Each year, about 200 million pounds of Thanksgiving turkey turns to food waste. Meanwhile, this year, we are seeing extraordinary circumstances. Feeding America reports that 50 million people faced food insecurity this year. The lines for food banks are miles and hours long this holiday season. So, how can we show thanks while reducing Thanksgiving food waste in our own homes?
Ideas for Limiting Thanksgiving Food Waste
1. Plan your meal
Before shopping, make sure you have a grocery list for only the things you need. Take stock of what you already have in your kitchen, and only buy what you need from the store. Think about portion sizes and consider how many people you will be serving, as well as how long you really want to be eating leftovers.
2. Save scraps and leftovers for future use
While cooking, set aside scraps for future meals. Freeze vegetable peelings and meat trimmings for broths and soups. Make chips from potato peelings (or skip peeling your veggies all together). Sauté and caramelize extra chopped onions.
Store leftovers in marked containers. That way, you’ll know what you have and how long you’ve had it, making it more likely that you’ll eat it before it actually does need to be pitched. Having guests? Ask them to take home goodie-bags with their favorites from the night. Or, drop meals off for any neighbors that might benefit from a warm meal.
Faced with a true plethora of leftovers? Get creative! Find recipes suggesting new ways to use what you already have. Extra bread rolls? Bread pudding. Leftover turkey? Try homemade turkey stock (yes, with the bones). The same goes for staple ingredients, like green beans or sweet potatoes: take the time to learn more about it, and try something new!
Still plenty to go around? Let your pets in on the Thanksgiving love. Toss together your pet-friendly leftovers (turkey meat, sweet potatoes, green beans) with some brown rice, and let your furry friends enjoy.
As mentioned, far too many people are hungry this year and this holiday season. If you have canned or otherwise packaged leftovers that you absolutely won’t get to, consider donating those goods to a local shelter or food bank. OneThird has compiled an interactive map to help you find a food bank near you.
As a last resort, compost your food once it truly can’t be salvaged as edible. Composting helps make our food system a closed system, as opposed to tossing it into the landfill, where it doesn’t do any good. In other words, when we compost our leftovers, it goes right back into our food system, helping to more efficiently nourish the next harvest. Look into local community compost or compost collection/drop-off opportunities, or start your own compost in your kitchen or yard space.
Plastic and food waste often go hand in hand but can be tricky to navigate. How do we reduce plastic and food waste in our own kitchens? When we shop for groceries? When we’re just out and about?
Kristin Cole is a chef, educator, and coach who inspires others to think confidently in their kitchens and adopt the practical skills of simplicity and resourcefulness.
She encourages her students to lead with intuition and connect with nature in a world of overwhelming choices. It is through small lifestyle shifts that she sees the potential for change to our wellbeing and that of the planet. The reduction of food waste is at the core of Kristin’s work—from selecting and storing ingredients to preparing healthy meals and reinventing leftovers. She is a graduate ofWilliams College and ALMA Culinary School in Italy.
Kristin’s guest blog was born from email correspondence with OneThird.
Hi Kristin, read through some of the blogs on your website. Really liked the July 9 article about food waste (might be biased).
Sounds like you have a lot of ideas for things you could help us learn about. Excited to learn more about your work (and read more of your blogs!) What if we turned our email correspondence into a blog post?
Glad to see OneThird is doing some cool work in the field of food waste. We’re all in it together whichever angle we come from! I’m incredibly passionate about it from the home cook perspective. I love sharing my tools for shopping, storing, and using up what we have with a more practical mindset. Beeswax wraps are some of my favorite unsung heroes for prolonging the shelf-life of produce once it reaches our homes, as they so perfectly mimic nature’s skin.
Re: Plastic and Food Waste at Home
Your new post mentions wrapping veggies in paper towels and a plastic bag in order to prolong their shelf life. For those of us trying to move away from plastic, beeswax wraps and reusable produce bags are a good start.
BUT, given how much plastic we all have in our systems, and how related food waste and plastic waste are, if we have the means to be conscious about it and make an effort in response, that’s a good start. Would love to hear any thoughts you have on that relationship between plastic and food.
Using plastic and paper towels to keep veggies fresh is a valid point. I encourage people to reuse their plastic bags and not use paper towels (I don’t even own any!). I think sometimes, my overriding passion for food waste encourages me to meet people where they’re at in their packaging game, even if that means they’re still using paper towels and plastic.
Think I’ve come to the same conclusion about meeting people where they’re at with packaging. Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
Re: Plastic, Food Waste, and the Climate Crisis
To be honest, both food waste and plastic waste are equally pressing environmental concerns, but which one is more urgent? I don’t know with certainty. From my understanding of Project Drawdown and the extremity of methane emissions from rotting food waste, I believe that preventing food waste is actually more crucial to solving our immediate climate crisis (it’s in the top 5 solutions). Or if prevention isn’t an option, we can at least turn that food surplus into rich compost.
