Green your life at home, work & play

Food Waste: Waste Not Want Not February 24, 2012

It’s well known that our society produces too much waste, but food waste is particularly important because there is an easy alternate solution: composting. However, composting is not usually utilized. In 2010, America discarded 34 million tons of food; that’s 14% of all municipal solid waste! Much of this food is still in decent condition when it is discarded, and could instead be used to feed some of the millions of Americans who lack food and supply needy food kitchens.

Food waste is a huge problem at home. In 2006, the average American household threw away 14% of the food they had purchased-that’s $600 in the trash. But, it is especially significant in the restaurant and grocery industries since their business is food! Unfortunately, grocery stores don’t always like to give food away because they are afraid of being liable if someone gets sick. They cannot guarantee food will be handled properly after it is donated and worry they will be held responsible for any negative outcomes. However, the contrary is actually true. The “Good Samaritan” Law protects grocery stores from liability if they donate what they think is perfectly good food. Fortunately, many grocery chains, such as Safeway, do participate in food donation programs,  and also receive tax benefits. This helps them with ‘going green’ as well as with their bottom line – once again, showing that green saves money.

The EPA outlines five key steps in reducing food waste: reducing its sources, using it to feed people, using it to feed animals, using it for industry, and composting it. All of those steps allow food to be used in ways that don’t include burying it in landfills, taking up valuable and ever-disappearing landfill space. Recently, a new social initiative called “Going Halfsies” developed to allow restaurant goers to choose to eat half a normal portion size and donate the rest of the meal price to charity.

Luckily, there are many food rescue groups fulfilling the second step established by the EPA by getting directly involved. Food Finders in California and Waste Not Want Not in Florida work with restaurants and grocery stores to deliver much needed food to food kitchens. The USDA also supports and encourages the creation of various food recovery programs. Many AmeriCorps programs have been focused around reducing food waste, either by recovering crops left on the fields or collecting food from grocery stores.

Of course, you should also encourage restaurants to compost if they are not donating the food – be sure to ask your local restaurant if they do, and check out the blog Wasted Food and the movie Dive! for more information.

Photo courtesy of Sustainable development and much more


16 easy ways to cut down on your waste stream at work February 10, 2012

Using as many of these tips as possible will cut down on costs your workplace has related to trash disposal, help your employees get in touch with their waste stream and even provide some resources for the community:

  1. Keep one–and only one–trash can in shared office space, but give everyone a recycling bin at their desks for paper, aluminum, plastic.
  2. Shred paper that has been used on both sides and use it as packing material for shipments – or offer the shreddings to the gardeners in the office to use as compostable material.
  3. Organize office staff on a rotating schedule to take the trash to the main collection area or dumpster instead of having it magically disappear each night thanks to the cleaning crew.
  4. Keep a container (with a lid) in the office kitchen/coffee area to collect used coffee grounds. Find the gardener in the office group who would love to take those spent grounds to use on their roses or tomato plants.
  5. Eliminate Styrofoam cups for hot beverages.  Give employees quality reusable mugs (with your company logo, of course) and have the same available for guests to use.  Also, provide a scrub brush and dish soap at the sink for cleaning mugs.
  6. Buy cartons of cream and bags of sugar/sweetener for beverages instead of offering individual-sized packets.
  7. Ditch the bottled water in the vending machines and provide employees with a cooler with filtered water.  Another reason to use those wonderful corporate mugs you gave out!
  8. If unnecessary printing of documents or emails is a concern, program your print command to trigger an additional popup that asks the person printing to consider the cost in trees and to the company before going ahead with the print.  Vary these messages, make them humorous and add some little graphics for greater effectiveness.
  9. Switch to refillable, recyclable, non-toxic whiteboard markers—such as AusPen—and pay less than you would for traditional ones.  AusPens are available through EcoSmartWorld and other vendors.
  10. Provide each employee with an individual dry erase board for notes and reminders, to help reduce the overuse of sticky notes in their office space.
  11. Have printers and copiers set to black ink only, draft quality and duplex mode by default since these options should be sufficient for most internally used documents.
  12. For paper that is only printed on one side, designate an area for it to be collected and reused for scrap paper (before being shredded or recycled).  Ask your local commercial printer if they will take your one-sided printed paper, cut it and make it into notepads for office use.
  13. Cancel or unsubscribe from mailed publications that your staff are not taking the time to read.
  14. Designate a cupboard or other organized area to swap used office supplies such as binder and paper clips, file folders (provide blank adhesive labels so they can be repurposed), manila envelopes (can be relabeled too), and rubber bands.
  15. Wooden pallets should never be land-filled.  Recycling contractors will often agree to collect them and then will resell them to shipping companies.  If that is not possible, tree-trimming companies may take them to shred for mulch.  There are even some entrepreneurial types who have realized the value of decorating and making furniture with them.
  16. Don’t ditch used office equipment or furniture.  Find a resale store in the area (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, or Habitat for Humanity ReUse store) that will accept the items—they may even come and pick them up for free.

%d bloggers like this: