by Alyssa Leavy | Zoom Out Mycology
Make big strides against food waste with five worthwhile changes.
Living in NYC, so much revolves around my favorite pastime (i.e. all things food-related): boozy brunches, happy hour specials, bagel shops, girls’ nights, guys’ nights, date nights, Seamless, morning coffee, Insomnia Cookies, food trucks galore. It’s all glorious and all right at our fingertips. But with so little control over how restaurants prepare and package our food, how can we be more conscious of our impact on the environment? The best place to start is in our homes. Here are five changes you can make that will have a big impact.
ONE - SET AN EXAMPLE
“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi(1)
The greatest impact any of us can have is to influence our friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to improve their habits as well as our own. Every action we take to promote the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) will encourage an environmentally conscientious culture. To paraphrase Grandmother Willow of Pocahantas, “someone has to start the ripples.”(2) By following the recommendations in this post you’ll affect not only your own behavior, but the behavior of everyone around you.
TWO - BREAK THE HABIT
Everything is hard at first. Once you form a new habit, your actions will become automatic and take a lot less effort. How long will it take to make or break a habit? Research varies, but suggests that it takes about two months.(3) However, it’s easier to break a bad habit (overbuying at the grocery store), when you have a positive replacement behavior.(4) To keep your grocery cart in check, try creating a new habit, like writing a list before you go shopping. Take it to the next level by planning out your meals before you head to the supermarket. Strong motivation is also a key factor in habit forming.(5) Keeping a goal in mind, like being able to zip through the express checkout line, can help.
THREE - FOLLOW THE “FIFO” METHOD (First In, First Out)
Food that was purchased first or will go bad the fastest should be eaten first. Think leftovers, fish, cold cuts, anything that has been chopped or washed, items close to their expiration dates, etc. It’s tempting to make tortellini for dinner when you’re craving it, but the spinach that’s starting to wilt should really be cooked first. Compromise by adding sauteed spinach to your tortellini. Added bonus - it’s a healthier meal!
FOUR - USE PRODUCE BEFORE IT SPOILS AND SAVE SERIOUS DOUGH
No joke, compared to three years ago I’m saving about $120/month, ya dig? Check it:
4. Before something goes bad, freeze it! Frozen fruit can be used to make smoothies. Frozen vegetables can be thrown into a soup or stir fry. Even bread can be frozen before it gets moldy.
Soups and stews are lifesavers and perfect for fall. Vegetables that are starting to shrivel can be turned into a cream soup. Simply saute your vegetables with some butter or oil for 5-6 minutes, add enough broth to cover your veggies and boil until soft. Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture, add a tablespoon of heavy cream for every cup of broth and let simmer for another 20 minutes with aromatics (bay leaf, rosemary, thyme) and salt and pepper. From there you can freeze the soup for an easy dinner down the road.
It’s estimated that fifty percent of produce in the United States is wasted, according to a study by the Guardian.(6) By following the advice in this post you can take a bite out of this staggering issue. Think critically and creatively about your consumption and if you have your own strategies please share them in the comments section!
FIVE - COMPOST
To start you can either order a cute little compost pail with a carbon filter for your countertop, or you can put any container in your fridge or freezer (this prevents an unholy rankness). NYC is making composting incredibly easy to meet its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030(7). You can utilize a free drop-off site or use a brown compost collection bin at your residence, provided by the city at no cost. If visiting the drop-off sites is inconvenient you can submit a request to set up your building with compost collection. Now that you know how easy compost disposal is the real question is, what can be composted?
For Drop-off Sites(8)
BONUS - GO VIRAL
Food waste starts before produce even reaches our grocery stores. To meet the aesthetic demands of the American consumer, many farmers will leave crops to rot instead of selling them to markets.10 You can encourage farmers to sell funky looking fruits and veggies that are completely edible by supporting the Ugly Veg Campaign. Follow The Ugly Veg Campaign or check out their website to show your support. Go a step further and sign up to get more info about sustainable living at savethefood.com and follow them.
Bottom-line: By following these steps you can save $1,440 annually (hello Aruba!) and minimize landfill waste, critically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel like I’m riding Rafael the Inflatable Unicorn down a raging river of good vibes.
About the author:
Alyssa Leavy graduated from Lehigh University's bioengineering program with a concentration in pharmaceuticals in 2012. Since then she has pursued her passion for renewable fuels at a biodiesel plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In her free time she enjoys gardening in her NYC apartment, acting as sous chef to her fiance, and speaking entirely in Simpsons quotes.
1 "Mahatma Gandhi Quotes." Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 22 Sep. 2017. <http://www.quotes.net/quote/8277>.
2 Clements, Ron, director. Pocahontas. Walt Disney Pictures, 1995.
3 Lally, Phillippa, et al. “How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world.” European Journal of Social Psychology, 16 July 2009, pp. 998–1009., doi:10.1002/ejsp.674. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017.
4,5 “How long does it really take to break a habit?” Hopes&Fears, 20 Nov. 2015, www.hopesandfears.com/hopes/now/question/216479-how-long-does-it-really-take-to-break-a-habit. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017.
6 Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 July 2016, www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-waste-ugly-fruit-vegetables-perfect?CMP=share_btn_tw. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017.
7 “The Plan for a Strong and Just City.” #OneNYC, www1.nyc.gov/html/onenyc/visions/sustainability/goal-2-sustain.html. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017.
8 “What Food Scraps To Drop Off.” DSNY - Zero Waste - What Food Scraps To Drop Off, www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/zerowaste/residents/what-food-waste-to-drop-off.shtml. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017.
9 “How To Use the Brown Bin.” DSNY - Zero Waste - Organics Collection – How To Use Brown Bin, www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/zerowaste/residents/organics-collection-brown-bin.shtml. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017.
10 Chandler, Adam. “Why Americans Lead the World in Food Waste.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 15 July 2016, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/american-food-waste/491513/. Accessed 22 Sept. 2017
Zoom Out Mycology’s Environmental Awareness blog strives to explain and expose environmental topics and concerns to a wide audience. Our team consists of a diverse group of scientists, policy experts, and engineers that help describe the science behind environmental issues that you see in the news and experience in your daily life. We hope that this knowledge will help all of our readers embrace a healthy and sustainable lifestyle! If you are interested in being a guest contributor, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org