Exactly right! Both food waste and plastic waste are serious environmental concerns, but food waste actually is more crucial. The good news there is that as we reduce food waste, we will reduce plastic waste simultaneously, given how much we use plastic to package wasted food.
The article about microplastics is haunting. We are literally inundated in plastic without even knowing so and that is concerning. But it also allows people to ignore the problem more easily. When we “throw away” plastic or even send it out of our dirty laundry water, it leaves our possession and goes into the landfill where we never see it again. That means it’s gone forever, right?! Same with food waste – toss it in the trash and it’s “gone”. This linear mindset must absolutely change to one of circularity. Educating and mindset shifts are our strongest tool for enacting change on this planet, at least from the consumer side.
Producers’ Use of Plastic Packaging
On the producer side, companies have to (finally!) take responsibility for their packaging and step up to the plate. NOT put that responsibility on the buyers who then play into a broken recycling system (I’ll spare you the rant). I know that a lot of progress is being made with circular food delivery systems (like LOOP) or plant-based packaging. Even so, I’ve heard companies like ReGrained complain that their compostable packaging actually led to their granola bar degrading faster, which in turn, led to more food waste! What a headache. They had to go back to their larger mission of food waste and tackle the packaging issue more carefully. So back to plastic for now. These are really competing challenges for companies and consumers alike!
Right, the producers! Can’t wait for more companies to consider more sustainable packaging. Remember when Whole Foods sold peeled oranges in plastic containers? That hurt.
I have heard, though, that some of the biodegradable packaging options actually just end up as microplastics anyway. On that note, also saw an article about how industrial composters don’t necessarily want people composting compostable eating utensils because we make mistakes and plastic utensils end up in the compost bins. I’m sure you can follow the crumbs: if there’s plastic in the compost, it can’t be sold as organic. Then, the plastic ends up in our food supply, meaning our produce has microplastics in it right off the bat. Room for improvement.
I’m glad to know there are so many companies out there using 100% compostable in their entire line of single-use products. But… even there, I’m still a skeptic. Look what happened to Sweetgreen with what they believed to be legit compostable containers. Mmm, not so much. With all the innovation in plant-based packaging products, there’s also the risk for introducing new materials and chemicals into the waste stream.
Reducing Plastic Waste as a Consumer
On a personal level, when I lived in California and Oregon, I was able to prioritize both food waste AND plastic prevention because I intentionally created the systems that allowed me to do so. Yes, it was hard to set everything up at first but once I was in the flow, it couldn’t have been easier. I was also lucky to be living in progressive cities that focus heavily on the wellbeing of people and the planet.
My article on tiny living touched upon a lot of my techniques for adopting that lifestyle at home but my mindset also extended into leisure and travel where I would never be without my mini bamboo utensil set, stainless steel snack boxes, or cloth napkins. But really, anything you bring from home (a single metal fork or spoon for example) to avoid using more single-use plastic out there is amazing. I love seeing others adopt these small, actionable steps.
Farmers’ Markets and Food Co-ops
During my Farmers Market outings, I would bring my own shopping bags and reusable produce bags for loose produce. I would say most vendors either sell loose ingredients from their beautiful display or provide a paper bag or compostable tray if needed. The only time I accepted plastic was in the vacuum-sealed grass-fed meat that I would occasionally buy.
When I shopped at the local Food Coop for other household items, I would also bring my set of bags along with a ‘bulk kit’ that my wife and I created for ease and efficiency. It was a simple box filled with all of my empty jars that needed refilling of grains, nuts, flours, etc, some smaller jars for loose spices, and bottles of various sizes to house the honeys, olive oils, vinegars, aminos, etc from the liquid area. All of the jars had been pre-weighed and labeled with the product SKU number of what I would normally buy (I left some blank too for surprise finds!)
This system was incredibly easy, cost-effective, and zero-waste. I remember so many shoppers and cashiers alike asking about the kit and I took every opportunity to inspire by example. Of course, avoiding plastic in the inner aisles or frozen section is sometimes unavoidable so whatever I did generate, I’d always try to reuse in my home or to pick up my dog’s poop. It’s nearly impossible to have a 100% plastic-free grocery shopping experience but I sure did my best.
Plastic-Free Grocery Shopping During COVID
Now that you’re not living in a tiny home, how do you navigate shopping in grocery stores full of plastic? Do you avoid those stores altogether/shop with plastic-free stores or stores that primarily sell in bulk? Bet you still avoid plastic as much as possible, regardless. Still use the jar system?
My journey has become more challenging in a new city all while COVID was permeating our lives and the industry was simultaneously encouraging single-use plastics in full force. It’s been disheartening to see all of the progress made on plastic bag and straw bans along with novel take-out concepts (here in Durham we have Green to Go for closed-loop take out containers) just fall to the wayside as plastic became the new hero against the coronavirus. I personally think it was excessive and, unfortunately, this fear mindset has sunken in over the last 8 months as people are convinced that plastics are absolutely necessary to stay safe in our vulnerable world. So retraining people or redesigning the system entirely will be its own lengthy process.
