Food waste is a big problem in the United States, and the real cost is far more than the $3 you spent on that package of fresh sage that went in the bin after using a couple of leaves. First off, 35 percent of what ends up in a landfill is food scraps that could be composted. Rotting food scraps account for 23 percent of all the methane gas produced by landfills. The third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the United States is uneaten food scraps in landfills. So, food waste is an environmental issue.
“The goal is to grow awareness about the impact of food waste, especially as it pertains to climate change.”
King County’s local food initiative aims to increase the amount of food grown in the county and increase access to local food for all residents. It also educates citizens about how to be more aware of the scraps tossed out.
“The goal is to grow awareness about the impact of food waste, especially as it pertains to climate change,” says King County project manager Karen May.
Upward of 25 percent of all the food we buy gets dumped uneaten — that’s like walking out of the grocery store with four bags of groceries and throwing a whole bag in the Dumpster on your way to the car. About 90 percent of people throw away food too soon due to “use by” date confusion. Wasted groceries — about 300 pounds a year per family — add up to nearly $1,500 year for most families.
Those statistics prompted King County officials to offer a free dinner event with local chef John Howie, hosted by Columbia Winery in Woodinville. He cooked a delicious dinner with food scraps.
“When they asked me to partner with them, I thought it was a great idea. We have more than enough food in this world to feed everybody if we stop wasting it,” said Howie.
Howie created a four-course menu featuring creatively manipulated leftovers (fried rice with breakfast meat), odds-and-ends produce bits (like cauliflower leaves and broccoli stems), “ugly” vegetable soup, and even dessert made with overripe fruit and stale bread. During the dinner, the chef introduced each dish and gave tips on how to make the most of your groceries. Much comes down to organization and planning, but the following tips will make a difference even before you buckle down on a menu plan.
7 Tips and Tricks to Waste Less
Label a box in the refrigerator “eat soon,” putting half-eaten or soon-to-expire items in the front of the fridge. Have a “leftovers” night once per week.
Create a meal plan, shop with a list, and track food waste for a week or two — it’s probably more than you’d think.
Try to get as close to the farmer as possible (i.e. farmers markets) — fresh food doesn’t spoil as quickly.
Use your freezer
If you buy too much (i.e. Costco-sized) of something, freeze a portion for future use before it’s too late.
Ignore those dates
Don’t be squeamish about “use by” dates. With the exception of baby formula, those dates are only suggestions for optimal quality, not food safety. If it isn’t moldy/smelly, it’s probably fine to eat.
Bought a whole bunch of fresh herbs for a recipe and used only a tiny bit? Tie the rest with twine, and hang to dry in a window.
Fruits and veggies
Wash and prechop veggies so they are easy to grab for meals. Dry extra fruit in the oven at 200 degrees for several hours.
A Core Value Dish
In the “waste not” spirit, Little Brother in Kirkland is finding creative ways to use every bit of the organic produce it sources from local farmers. Chefs Jamie Casady and Jordan Cooper have left their hearts on the plate in the form of crispy Brussels sprout tops and pumpkin-seed puree transformed into a silky nutty sauce bathing fresh Alvarez Farms black beans. It’s rich and unctuous, sweet and umami — and uses food that would normally be tossed in the compost bin.