Wednesday, January 6
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” 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!
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!)
My 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!