To be honest, we’re all navigating these new, unchartered waters and doing our best within an already complex food system. But those of us who work in the industry will continue to fight – we’re a relentless bunch.
Changes Due to the Pandemic
I used to truly enjoy grocery shopping pre-pandemic when I could take my time, stroll through the aisles and admire new products, read labels, and even sample from local vendors (that was a big bonus in a food coop – exposure to small, conscious CPG startups). All that has changed. Now it’s about sterility, efficiency, distancing, single-use everything, and shutting down of bulk sections and self-serve food stations. It feels like a get-in, get-out, be-damned-if-you-don’t-have-a-shopping-list experience in order to keep the stream of people moving.
As we all adjust to the changing rules at grocery stores, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and to accept that some of my choices currently may not align with even those from a year ago. Instead of bringing all of my jars to the store, I am ok with buying what I can either from the pre-packaged bulk areas or just buying larger quantities in general and bringing it home to redistribute into my limited glass jars.
Same goes with spices. It helps to maintain the comfort of my system even though the process of getting there is slightly different. Yes, much more plastic is generated but I try to reuse what I can. I look at it all in terms of balance and find other ways to be more sustainable in my practices. Farmers Markets, for example, still sell produce without packaging and allow you to bring your own reusable bags so I try to support local every week. Furthermore, since I don’t have a compost pile, I send my inedible food scraps and meat bones (after I’ve made stock) to a local service that replaces your household bin each week and supplies me with fresh compost to keep or donate to community gardens.
In Person vs. Online Shopping
I am one to always shop in person, not online. Tried it too many times, even with Imperfect Foods, and I am left disappointed with the packaging and/or poor quality of the produce every time! So let’s just say it’s personally been a tough transition but I am equally thrilled to see home cooking and food waste prevention at the top of people’s awareness.
Re: How Do I Become Waste-Free? Where Do I Start?
There are so many things to be doing for so many different causes right now. When it comes to building waste-free lifestyles, where do we start? What are manageable first steps that you recommend for those of us who have the means to lead more sustainable lives (and maybe many of us don’t realize that we actually do have the means)? How do we, again, start where we are, use what we have, and do what we can? Do we start with our eating habits or with our kitchen practices or our shopping rituals?
I’ve definitely felt like i didn’t know where to start. My first step was meal planning. Reusable grocery and produce bags came next because I knew how much food I’d be buying. After that, the steppingstones for continuing on this path just fell into place.
Where do we start with waste-free living?
Clearly, it is such an overwhelming landscape at the moment! I admire your process of selecting one area and letting it flow from there. That is exactly what I would advise. And also add that we should listen to what is intuitively drawing us in at the moment and take a very small step in that direction. Just start. Any action is well-served right now as people tend to freeze up when they are overwhelmed and get stuck in analysis paralysis (I’ve totally been there).
Start With Ourselves
Once we move forward, we build more interest in other interconnected topics and the positive effects for ourselves, the community, and the environment continue to snowball. I’d say the most important thing above all else is to START WITH OURSELVES. Be the change you want to see. Serve as an example and people will be curious and want to learn from you. Your practices will reach far and wide and actually promote more good than you know.
I’d also advocate adding in positive practices, rather than coming from a mindset of restriction and deprivation. We must gently add in the good stuff whether it be a small amount of fermented foods to our meals, or bringing a reusable bag with us, or using healthier oils like olive or coconut in our cooking instead of focusing on what we need to get rid of or what we’re doing wrong. The negative stuff will easily fall away (ie. processed foods, plastic bags, seed oils, in the above examples) and the practices will continue to build on one another.
Interconnected Good Habits
I’ve seen my habits in one area of life easily translate to other areas. For example, by cleaning up my kitchen pantry and adding in nutrient-dense, wholesome foods; Now I’ve done the same in my bathroom to the point where I now make all of my own products (deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo), which is enjoyable, easy, cost-effective, and safe. This stemmed from a focus on the healing power of coconut oil, ACV, baking soda, sea salt, and other healthy ingredients, not necessarily from removing the chemicals from store-bought products. Alas, my point is to build (and build incrementally!), not subtract when it comes to making change.
In America, about four food items are thrown away out of every 10 that are bought. A huge amount of resources goes into creating that food, and it takes its toll on our planet. Preventing food waste can solve several critical global issues we are facing.
In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the various issues associated with food waste and why preventing food waste is important.
If you have perishing fruits and vegetables in your kitchen that you would normally throw out, try making smoothies, vegetable juices, and sorbets to reduce household food waste.
In the U.S., 40% of food is wasted, and much of this waste comes from households. Food waste in landfills contributes to methane emissions – a major climate change concern.
Want to be a part of the solution? The next time you have less-than-fresh fruits or vegetables, consider blending or juicing your produce before you send it to the trash or the compost.
Reduce Household Food Waste with Smoothies
Well-made and tasty smoothies contain at least these three major components:
1-1.5 cups of a liquid base,
1-2 cups of fruits and/or vegetables,
We recommend freezing the produce you plan on using in the smoothie to thicken the smoothie’s consistency.
Common liquid bases include water, pre-made juices (you can make your own to further reduce your household’s food waste!), or any kind of dairy or nut milk.
The bulk of the smoothie may come from leafy greens and/or frozen fruit.
Finally, the thickener might be 1 banana, ½ avocado, ½ cup frozen mango, ¼ cup ground oats, or ice cubes.
Blend and enjoy!
Reduce Household Food Waste with Vegetable Juices
Making your own vegetable juices, or green juices, from ingredients you have on hand is another great way to reduce food waste! Juicing allows you to mix and match produce that you already have in your kitchen in order to create your own recipes for great tasting drinks.
To get you started, we recommend choosing one ingredient from each of the below categories, using produce that you already have in your home.
Honey Dew melon
Remember, the goal is to use what you have in order to prevent food waste, not to plan a recipe and buy new ingredients. The ingredients listed above are only some examples and can be substituted with similar produce items.
Additionally, it is not necessary to create a juice using an ingredient from every aforementioned category; use what you have to create your own recipes or use the internet to search for recipes using the specific ingredients you do have.
Juice and enjoy!
Reduce Household Food Waste with Vegetable Juices
Have a sweet tooth? Sorbets are another good way to reduce food waste!
Use the following recipe to make your own fruit sorbets.
Heat 2 cups of sugar in 2 cups of water in a pot on the stove. Bring to a simmer and stir. Do not let this mixture boil.
Once the sugar is dissolved, let the mixture cool.
Juice 2 cups of fruit. This will become your sorbet’s flavor.
Add the fruit juice to the cooled sugar and water mixture. Stir.
Pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer.
Stir every 30 minutes for 2-3 hours, until you have a well-mixed, frozen sorbet product.
Serve and enjoy!
Show us what you made!
Share your waste-reducing smoothies, juices, and sorbets with us by tweeting us @OneThirdTeam.
https://onethird.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/maja-petric-vGQ49l9I4EE-unsplash-1.jpg12801920Tyler Scheviakhttps://onethird.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-onethird.pngTyler Scheviak2020-07-23 18:38:112020-09-03 19:44:48What is Fresh Produce Shelf Life Prediction?
Eden Owen-Jones achieved a 2:1 BA in Social and Political Science at the University of York. A triple faculty BA in Politics, Sociology and Social Policy gave her a base in the global political economy specialising in sustainability, environmental foreign policy and welfare economics. Now, she volunteers with food waste organisations in the South of England.
Learning About Food Waste
In the summer of 2016, I was on my gap year and working at a leading British supermarket. I regularly found myself running around with a trolley full of reduced food, yelling things like, “Who wants cheap bread?” and “Lovely food, still great to eat!” I was trying to prevent it from being thrown away. Otherwise, company policy directed us to discard all bakery products daily. Meat, fish and deli items that hadn’t been sold within two days of being opened received the same treatment. I didn’t realise at the time that I was just passing the burden of not wasting that food on to the shoppers. I had no idea of the true extent of household food waste.
When I started working there, I wasn’t aware of the supermarket’s policy, and employees were instructed to make the bakery shelves appear abundant at all times. As a nervous new employee, I kept those shelves brimming with freshly baked produce – not realising that I should stop towards the end of the day. One day, I was responsible for over eight garbage bags of fresh, perfectly good bread going in the bin. I was so ashamed of myself.
Food Waste at Home
I learnt to cook at home, in an environment where nothing could be wasted. Oftentimes, I had to be creative at dinnertimes and string the contents of the larder and fridge into a coherent and tasty meal. I thought everyone ignored sell-by dates – why wouldn’t you? That was how I cooked, and I just assumed everyone did the same.
However, when I got to university, I saw my flatmates throw away entire loaves of bread with no visible signs of mould. They even chucked full packets of meat, salad, fruit and veg in the bin, poured perfectly good milk down the drain, and scrapped leftovers. Efforts to discuss this behaviour with them weren’t as successful as I had hoped.
Bread rescued from supermarket waste in the pay-as-you-feel shop at YourCafe.
Food Waste in My Community
Wanting to become more involved in tackling food waste, I came across YourCafe. This group of lovely individuals meets once a week to rescue food from supermarkets that was heading to landfill. They do this by creating a pay-as-you-feel café and shop for the community to enjoy.
Volunteers from YourCafe cooking lunch.
YourCafe’s aim is to educate the community on the issue of food waste and to provide a hot, delicious meal for anyone who wants one. I loved volunteering with them and did it as much as I could. I got to cook all day, creating a menu in much the same way I always had: I worked with the available ingredients and made something great. There were always lots of amazing fresh fruit and vegetables, and sometimes we would have food from other cultures around the world that I had never tried before, like traditional polish breads and sausages. One day, 15 boxes of profiteroles were dropped off.
