We're thankful for... Waste Reduction!
By Lexi Conners
As the holiday season approaches, many of us are getting excited to gather with loved ones around the table for Thanksgiving. This time is especially great to recognize gratitude, abundance, and–believe it or not–food waste. Here, we’ll explore the food supply chain and highlight potential points where we can divert food toward better purposes, from agriculture to home disposal.
Stage One: Agriculture
The Thanksgiving feast begins on the farm, where crops are planted, nurtured, and harvested. Agricultural practices and conditions play a crucial role in the way that foods are grown and impact the environment. Some common farming practices, like the utilization of pesticides and fertilizers can severely harm fresh water, nearby ecosystems, air and soil. Sustainable agriculture practices though, like precision agriculture and regenerative farming, reduce the environmental impact and take advantage of ecosystem relationships to grow our food. Shopping for organic produce or antibiotic-free meats helps to reduce the amount of inputs going into the food we eat and the environment its produced in.
Stage Two: Distribution
Once the crops are harvested, they must be distributed to retail locations by road, sea, or air transport. For this step, efficient transportation and storage systems are essential to preventing spoilage and minimizing carbon footprint associated with long-distance travel. In order to reduce waste within the distribution stage, supporting local farmers and purchasing seasonal ingredients can minimize both of these sustainability concerns.
Stage Three: Retail
Now our food has made it to the store! Unfortunately, up to 20% of goods considered to be imperfect face rejection and disposal due to aesthetic standards set by retailers. Initiatives promoting the consumption of imperfect produce can significantly reduce waste at this stage. As consumers, purchasing produce from farmer’s markets and companies that sell “ugly” produce, such as Imperfect Produce and Hungry Harvest, can make a difference in reducing this unnecessary food waste.
Stage Four: Cooking
At home, Thanksgiving waste reduction begins with thoughtful meal planning. Choosing meals that are plant based or locally sourced can greatly reduce the feast’s environmental impact. In regards to food waste, carefully planning an ingredient list prevents over-purchasing, and creatively re-using leftovers are great practices to adopt. For instance, vegetable scraps can be used to make broths, and excess bread can be transformed into homemade croutons (or help make for delicious Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches).
Stage Five: Disposal
Now that the feast is finished and everyone is well fed, the disposal stage is essential for concluding effective waste management practices. For unavoidable scraps and food waste, composting provides an eco-friendly solution. The compost can be used in a backyard garden or picked up by composting companies, diverting unnecessary waste from harmful landfills.
One thing we can all be thankful for at the Thanksgiving dinner table is the food on our plates -- so let’s make the most of it! Green Dining wishes you a happy holiday.