Decrease Food Waste for Greener Practices

Having a green kitchen means many things: installing energy and water efficient appliances, preparing organic food and using non-toxic cleaners. However, one of the most effective ways restaurateurs and homeowners can make their kitchens more eco-friendly is by reducing the amount of food waste they generate.

All food takes energy and resources to produce, package and distribute. Less food waste means fewer total greenhouse gas emissions and less solid waste per meal. Food-waste reduction can reduce meal preparation costs and even result in fresher, more flavorful food!

Here are some suggestions for decreasing food waste in your kitchen:

1. Conduct a food-waste audit.

Track your kitchen’s waste stream for a week to see where you could improve. Estimate and write down how much each of the following categories leaves your home or restaurant: waste, grease and oil, compostable items, and noncompostable food waste such as meat and dairy scraps. Also, track the different types of recyclables you generate, and your nonrecyclable, nonfood garbage. Knowing your starting point will help you pinpoint areas to target, and allow you to track improvement.

2. Implement a recycling program.

Develop a system for washing and collecting recyclable food packaging, and make sure every household member or kitchen employee knows about it. You might even get money back for some of your recyclables — if you use a lot of canned food, consider taking the cans to a scrap-metal dealer instead of curbside recycling. Your restaurant’s used frying oil is also a valuable commodity used to produce biofuel. You can sell yours to a waste-oil collection company, or find ways to use it yourself for power generation or heating.

3. Separate out your compostable food waste.

is a much more eco-friendly way to dispose of food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells and coffee grounds than sending them to the landfill. If you are not prepared to compost them yourself, contact your local extension agent. They can connect you to local farmers who will be happy to haul your compostable waste.

4. Reduce your noncompostable garbage.

Find alternatives to products you regularly find yourself throwing away. For instance, you might switch to a brand of orange juice that comes in a recyclable container, or start using compostable cornstarch-based disposable flatware instead of plastic.

5. Store food properly.

Properly stored food lasts longer so there is less food wasted and less spoilage. Make sure your refrigerators and freezers are running properly, and repair or replace ones that aren’t. Investing in properly sealed food storage containers will also reduce food waste.

6. Purchase produce from local farmers.

Local produce often comes less heavily packaged, and takes less energy to get to your kitchen. It is also fresher and tastier!

7. Adapt your menu.

Watch to see which menu item returns the most leftovers. If your restaurant customers consistently don’t finish an item, consider replacing it with something they’ll consume more of. Do this regularly, and you may find your repeat clientele increasing! At home, try letting family members take turns picking the dinner menu. Leftovers can be packed into next day’s lunch.

8. Adjust proportions accordingly.

Again – similar to adapting your menu, look at popular items continually returned with leftovers. Maybe it’s not the item but the proportion that is out of alignment. Look over the American Heart Association suggestions on serving sizes for your guideline.

As you can see, reducing the amount of food waste your kitchen generates isn’t just good for the planet — it can save you money and even earn you rave reviews. Why not do all you can to reduce your kitchen’s waste stream this year?

Ezra Adler is the Ecommerce Marketing Director for Culinary Depot, located in Monsey, NY. A leading online retailer of kitchen equipment and supplies, the company has a large selection of products, including appliances, utensils and more, for your commercial kitchen or restaurant.

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