10 Tips to Reduce Food Waste, Save Money and Protect the Environment this Holiday Season

10 Tips to Reduce Food Waste, Save Money and Protect the Environment this Holiday Season

Thanksgiving and other holiday meals will look different this year.  I Love A Clean San Diego’s upcoming Celebrate Sustainably Webinar and the following waste reduction tips can help save food now and at every meal around the table.

Food is the highlight of many of our holiday traditions and memories. We can all think of a holiday dish that makes us smile and our mouths water instantly. Yet, about 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. never gets eaten. In fact, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans waste 25 percent more than during the rest of the year. During the holidays, millions of pounds of uneaten turkey, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes and other seasonal trimmings unfortunately end up in landfills.

Food is the single largest material disposed of in U.S. landfills today, amounting to each person tossing an average of 20 pounds of food per month into the trash at a cost of approximately $1,500 per year, per family. This wasted food also wastes money, time, labor, transportation, water and land used in food production. Aside from this waste, food decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) in landfills releasing methane gas, a driver of global climate change that is up to 86 times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. San Diego County residents have the power to change this, especially during the holidays! So, what can we do?

While gatherings with family and friends will look quite different this year, implementing some simple changes can reduce your food waste and support a healthy environment. Follow these simple tips from the County of San Diego and I Love A Clean San Diego to save money and help the environment while enjoying delicious holidays meals.

1. Tune in to the Celebrate Sustainably: Food & Festivities Webinar on November 21

I Love A Clean San Diego and the County of San Diego are hosting a free webinar on Saturday, November 21 from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m., titled Celebrate Sustainably: Food & Festivities Webinar. Please register to attend by clicking here.

Americans send, on average, 25 percent more to the landfill between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than at any other time of the year. We will focus on ways to reduce the amount of waste produced in our kitchens around big holiday meals. Come hungry for strategies to begin practicing in the kitchen right away, and leave feeling satisfied that you can live a low-waste lifestyle at all times of the year.

2. Cook and serve with a plan

The easiest way to reduce food waste during the holidays is to buy and prepare the right amount of food in the first place.  Save the Food, a campaign of the Ad Council in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, created a tool to help save money and time while reducing food waste. Their Guest-imator helps create a menu based on how many people are attending the holiday feast. Try it out here.

Once the home chef knows roughly how much food is needed, create a detailed shopping list and stick to it. This will prevent getting sucked in by holiday displays appealing sales throughout the store, sometimes causing excessive purchases that may not be needed and may not actually be eaten.

When shopping for ingredients, opt for items in recyclable packaging to further minimize unnecessary waste. Learn how to Recycle Right on this county website.

3. Shop at local farmers’ markets

Farmers markets are back. Visit one of the 36 certified farmers’ markets in San Diego County and buy local, unpackaged produce directly from regional farmers. View this resource from the county for a list of regional certified farmers’ markets.

4. Embrace all foods

When shopping, most people select the best looking produce, meaning the “ugly” fruits and vegetables are often left on the shelves. If these items are not sold in time, they may be destined for the landfill. This wasted produce has the same vitamins and nutrients as their “prettier” counterparts, but is not chosen simply because of looks. Give all produce a chance when at the grocery store or farmers’ markets, especially if the chosen produce is part of a larger dish.

5. Go for plant-based meals

Did you know meat requires almost eight times more water per calorie than most vegetables? Incorporating more plant-based foods into holiday celebrations, such as green bean casserole, lentil shepherd’s pie, and stuffed peppers, can cut the environmental cost of meals significantly. Find more plant-based holiday recipes here.

6. Shrink serving sizes

During the meal, reduce portion waste by using smaller dishes and smaller serving spoons – seriously, it works! People can always come back for seconds.

7. Anticipate yummy leftovers

Having a plan for leftovers is another way to ensure that the food prepared is eaten. After all, half the goodness of holiday food is in the delicious leftovers the next day. Provide containers for guests to take remaining food home, freeze leftovers for a later date, or use those leftovers in creative ways. Some recipe ideas can be found here.

8. Donate unused items – WasteFreeSD.org

Visit WasteFreeSD.org for more tips, including how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer and for donation locations for regional food pantries. Currently, about 1 in 8 people in San Diego County are food insecure.

9. Spare your drains

Prevent the “fatberg.” Another important way to protect our environment (and your plumbing) this holiday season, and year-round, is to properly manage used cooking oil. Deep fried turkeys have become an increasingly popular holiday tradition, but can use up to three gallons of cooking oil. When discarded down drains, oils, fats, and greases can block pipes and cause sewage to overflow into homes, streets, lawns, and our ocean, not to mention severely damage home plumbing systems, as well as city-owned pipes. Contrary to popular belief, mixing oil with soap or pouring hot water down the drain afterwards are not effective methods for preventing “fatbergs” that cause sewage backups.

Fortunately, there are free drop off locations for used cooking oil.  Collect cooled cooking oils in a secure lidded container labeled “used cooking oil.” Do not mix chemicals or other liquids with the cooking oil. To find the closest drop off location, visit the Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database, WasteFreeSD.org, or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784).

10. Websites to remember

Residents interested in learning more about food waste reduction can visit the County of San Diego’s Recycling website. To learn more about composting resources and options, please visit WasteFreeSD.org and click on Resources.

About I Love A Clean San Diego

Founded in 1954, I Love A Clean San Diego is an environmental nonprofit supporting residents and businesses of San Diego County through youth and adult education, and local action through impactful volunteer events and workshops. As San Diego’s most influential advocate for sustainability, I Love A Clean San Diego’s programs are an environmental catalyst, awakening passion and inspiring action to empower everyone to be leaders in conservation and waste-free living. Our community is passion in action to maintain and improve the health of the home we love. For more information, to volunteer or donate, visit CleanSD.org or call (619) 291-0103. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn