In 2010, around one-third of the food produced in the United States was not consumed, and ended up being wasted. That is a troubling statistic, and represents a food waste crisis that if left ignored will continue to burn holes in the pockets of families, and contribute to waste and the myriad problems it causes our planet.
One of the first things you can do to cut food waste in your home is to stop treating the “best-before,” “use-by,” and “sell-by” labels as gospel that determine when food must instantly been thrown out. These labels are used for shelving and inventory purposes in stores, and you should always trust your eyes and nose before you trust a number on a package. Consider using food rather than throwing it out, unless your senses tell you otherwise!
Make your meal plans and take stock of what you have in your fridge and pantry before you go shopping, and shop accordingly. Consider joining a CSA to take advantage of freshness, and buy your groceries a few times a week and when needed, rather than all at once.
Hello again. Today I’d like to continue our series about how to be eco-friendly in a laboratory. Remember last weeks post about the initiative at the Simon Fraser University? Here’s another university promoting green laboratories: the University of Washington. Besides the Green Office, Green Greek (“acknowledges and educates Greek community members about their habits at home relating to sustainability”) and “SEED Green Endorsement” (recognising UW students living on campus and off, who are thoughtful about the impact of their daily life on the environment), it has the Green Laboratory Program, which I’ll introduce here now in more detail, i.e. especially the Freezer Challenge.
As pointed out on their website, “Laboratories are one of the main generators of waste …”. So true. Working in a molecular biology lab, I’v thrown away a lot of consumables every day – all the reaction vials called Eppis, all the disposable pipette tips, transfer pipets, micro plates, … – it’s simply the way, it’s the way they are supposed to be used: just once. And then you throw them away.
But leaving this aspect aside for the moment (more about this in a later post), there’s another factor with a huge impact on the environment: the energy consumption of a laboratory. I didn’t know that a lab is “using about 4 times more energy than an office of the same size”. Wow. But giving it some thought, I absolutely believe it because there’s a lot of equipment running from morning to evening or even 24h. Of course, some equipment has to run permanently, such as the various incubators, fridges and freezers. After all, your freezer at home also runs 24/7, doesn’t it? But – and here’s an important difference – your freezer at home probably got a good Energy Star rating. Why? Let’s be honest: because it’s you who’s paying the electricity bill and getting one of those A+++ fridges is one one way to save money, isn’t it?
I know, we’re back talking about money and not just about saving the environment. My feeling is that you can’t avoid this connection – there’s simply a strong link between them. Anyway, why not use saving money as a strong motivation to be more eco friendly? In the laboratory, it’s the university who’s paying the bills. But if you care about it anyway and help them to reduce their energy bill:
a) you’ve done something good for the planet and
b) you might get more money for your research – at least, you’d very much hope, that’s where the saved money ends up.
In addition to storing your fruits and veggies properly, it’s good to know approximately how long the fresh stuff will last. Plan your trip to the grocery or farmer’s market accordingly so that your foods are at the peak of freshness when you plan to prepare them, and you’re not throwing away food that’s gone bad before you get a chance to use it.
So, how long will it last?
Once you’ve brought it home and stored it properly, you can prioritize your produce. First, eat the things that will spoil quickly, such as lettuce and berries. Save the longer-lasting foods (like eggplant and oranges) for later in the week.