Vegetables rescued from supermarket waste in the pay as you feel shop at YourCafe.
After working in a supermarket, I wasn’t shocked by what I saw. At the time, the market could not legally donate the food. Since then, positive policy steps have been made in the private sector. Still, the retail market is responsible for less than 2 per cent of total waste. It’s in our own daily lives that we need an attitude transformation.
To learn about food donation policies in the U.S., check out this post from OneThird.
Global Food Waste and Food Security
Globally, every year we farm an area that is larger than China just to produce all the food goes uneaten. This accounts for roughly one-third of all food produced globally. In our current global society, at least 1 billion people go hungry. Meanwhile, the world population will increase by 2 billion people by 2050. Additionally, the agricultural industry faces increasing weather variability and unpredictability which will have a significant effect on the resilience of our food system. And mind you, if we maintain current levels of food waste, our food system will have to increase production by up to 70 per cent by 2050 to meet the world’s growing demands.
Food security is not and should not just be about increased production, but also about decreasing waste along the value chain. The food we eat isn’t just food – it’s water, soil, fossil fuels, manpower. So often we forget everything that goes into making it. An egg isn’t just an egg, it’s 53 gallons of water.
Food is wasted in every stage of its life: it’s lost on the farm and during sorting, packaging, transportation. Then, it frequently is forgotten about in our fridges. However, a 2011 report found that in high- and middle-income countries, consumer behaviour and quality standards are the biggest reasons behind food waste. In Europe and North America, we waste an average of 95kg-115kg of food per person per year. Recent estimates have said UK households waste as much as 4.5 tonnes of food every year. Something has to change.
What’s the Big Deal About Shelf-life, Anyway?
Shelf-life prediction would be a monumental way to tackle this issue and will enable consumers to look beyond sell-by dates. On this note, YourCafe reminds us to “feed bellies, not bins”. Shelf-life prediction could also reduce waste at the commercial level as supermarkets could use this technology to refine how they mark-up sell by dates.
I don’t think people are happy throwing away food; we’re all just too anxious, tired and busy. Uneasy about your ability to determine a food’s shelf life? You’re not alone! Many of us with demanding work schedules and unsympathetic sick leave aren’t going to want to risk it. Perhaps we can’t face the extra time on our feet cooking and sorting out the fridge at the end of a hard working day. So we get takeaways or buy something we can just stick in the oven and try not to think about all the food in our fridge that we know needs eating. Moreover, sometimes we just don’t want or feel like eating the food we have. However, I would argue that this is a privilege and one we need to fully recognise if we are going to tackle this issue.
What Can We Do to Solve the Problem at Home?
Ensuring something doesn’t go in the bin often takes less time than making a tea or coffee. Making a quick pickle brine for leftover cucumber, broccoli stalks or green beans genuinely takes minutes and gives you something delicious with a long shelf life.
Pickled Cabbage and Pickled cucumber I made in June when I noticed they were beginning to go past their best.
Always remember that the freezer is your friend. I keep ‘Green’ and ‘Red’ freezer bags in there to keep scraps and over-ripe veg for ready-to-go soup mix. It’s a brilliant quick-fix when I get home late.
Some potato’s that “went off” on the 21st of June. I cooked them into the meal in the next image on the 8th of July.
If vegetables like tomatos, celery, or carrots are getting past their best, I often make a “master sauce”. This is just a simple tomato sauce that I store in batches that can be transformed into chilli’s, pasta sauces, or minestrone. Occasionally, I use it to make a play on shakshuka. Really, you can use this master sauce for anything that can use a tomato base.
A lunch I made with left over chilli, the pickled cabbage I made in June, and the potatoes from the previous image, with some vegan crème fresh.
Any fruit that’s looking a bit soft, I cook on the hob for a few minutes and then freeze it as compote to eat with porridge or pancakes. Buy the veg with the bumps and bruises – once it’s cooked, you’ll seldom be able to tell the difference. Make a stock with scraps, get creative with leftovers, make a jar of croutons and breadcrumbs.
Are you someone who forgets when you put leftovers in the fridge? Date label them! This way you’ll know when to use them by. Yes, this can be time-consuming, but it’s also fun and genuinely satisfying.
Ways to Be a Better Consumer
We tend to shop habitually. For example, we buy milk even though we have half a carton in the fridge. Other times, we pick up another loaf of bread when we might have one in the freezer. Planning meals doesn’t have to mean setting aside time to rigidly organise lunches and dinners. At the start, it could be as simple as shopping with meals in mind. This will mean flexibility in your meal choices while decreasing waste. Consumer behaviour does have an impact on commercial practices. How we choose to eat will in time change what we see on the shelves – and hopefully how long it’s there for.
