About one-third of all food produced for human consumption, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted every year, according to the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). Consumers in developed countries are responsible for 222 million tons of this waste, or about the same quantity of food produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa. The wasted food that is not composted ends up in landfills where it produces methane emissions, a greenhouse gas with a warming effect 21 times greater than carbon dioxide.
With the holiday season upon us, it is helpful to know how to avoid wasting food. Thankfully, the Worldwatch Institute offers 10 steps that will make a holiday meal less wasteful:
1. Be realistic: Cook only the amount of food that is really needed for your holiday meal. See the Love Food Hate Waste organization’s “Perfect portions” planner to calculate meal sizes.
2. Plan ahead: Create a shopping list before buying the ingredients for your meal. Check out the Grocery Gadgets shopping app for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.
3. Go small: Use smaller serving utensils and plates to encourage people to eat smaller portions, and reduce the amount of food left on plates.
4. Encourage self-serve: Let guests serve themselves so they will take the amount they can realistically eat.
5. Store leftovers safely: The USDA recommends that hot foods only be left out for no more than two hours.
6. Compost food scraps: Compost vegetable peels, egg shells and other food scraps from meal preparation.
7. Create new meals: Use the leftovers from your holiday meal to make new meals. See the Love Food Hate Waste’s recipes from food scraps.
8. Donate excess: Donate canned and dried foods you didn’t need for your holiday meal to food banks and shelters. See the Feeding America’s Food Bank Locator.
9. Support food-recovery programs: In some cities, there are food recovery systems that will come and collect your leftovers. For instance, in New York City, City Harvest, the world’s first food-rescue organization, collects about 28 million pounds of food each year.
10. Give gifts with thought: If you decide to give food, avoid highly perishable items. If you give chocolate, coffee or tea as a gift, choose fair trade certified products. Check out Global Exchange, which lists fair trade certified chocolate, coffee and tea companies.
If you know other tips for reducing food waste this holiday season, feel free to divulge them as a comment to this post.
Photo: Flickr user, antonellomusina