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Wednesday, January 6

2016 New Year’s Resolution: Compost and Reduce Food Waste

2016 New Year's Resolution: Compost and Waste Less Food @janemaynard

Each year when it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution, I choose one that supports my overarching goal to “Eat Well. Heal the Planet.” So much of what we eat and how we eat it impacts the environment, which means there are lots of little things we can each do to make positive change. This year our family’s resolution is to reduce food waste and to begin composting in our home.

I am super excited about this year’s goal. And I am excited to share today’s blog post with you. I tried my best to be as concise as possible…there’s just so much to share!

I’ve been wanting to compost for years. In Menlo Park, you could put anything compostable into the green bins for trash pick up, which made composting easy to do. But, alas, San Diego (like most places) does not have that option, so if you want to compost you have to do it on your own. Bottom line: I moved to San Diego and I didn’t know how to compost on my own and I didn’t take the time to figure it out. Until now!

Just Eat It Documentary: Credit Peg Leg Films“Just Eat It” Director and film subject Grant Baldwin is shocked to find a swimming pool sized dumpster filled with discarded hummus. Credit: Peg Leg Films – Scene from Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story

In recent months I’ve been reading a lot about food waste and the numbers, quite frankly, are staggering. In the U.S., 40% of food raised and grown is wasted each year (one-third globally), and 95% of food waste in the U.S. ends up in landfills. The problem with food going to the landfill is that, unlike normal decomposition, the anaerobic conditions that breaks down food buried in the dump causes a release of methane gas, which contributes to greenhouse gases. So, we’re wasting energy up front producing food that isn’t used, we’re not turning that wasted food back into energy, and the wasted food is increasing CO2 emissions. In addition, the amount of water it takes to produce the food we throw away each year could meet the household water needs for 500 million people. (Information in this paragraph is taken from the documentary Just Eat It, which I will get to in a moment, as well as other sources, including the National Resources Defense Council and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.)

Waste occurs at all stages of the food production and consumption process, so it will take a combination of individual, collective and regulatory efforts to turn the tide. While looking at the problem on the whole may feel overwhelming, food waste is actually something each and every one of us can work on and contribute to every day. We can make a change and we can make it right now!

Just Eat It Documentary: Credit Peg Leg Films and Pure Souls MediaCredit: Just Eat It Poster – Peg Leg Films; Grant & Jen – Pure Souls Media

My 11-year-old Cate and I watched the new documentary Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. If you haven’t seen it, WATCH IT! (You can rent the movie on iTunes for just 99 cents, and you can stream it for free in Canada.) The movie follows the experience of Grant and Jen, a couple who committed to eating only discarded food for 6 months. It’s fun to watch how their 6 months go, but the film also provides ample information about food waste, from farming to labeling to consumption and more. Cate told me afterward that she is grateful they made the movie, which I thought was pretty darn cute. Also, the whole time she was watching the documentary she kept exclaiming, “I can’t believe this!” (I told you the levels of food waste are astonishing!)

Full Circle Compost Collector at @janemaynardMy compost collector from Full Circle (link below)

Okay, so back to this year’s resolution! Here’s what we’re going to be doing in the Maynard household starting now!

  • Get a compost bin and use it! Your compost can be as simple as a pile in the backyard, but I’m choosing to use a tumbler, both to help keep critters at bay and to speed the composting process. My friend Elise Bauer loves this compost tumbler. I bought the dual-batch tumbler, so I can have one batch “cooking” while we’re adding compost to the other batch. As for collecting the food in the kitchen to compost, I am using this compost collector from Full Circle, which is ventilated to help reduce odor and flies. Full Circle sells compostable baggies, but you can also get similar bags at stores like Costco. Elise uses this super cute compost collector from World Market and loves it, if you want something with a little more style.
  • Be more thoughtful about using leftovers and food. For whatever reason, whenever it’s time to clean out the fridge, we always have tons of food that has gone bad. I’m going to work hard to be more conscious of using the food we have so it doesn’t end up in the trash or compost bin.
  • Be less picky at the grocery store when selecting produce and meat. Just because something isn’t perfectly pretty doesn’t mean it’s not good! Getting into this mindset is key to changing how much food is wasted. If consumers stop demanding perfect food and start demanding less food waste, then food producers will be able to sell food good food even if it is not beautiful.

