Food waste isn’t the most exciting topic. But listen up — it’s probably costing you, and our planet, a lot.
On a global scale, the burden of food waste is enormous. One-third of all food produced in the world ends up as waste. The amount of waste is equivalent to each person on the planet throwing away around 500 calories every day, according to a recent study.
Research has found that the younger or wealthier you are, the more food you tend to toss. In America, the average household loses around $1,866 per year on food waste. Another estimate suggested that the typical American throws away about a pound of food every day.
Simply put, that’s a lot of food being sent to landfills, where it rots and releases damaging greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Wasted and lost food accounts for roughly 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to human activity every year, according to a U.N. estimate.
But the good news is that we can all do our part in minimizing food waste. All we have to do is throw away less food.
Here are some easy tips you can implement to reduce food waste and help the planet. By no means is this the definitive guide to cutting food waste. But it’s a start.
1. Stop relying on “sell by” and “best by” date labels on food.
Much of our food waste can be attributed to confusion over food date labels. Many people assume that “sell by” or “best by” labels indicate a point in time when a food has become unsafe to eat. But that’s far from the truth.
Date labels represent when a food has passed its point of peak freshness or quality. You can safely consume many foods — from dairy and baked goods to canned vegetables and even fresh meat — after the stamped date.
A better way to determine whether food has spoiled is to use your use your eyes, nose and fingers for clues. If food smells, looks and feels as it should, it’s probably still safe to eat. Not everyone is a natural when it comes to judging food spoilage based on sensory cues, so if you need a little help in this area, refer to this guide.
2. Shop with a plan.
It may sound obvious, but meal planning will help you cut down on food waste. Before you go to the grocery store, think about the meals and snacks you’ll eat that week. Make a shopping list that includes the ingredients you’re missing — and check your fridge and pantry to make sure you’re not doubling up.
When you’re at the store, avoid making impulse purchases and don’t buy in bulk, since a lot of bulk purchases just end up in the trash. In a nutshell, be realistic and don’t buy more than your household can eat.
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