  • At restaurants, only order what you can finish or make sure to take any leftovers home with you.
  • At all you can eat buffets, only take what you can eat.
Websites to Follow

These are just some of the actions you can take to help personally adapt to climate change. Download and read the Climate Change Handbook: A Citizen’s Guide to Thoughtful Action for more personal actions you can take. Follow these websites for the latest information about climate change in the U.S. and in Florida.

National Climate Assessment – 4th Edition

NASA Global Climate Change – Vital Signs of the Planet

NOAA Climate.gov

Florida Sea Grant Climate Change Resources

Florida Climate Institute

FDEP Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection

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