One last idea is to try out food waste apps like Olio, which help you to share your food with your community. Donating food to a food bank can also be a good idea. In the U.S.? Check out OneThird’s interactive map to find a food donation center near you.
If you have any questions about this blog or anything else regarding food waste, I’d be happy to chat with you via LinkedIn.
Julian Martinez is a senior at the University of California, Irvine. He is double majoring in political and education science. During his time at UCI, he has served as a food worker, peer mentor, and president of UCI’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter. He is currently a food waste ambassador at UCI.
Becoming a Food Waste Ambassador
My initial curiosity for sustainability began with my 4th grade teacher’s keen interest in the subject. I kept what she taught me in the back of my mind and continued to be interested in sustainability as I grew up. Now, my motivation to reduce food waste primarily stems from my personal experiences of having lacked food security in the past.
When I arrived at UCI, I accepted a position as a “Green Captain” for one of the restaurants that was participating in a sustainability program at the school. Green Captains act as part time sustainability representatives for the various food locations on campus. After a year in this role, I made the full-time commitment to sustainability and became a UCI food waste ambassador.
In this position, I want to achieve two things:
1) promote higher levels of food-resource efficiency, and
2) instill a sense of gratitude in those who have access to food.
This year, I have been engaging in food waste research, creating educational programming, and providing outreach to inform the campus community of UCI.
I held the first ever waste audit in my living community, Arroyo Vista. As it turns out, my community has done wonders compared to others in terms of proper waste management and disposal.
Every week, I have hosted booths on campus, engaging students in sustainable activities and allowing them the opportunity to learn what the UCI sustainability center is all about.
Right now, my main two endeavors include helping other UCI students learn more about healthy and mindful eating and revamping a sustainable cookbook that my organization created a few years ago.
In addition, I’m implementing a sustainability chair position within the Sorority and Fraternity life at UCI.
I’m working to see that all of these ideas come to fruition during the 2020-2021 school year.
You can learn more about food waste reduction efforts at UCI here.
What I’ve Learned About Food Waste
Perhaps the most shocking and daunting thing I have learned about the issue of food waste is that the United States spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that never gets eaten. This upsets me greatly, considering that there are countless people without access to food.
In my opinion, the most effective way to significantly reduce food waste is to educate people on the profound effects their individual actions have on the planet and themselves. It is truly a collective effort. Each and every one of us must acknowledge how our own actions contribute to the problem. This is the only way we are ever going to see real change.
Even those who are not so passionate about sustainability can be incentivized to change their habits. We have to lead with the idea that living more sustainably benefits our own health and well-being. Helping the environment is an added bonus.
To me, people seem overly focused on long-term goals and reaching milestones. In reality, there is no set data point we could reach that would indicate we have accomplished anything in this endeavor, other than totally eradicating food waste or knowing that nobody in the world is food insecure.
In the end, the day-to-day work is just as important as long-term work. If we don’t emphasize the importance of individuals taking small actions every day, it seems unrealistic to set a worldwide goal of halving food waste by 2030. So, we have to focus on what we can do on a daily basis. It’s all about the journey, and not the destination.
If you find one takeaway here, please know that YOU have the power to make the world a better place. Therefore, creating a cleaner and healthier planet begins with individuals like you acknowledging their own responsibility in this fight. As such, each of us has to make changes toward leading more sustainable lives.
Thank you so much for reading. Much appreciation to the folks at OneThird for allowing me to share my personal testimony.
If you would like to get in contact with me, please feel free to reach out!
Walmart’s Eden has already saved the business hundreds of millions of dollars since its start in 2017. In fact, in 2018 they predicted it would save them up to $2 billion over the next five years.
They have been quiet on the exact savings, but it’s safe to assume that this has made a drastic impact on their bottom line. They also ensure fresher fruits and vegetables with Eden, which helps to grow their fresh produce business.
Reducing Food Waste Has Huge Benefits
The future of fresh produce businesses needs to be more profitable or they will fail.
The future of the planet needs to be sustainable or the human race will fail.
Reducing food waste helps meet these two objectives more than any other improvement.
About a tenth of the global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food waste, and it costs nearly $5,000 per ton. Efforts towards preventing food waste can provide a huge return on investment and help meet sustainability goals.
How Eden Works
Eden is a quality management system that compiles a lot of data to predict freshness and shelf life in fresh produce.
By knowing the freshness, Walmart can optimize the flow of perishable goods. This is known as dynamic routing because they can send the right food to the right place at the right time.
Employees can take pictures of fruits and vegetables and automate the QC process. Sensors track temperature and other factors to give a complete picture of the life of their fresh produce.
Walmart Created Eden Internally
Walmart’s fresh merchandising engineers started Eden in a “hackathon” focused on finding solutions for tracking food freshness. Within six months, they developed an algorithm to predict freshness and quality based on standards and over a million photos.
This solution would take years to replicate at most other chains and need a huge investment if done in the same way.
