Recycling is important, but there are two other pieces of stewardship that are equally significant. The wise reuse of resources and household items, and simple waste reduction are also key issues if you are as concerned as I am about our big old crowded planet.
One of the most troubling waste reduction issues finally getting the attention it deserves is food waste. Forty percent of all produced food in the United States ends up wasted and in landfills. The same landfills that are already getting too full and we do not have enough of them.
Forty percent is an alarming number considering the environmental impact and the millions of Americans identified as "food insecure." That is the politically correct way to say people do not have access to enough food at times.
It is time to solve this social and environmental crisis.
Are these things happening in your kitchen:
• 20 percent of the food we buy never gets eaten.
• 90 percent of us throw food away too soon because it may look a little past its prime. We toss out over 300 pounds of still-viable food each year.
Remember, when we waste food, we are wasting more than food; water used in growing and processing, fuel and other natural resources used to transport and process, and a lot of money.
Can your family comfortably afford to waste $1,500 a year?
Here are some simple ways to prevent food waste provided by www.savethefood.com:
• Plan before shopping by making a list. Only buy what you know you’ll use.
• Check your fridge and pantry every few days. Get in the habit of freezing leftovers, bread, vegetables and fruit, instead of tossing them.
• Old vegetables and vegetable tops can be used to make stock or enhance stock.
• A soak in ice water for 5-10 minutes can revive many wilted vegetables. Even if they can’t be restored, some veggies you intended to eat raw in a salad can still be cooked.
• Overcooked vegetables can be transformed into soups or sauces. Just toss them in the blender with soup stock, milk or cream. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and potatoes are excellent for this.
• Squeeze excess air from plastic bags and containers. Freezer burn is harmless but does affect taste.
• Store meat wisely. The longer meat is at room temperature, the quicker it will spoil. Shop for meat, poultry and seafood last, and go directly home to put it away.
• Start with small portions to minimize untouched food left on plates.
• We want our kids to try new foods, but studies show many children have to try a food up to 15 times before accepting it. Ease them in to trying something new.
• See what needs to be used before you go to the grocery. Plan recipes and meals for what you have on hand to use up the food that’s about to go bad.
• Cook and prep your food so that you use as much of the product as possible and produce as little waste as possible.
And here are a couple of final thoughts from me:
When you realize at home, at church, at a party or at a community event that there will be food left over, don’t dump it. Contact Manna House and, possibly, local shelters, to see if they can use the food.
At home, periodically do an inventory in your pantry and freezer, once again if there are foods that you and your family are unlikely to eat, pack them up and find a local program that can accept them and share them with families in need.
I don’t want you to get miserable about this. We live in the Deep South. Our whole culture is about eating and cooking and enjoying food. We just need to plan ahead, take care of the ways we store our food, and look for creative ways to store and use foods that are in the twilight of their lives. We can do it.
The generations before us did it and did it very well.
For more information on preventing food waste, check out www.savethefood.com and www.stopfoodwasteday.com . Or contact Keep Liberty Beautiful at 880 4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org .