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Shop Smart to Reduce Waste

Photo credit: Kyly Clark

Photo credit: Kyly Clark

Kyly Clark, Managing Editor

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America’s food obsession is super-sizing our landfills.

Our dependence on fossil fuels for growing and packaging food creates more garbage than we know what to do with. Whether or not we can see the problem unfortunately determines how the average person addresses it. “Throwing it away” is not just a figure of speech, and it doesn’t really “go away.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generate approximately 4.4 pounds of garbage per person, per day. This amounted to approximately 258 million tons of trash in 2014, contributing to the 1,908 landfill facilities in the United States. Of that 258 million tons of trash, nearly 30 percent (more than 76 million tons) comes from containers and packaging. A crucial effort in reducing waste is recycling and composting, but currently our composting rate is about 35 percent of the waste we generate.

It’s incredibly hard to make good choices in our “waste culture,” but paying attention to what packaging comes with your food ingredients makes a big difference. For example, choose food in glass bottles and containers to avoid buying plastic. Most staple foods can be purchased without plastic or paper packaging, except for dairy and meat products and snack foods.

Here are some steps that you can take to reduce waste when shopping at the grocery store:

  1. Bring your own bags. This includes grocery bags and bulk bags.
  2. Buy bulk. Store grains, nuts, beans, sugar, spices, and herbs in glass mason jars, and use bulk bags for refilling. Soak and cook beans and legumes to avoid buying canned goods. This also aids in digestion.
  3. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. This is a less expensive option than buying frozen fruits and vegetables, and can be great for smoothies. Freeze ingredients when they are in season, too.
  4. Avoid shopping in the center aisles of stores. Shop the perimeter for healthier, more sustainable options.

Reduced-waste recipes

Overnight Oats

This is a quick, easy (and cheap) breakfast meal prep option.

Add 1/3-cup oats to a pint mason jar and fill with 1/3-cup milk or freshly made almond milk. Layer cinnamon, seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, fresh fruit, yogurt, or any topping. Soak overnight and enjoy the next morning.

Acorn Squash Bowls

De-seed, oil, and roast an acorn squash in two halves (face down) in the oven for 30 minutes. While baking, cook quinoa. Combine quinoa with zucchini and cherry tomatoes and place in the oven for the last 10 minutes while your squash bakes. Serve filling in your squash bowl and enjoy.

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