It’s safe to assume that you don’t have the same budget for fresh merchandising engineers that Walmart has (or any budget, in most cases). They’ve applied for at least two patents on Eden, so it’s unlikely that Walmart will share the technology that gives them such a leading edge.
How You Can Replicate Walmart’s Eden
There are technologies similar to Eden to deliver similar results in your operation. Some even have more in-depth freshness algorithms to predict shelf life.
Our technology can be built around your existing quality processes and instantly make anyone a freshness expert.
Shelf-life data can be combined with data from other suppliers (temperature, humidity, etc…) to gain an accurate model for fresh produce. The more data, the better.
The result is less food wasted, improved freshness, and millions of dollars saved.
Will You Also Save $400 Million Per Year?
Because of the scale of Walmart, it’s a bit unrealistic to save $400 million per year. But the impact of shelf life prediction on your business could be the same.
Eden is estimated to save about 50% of Walmart’s food waste. Let’s assume your business sells 10% of the perishable food that Walmart does. Reducing waste by the same amount would equate to $40 million per year or more in savings.
https://onethird.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/white-samsung-galaxy-s4-held-by-a-woman-2.jpg17322310Tyler Scheviakhttps://onethird.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-onethird.pngTyler Scheviak2020-06-30 14:22:312020-09-03 19:31:53Walmart's Eden to Save $2 Billion in Food Waste (and how to replicate it)
We often hear the terms “food waste” and “food loss” flying around, but hear about food waste more. At the time of writing, there were around 10,000 monthly Google searches for “food waste” and only around 200 for “food loss”.
But how many of us know what the difference actually is?
Both are painful and damaging to businesses and the planet, but their true difference lies in where the waste is occurring.
This blog post describes the difference between these terms and provides insight into reducing both.
Food Loss Definition
Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019).
Disposed food that occurs between the farm and the business that will be making the final sale is considered food loss. Systemic issues are normally the culprit.
There are solutions out there for preventing food loss, like cold chain management and shelf-life prediction. Operational improvements are the key to solving this issue.
Food Waste Definition
Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers (SOFA, 2019).
When food disposal occurs in restaurants, supermarkets, or at the home of the consumer, it’s considered waste.
The difference in the terminology is due to the fact that food waste is often easier to solve with education. Reducing food loss requires smart logistical improvements.
Walmart even loses hundreds of millions of dollars per year in lost/wasted food. They have estimated they will save around $400 million per year by reducing food waste with their quality management system, Eden.
A Mindset Shift for Reducing Food Loss and Waste
Many companies reach their sustainability goals by diverting waste using methods towards the bottom of the food recovery hierarchy. However, the goal of “waste diversion” is broad, and having 100% diversion may even provide minimal impact.
Start thinking about reducing surplus food instead of food loss and waste to see greater improvements. You should focus on staying towards the top of the food recovery hierarchy instead of settling towards the bottom, with activities like anaerobic digestion.
Sure, it’s great that we can reconvert food to energy through anaerobic digestion. There is not much economic value in this after the taxing cycle of growing, processing, and transporting food.
There are numerous ways to prevent food loss, and the good news most can make a noticeable impact on your bottom line and improve sustainability.
No single solution will tackle this whole issue. However, the earlier you get started, the sooner you start saving costs and preventing the unnecessary tossing of food.
We specialize in helping companies implement dynamic routing in the cold chain through shelf-life prediction. When you know the freshness of each batch of fresh produce, you can know where to ship it and re-route as necessary. This maximizes profit and quality while reducing food loss (and waste).
Ways to Prevent Food Waste
Most solutions to food waste revolve around clear communication and enabling better decisions. Food waste is more preventable than food loss.
Need evidence? According to ReFED, the top two food waste solutions in terms of financial benefit are consumer education campaigns and standardized date labeling. These may seem simple, but the amount of waste that is caused by not knowing the difference between the “sell by” date and a “use by” date is stunning.
There are infinite ways to reduce waste- it just takes effort and prioritization.
https://onethird.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/bananas.png454918Tyler Scheviakhttps://onethird.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/logo-onethird.pngTyler Scheviak2020-06-29 14:50:262020-09-03 19:28:59Food Loss and Food Waste: What's the Difference?
As a society, we waste over one-third of all food that is produced. Yet, there are millions of people that are malnourished and don’t know when their next meal will be. Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at the complex relationship between food insecurity and food waste by analyzing population data and considering snippets of U.S. history.
Food insecurity describes the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. In the U.S., 14.3 million households were food insecure in 2018, meaning that it was difficult to provide sufficient food for everyone in those homes. In the same year, an average of 39.7 million Americans relied on SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps) every month. The coronavirus pandemic has made this situation even direr. Meanwhile, reducing food waste in the U.S. by even 30% would be enough to feed 50 million Americans every year if distributed properly. This is a simple fix to a lot of socio-economic issues.
To learn more about the context and consequences of food waste, follow this link.