If you’re new to composting like me, here are some resources to get you started:

When my compost tumbler arrives and we get started composting, I will check back in and let you know how it’s going! Until then, here are some to-dos for you:

  • Consider making food waste a priority in your home, too! Whether that means you’re going to start composting or are simply going to be more mindful of what you throw away, it’s all going to help.
  • Watch Just Eat It.
  • If you are a composting veteran, share your tips with us newbies in the comments!

Oh, and if you’re a fan of John Oliver’s smarts, wit and salty language, his piece on food waste is also worth a watch.

Happy New Year! And Happy Composting!


14 Comments »

  1. 1
    Caroline

    Great post! I have a similar tumbling composter (http://www.gardeners.com/buy/tumbling-composter-with-dual-chambers/8590359.html) that also has two sections. I’ve been using it for at least a year, though we haven’t pulled any “cooked” compost out of it yet. I probably don’t turn it often enough, though I am still happy every time we put food scraps into it, rather than throw them away.

    • yes, very similar! and I’m glad you commented because I was worried we’d fill it up too quickly….sounds like a year in and you haven’t taken anything out, so, phew! 😉

  2. I am really into the idea of creating no food waste whatsoever. This is really a great way to contribute to helping the environment. The food waste is just organic waste that could be used as fertilizer and doesn’t at all need to end up on a landfill together with plastic and other materials. Thumbs up for your post! I wish you best of luck!

  3. 3
    debbie

    you are amazing!! maybe i will give this a shot!!!!

  4. 4
    Chris Zable

    One of the best tips I’ve seen for reducing food waste is to make smoothies when fruit has gotten a little past being desirable for eating plain. And if you don’t want a smoothie right now, you can freeze the fruit to smoothie later.

    • GREAT tip. and the freezer in general is a great tool for reducing food waste. I’m totally converted to the freezer way of thinking – I have three freezers at my disposal! 😉

  5. We just moved and one of the hardest things for me was to give up my backyard chickens. The realtor thought it would make it too difficult to find a buyer for our home if our ladies were there, looking for attention. You might be wondering why I bring up chickens – but they ate almost everything that we would have discarded! After they were gone, I used compost tubs under my sink, but it made me sad. There is nothing quite like bringing out cereal crumbs and bread crusts to the chickens – they act like they won the lottery. Every time! We might set up a new chicken area in our new yard, as long as I can fortify it enough to keep my predatory dog away…Having chickens was really fun, used our food scraps, and gave us delicious eggs at the same time. Just another option for how to use your food waste 🙂 Sorry for my long comment – but you can tell how much I loved being a chicken mama!

    • I love that you brought up chickens! we’re actually thinking of getting them, we’ve told the kids we are, we just need to make it happen. this makes me even more excited, thanks, michelle! 🙂

  6. 6
    collette

    Great goal!! My husband has to research local laws and regulations when he opens a new store and/or transfers to a new location. Store management can do SO much by way of both composting waste and donating “old” or damaged food, it just takes leg work on their part.
    Another great way I’ve found to reduce waste with leftovers is to keep a stack of those disposable-but-really-reusable containers on hand and freeze single meal sized portions in them. Often it’s that last bit that ends up being thrown out if I’m not proactive about it. Note I freeze it in those containers and send them home with college kids…mine or their friends or any others that come my way. They love the home cooked meal options; and I know they have some quick, healthy food. The same goes for any older, single people. They rarely cook big meals any more and are SO appreciative. I’ve thrown away a LOT less food since I started doing this. Once you’re in the mindset you see odds and ends in your fridge differently and it’s amazing how often you can freeze those single meals.

    • I love that your husband DOES that leg work, that is awesome. I feel like grocery stores are definitely going to be big in changing things!

      that is a GREAT tip, thank you so much, collette!!!

  7. 7
    carolina

    When my kids were younger, we used to have a babysitter that saved all her babysitting money so she could buy a composter someday. I was so impressed that a 14 year old had this goal! 🙂 We don’t compost (at the moment) because I have 3 boys so we honestly rarely have leftovers, haha! Literally, my oldest eats anything and everything. But, we’ve talked about doing it when the boys are grown and out. Cool goal!

  8. Very nice post! I really need to watch the Just Eat It movie. The statistics of how much food waste is dumped in America and Europe are more than shocking. Thanks for the awesome post!

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