3 Ways To Eliminate Food Waste Before It Reaches The Compost


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The struggles with going zero waste sometimes feel endless, and food waste is no exception. When I first went zero waste, I didn’t make anything at home; I just bought a lot of food products in recyclable packaging. Baby steps. My salad would be from one of those giant plastic tubs of mixed greens, and most of the salad fixings came in aluminum cans. After I was settled into a zero-waste lifestyle, I knew I needed to eliminate as much packaging as possible, regardless of whether it was recyclable or not. This is crucial because every piece of plastic ever created is still on this planet, right now. So yes, recyclable packaging is better than nonrecyclable packaging, but it’s not the best and didn’t align with a zero-waste mentality.

The problem? Then I was making more food waste. If I bought multiple heads of lettuce and cut them up myself and put them in my reusable Tupperware instead of buying everything packaged at the store, it was double, sometimes triple, the amount of waste. Just for one head of lettuce, I was tearing off the outside leaves because they were wilted and sad, and then the very inside leaves because they’re for rabbits, and then core, etc…

Spoiler alert: Some of this lettuce will be wasted. Photo: Shutterstock/Kobrin Photo

Spoiler alert: Some of this lettuce will be wasted. Photo: Shutterstock/Kobrin Photo

For a while, I was telling myself that food waste was better than plastic recycling. I mean, it’s food, it breaks down. Every piece of food ever made isn’t still on this planet. Food waste is so much better for the environment. NOPE. Food waste without the ability to “breathe” while decomposing is actually extremely harmful for the environment. It creates methane, which we all know is awful for our atmosphere.

So that’s the pickle — either way I’m making trash, and either way I’m ruining the environment. Why even try at this point? Because there’s always a solution.

Thankfully, I found a company that I would pay a small monthly fee to come to my apartment and drop off an 8-gallon paint bucket every week. Every week, I would fill it up with food waste, and every week it was gone and a fresh bucket was in its place. I kept it right outside our door and I never really had to do any work. It was amazing, but it was also an 8-gallon paint bucket.

During the summer months, I eat watermelon like it’s going out of style, and as you can imagine, those rinds create a lot of food waste. Some weeks I would just have rinds piled on top of my paint bucket — it wasn’t cute. Sometimes I would stick them in the freezer so they wouldn’t start to break down, and then I’d stuff them all in the new bucket the following week. That’s all fine and dandy, I guess, but why even put that stress on myself? Instead, I came up with a few simple and easy tips to avoid food waste in the first place.

Watermelon: so tasty, yet so many rinds produced for the compost pile. Photo: Shutterstock/Africa Studios

Watermelon: so tasty, yet so many rinds produced for the compost pile. Photo: Shutterstock/Africa Studios

3 Tips to Eliminate Food Waste

  1. The grocery store is a quota and not a free-for-all. Before I go to the grocery store, I take inventory of what’s in the apartment. There’s no need to buy five avocados if there are already six at home. I don’t care if they’re on sale, stop it — you don’t need them. Because we both know you’re not going to eat them all in time and some will go bad and now you’ve wasted precious avocado money that’s breaking down in a bucket outside your front door. I make a grocery list and I stick to it no matter how delicious something looks or how on sale something looks. The grocery store isn’t going anywhere, so if you wake up in a day or two and really need those avocados that were on sale, go back and get them. This isn’t the apocalypse; stop buying things you don’t eat.
  2. If I cook for myself, I eat for myself. Raise your hand if you’ve ever intended to make a bowl of pasta and ended up with enough pasta to feed your whole neighborhood. I’m right there with you. If you want to figure out life by trial and error or perfect measurements, it’s up to you. But once you know how much something will yield, don’t talk yourself out of it. There have been so many times I’ve come home from work and felt like, “Yeah, I could definitely eat two Chipotle-sized Mexican bowls. I’m starved.” Then about halfway through the first bowl, I’ve realized I’ve made a terrible mistake. Listen, your kitchen won’t be offended if you come back an hour later and make a mess all over again. If you’re not down for doing dishes twice, I suggest not mixing any ingredients until the very end. So if you are making Mexican bowls, don’t add anything together until you serve yourself. Then put all the leftovers in separate Tupperware containers. That way, the food doesn’t get soggy or sad while it’s in the refrigerator, and you can eat it for your next meal. Even if it is only an hour later, I’m not judging. I’ll join you.
  3. If I can regrow it, I do. It might seem a bit minimal, but if you regrow lettuce or celery, that saves a lot of waste over time. Better yet if you can regrow an avocado into a tree — you’re a superhero. I’ll be honest, I’m still new to this practice. To say I have a black thumb would be an understatement. Guys, I killed a cactus once. Yes, the one plant that should be able to just live through anything — I killed it. So, yes, I have already killed multiple hearts of romaine and butter lettuce. Right now, it’s looking good for the cores I have regrowing, but it’s definitely a slow process. I think the only way to eliminate lettuce waste would be to start a regrow period every month and slowly replant. That way, I have plants at every stage of growth I can take leaves from. There are so many vegetables you can regrow besides lettuce and celery. Some of the best ones are potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, sprouts, basil and cilantro. Some fruits you can regrow are apples, lemons and peaches.
These little worms might not be able to eat everything you throw at them. Photo: Shutterstock/Graham Corney

These little worms might not be able to eat everything you throw at them. Photo: Shutterstock/Graham Corney

I hope these little tips make a big impact on your future composting lifestyle. It’s especially helpful if you have a worm compost, as sometimes you will make more waste than their little stomachs can eat through. It’s always a good idea to be conscious of your waste, even if you know there’s a responsible way to dispose of it. These tips have made my kitchen run a lot smoother and keep things more organized. If you ever have composting questions, no matter which style of compost you are using, feel free to comment below. I am always around to help eliminate food waste and keep scraps out of our landfills.

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Audrey Holmes

Based in San Diego, Audrey Holmes is on a personal journey toward zero waste. She admits to watching otter videos on YouTube way too much and having an unhealthy obsession with matcha. Speaking of green, read all about her zero-waste journey on her blog, Green Blue Marble.

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