Updated: Nov 3, 2021
The holiday season is like the Superbowl for plants. It’s their time to shine as decorations, garnishes, gifts, and of course delicious meals of all kinds. It can also put a spotlight on one of the world’s greatest environmental issues - food waste.
Globally 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted each year. In 2017, the U.S. alone generated 40.7 million tons of food waste.
This food waste has a carbon footprint equivalent to 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere every year.
Globally the direct economic consequences of food waste (excluding fish and seafood) is $750 billion annually (1). In the U.S. a single person can save an estimated $370 per year by reducing food waste (2).
Imagine what an extra $370 worth of plants would look like in your home!
Reducing food waste is a simple way to save money, reduce your environmental footprint, and even green your home. Here are a 'few' ideas to get you started.
1. Enough is as good as a feast!
Very likely you plan more for holiday meals than you do in a regular week which is great. Power-up your planning. Go a step beyond simply making a grocery list based on a recipe. Think carefully about the number of people you are feeding and serving sizes. Plan to have 3-5 extra portions; not 10.
2. Evolve family traditions.
If it is a tradition to have a certain dish (aka a giant turkey at Thanksgiving or a casserole from a particular relative) but in reality you throw half of it away two days later - it’s likely time to evolve that tradition. If people in your family really don’t like a dish or only eat a small portion for the sake of tradition - try a slow but intentional evolution.
(a) Make a smaller portion than normal (roast turkey legs instead of a whole turkey).
(b) Try a competition. Host a competition to see who can make the best new version of a family staple. (Make sure the prize is something very embarrassing they will have to take many photos with for enjoyment at future gatherings).
3. Ready to Go.
Encourage guests to bring containers to your holiday dinners so they can pack extras to take home. Or, provide containers for them that you don’t need returned.
4. Don’t leave me here!
Do a refrigerator clean out before you leave for holiday trips.
(a) Freeze items that can be reused later.
(b) Make a soup the day before you leave. This is an easy way to use up vegetables, proteins, grains - pretty much whatever you have. Slip whatever soup you don’t eat into the freezer for any easy hot meal to come home to.
(c) Pack traveling snacks instead of leaving them to rot in the fridge. You can’t take water through airport security but you can take food!
STORE FOOD PROPERLY
5. Keep the temperature of your refrigerator at 40° F or below and your freezer at 0° F to ensure food safety (3).
Wash lettuce as soon as you get it home. Spin or lay flat to air dry. Store in a bag in the fridge with paper towels or a thin cloth napkin.
Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator. This will prevent them from getting slimy.
8. Potatoes and Onions
Store potatoes and onions outside of the fridge in a cool, dry, and dark area. Use a basket for storage if possible to allow air flow to the items on the bottom. (If you use a plastic bin, try adding a few holes at the bottom for air flow).
(a) Treat cut annual herbs like fresh cut flowers.