Note that 88.9% of households are food secure and 11.1% of households experience food insecurity. More than one out of every ten people could go hungry at any time.
Before we dive deeper into the demographics of the food insecure households, consider how the distribution should resemble the proportions of U.S. households based on the race of the head of the house. That is to say, we should expect a majority of food insecure households to have a white head-of-house. Based on the racial makeup of the country, one should expect minority-led households to experience 30-40% of food insecurity, with black- and Hispanic-lead households experiencing 10-15% of food insecurity. However, this is not the case.
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U.S. Food Insecurity (2018)
In reality, minorities have a disproportionately large number of food-insecure households. White households only experience about half of the total food insecurity in the U.S. In other words, 5.3% of the total U.S. population could be categorized as white-lead, food-insecure households; of the 11% of households that experience food insecurity, 48% are white-lead.
Race/ethnicity of head:
# Food Insecure Households (thousands)
While white people are a majority of the U.S. population (76.5%) and own a majority of households (66%), they experience only half of all food insecurity in the U.S. (48%). Minorities comprise only a quarter of the total U.S. population, but experience half of the nation’s food insecurity.
How We Got Here: Linking Housing and Food Insecurity
For the purpose of analyzing the data presented here, we will link redlining and home loans to the prevalence of food insecurity in minority communities.
Redlining and Home Loans
Redlining describes a loan program set forth by President Roosevelt in the 1930s to help Americans buy homes. To decide who would receive the loans, the federal government and banks color-coded maps: green neighborhoods indicated a predominantly white area and red neighborhoods indicated predominantly black areas. In green areas, it was easy to get a loan, and suburb developers prohibited minorities from moving in. In red areas, it was difficult to get a loan. The effects of these policies are still lasting in the U.S. today.
Home Loans, Education, and Poverty
From 1934-1968, 98% of home loans went to white citizens. As white homeowners accrued wealth, families in green neighborhoods became richer, and families in red neighborhoods were trapped in poverty. Even though laws were eventually passed which made redlining illegal, families in red areas could not afford to move, so neighborhoods and schools remained segregated by both race and class.
Consider how redlining affects education- schools are funded by local property taxes, and property taxes are higher in wealthier areas. So, in poor areas, low home values mean low property taxes, less school funding, worse education, and less job opportunity. All of these continue the cycle of poverty. Meanwhile, the opposite is true in wealthy areas, and so the cycle of wealth is continued.
Again, we see that minorities are disproportionately impoverished compared to the population and household data we discussed earlier.
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Relating Poverty and Food Insecurity
For Americans who find earning a living wage to be out of reach and/or face systemic barriers to achieving income stability, food security is also usually unattainable. The reverse is also true: a household being unable to afford sufficient, quality foods correlates with experiences of unemployment and poverty. This cycle keeps millions of American individuals and families earning low incomes and worrying about providing adequate food for their households.
Remedies for Food Insecurity
Although it is only one step in a marathon, alleviating hunger and food insecurity makes for a more equitable world and one where more women and children can become educated and pursue job opportunities. But, this is still a step we have to take. So what are we to do?
federal programs (such as SNAP, social security, Medicare, and Medicaid),
serving high-need and disinvested communities (such as single parents and communities of color),
connecting people with opportunities to build household security,
and charitable contributions.
In terms of charitable contributions, food and monetary donations to food banks are the main solutions for improving food security.
Food Insecurity and Food Waste
About 40% of food in the U.S. is wasted. Diverting edible food that would otherwise be wasted by households and businesses to food-insecure individuals via food donation programs contributes to hunger relief efforts and reduces food waste.
OneThird’s main goal is to reduce food waste. Food justice – the movement to reduce food insecurity – is intertwined with this mission.
As previously mentioned, reducing food losses in the U.S. by even 30% would be enough to feed 50 million Americans every year if distributed properly. Our technology allows for any business in the fresh produce supply chain to determine the shelf life of their produce. Healthy, nutritious produce with too short of a shelf life for supermarkets could quickly be redistributed to food banks rather than becoming waste.
Further, minorities in the U.S. and BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities globally are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Minorities tend to live in locations that are hit worst by climate change and the higher rates of poverty experienced by minorities exacerbates their vulnerability. Additionally, discrimination against minorities make it harder for them to cope with the impacts of climate change.
U.S. efforts to mitigate climate change will be unsuccessful if efforts do not include minority and indigenous communities. There is not much research on how climate change will affect minorities and indigenous groups, and neither receives adequate support from or exerts significant influence over governments. Additionally, there are many systemic barriers to equality, equity, and justice in the context of race. A leading barrier is the higher prevalence of poverty, food insecurity, poor education resources, and lack of job opportunities in minority and indigenous communities.
All this is to say that OneThird acknowledges the relationships between food insecurity and food waste and between food justice and climate change; we are continuing to educate ourselves on this issue and we are committed to using our technology to further both movements.