Weekend food waste roundup – 28 April 2013

28Apr13

What happens when a politician attempts to tackle food waste? Well, if you are a politician in Great Britain, you get rotten tomatoes tossed your way.

In fact, when Environment minister Richard Benyon claimed that Britons were wasting about £50 GBP (or about $77 USD) a week, he kicked up quite the storm.

For a  while I felt like I was reading celebrity gossip and not news about ways to approach the complex issue of solving our food waste issues. And then The Guardian publishes “Should it brie in the bin?” which attempts to look at the numbers and explain how food waste is a problem in a nation facing severe austerity.

Here in the United States, Liz Neumark summarized what she learned at the National Food  Policy Conference in Washington DC. She shares some new numbers on food waste in the  nation:

  • 1 in 4 Americans need government food or nutrition assistance program.
  • 68% of food-insecure families have at least one adult working full-time.
  • About 30-40 percent of what travels from farm on the way to the fork becomes food waste. That is over 65 billion pounds of food a year according to the EPA.

And finally, there were two articles with nice tips and strategies for helping individuals reduce the amount of food they waste. First, “Having a meal plan— and sticking to it — can cut waste and your waist” in the Calgary Herald makes the case for more discipline in shopping and cooking. Second, Care2.com recommends a FIFO (First In, First Out) approach to food in your fridge.

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Weekend food waste roundup – 21 April 2013

21Apr13I suppose some of you are wondering why our weekly digest of global news on food waste is getting less weekly. The answer is simple, the people writing on food waste are stuck on three basic themes:

  1. Shock: calling attention to the problem of how much food is wasted annually. Most pointing fingers at Americans and then driving the outrage home with a “but even on the local home front, we are wasting XXX tonnes of food a year.”
  2. Turning food waste into a useful resource: Methane generators, food scraps into animal feed, and composting.
  3. Food waste and Hunger: This one probably speaks for itself, but the issue of getting food that is heading to the bin rerouted is a more complex civil challenge than most of us realise.

And while all three of these are great, not one addresses the problem of our excesses at grocery store, markets, restaurants, and anywhere where food is available (think weddings, conferences, amusement parks, banquets…).

Thankfully, tomorrow is Earth Day and at least one reporter went a little deeper.

The Star, a Malaysian paper, reported on a Toyota led initiative in that nation to help turn the next generation of Malaysians into solutions-focused Eco-Citizens. These sixteen year olds are not starting with the food waste already generated. No, they are looking at ways to reduce portion sizes in cafeterias and restaurants BEFORE people even buy the food. I like how they are thinking.

Getting Wasted: L.A.'s food excess

Getting Wasted: L.A.’s food excess
photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

And this brings me to an act of shameless self-promotion. On 20 May, Jean-Francois and I have been asked to join a interactive panel discussion to think about how excess contributes to the food waste problem and steps might be possible to curb it through grass-roots initiatives, technology, and individual actions.

However, our experience is limited. If you could share your ideas, opinions and local solutions, it would help us in our brainstorming. I’d love to share your practical, non-compost, solutions with like-minded Angelenos.

We’d also love to see you there.

Weekend Round Up: 7 April 2013

paint roundupWe are moving next month and now I have two new food waste related goals. First, I  want empty the current kitchen without wasting any food. Second, I want to find ways to make sure the next kitchen becomes a “Zero-Waste Kitchen”. It seems the key to success is better planning. Here is the round-up of what I learned:

Tips on wasting less in the kitchen

The Nourishing Gourmet recently published 7 waste-reducing tips on her website. These are more conceptual tips with one real exception–date your leftovers. I mean this is two ways. First, she recommends writing the date on all leftover containers. And, she recommends including a leftover day/night in your week to clean out the bits and ends of the week’s meals. Dating leftovers? Yes, rebound relationships do work, after all.

For more practical ideas, look at the Reader’s Digest slide deck. This presentation has over 13 tips for wasting less food in the kitchen, many of which are practical, easy, and clever. For example, did you know that you can regrow scallions? All you need to do is cut the ends, drop them in glass with water, and give them some sunlight. They also recommend keeping lettuce in brown paper bags, using citrus peels to ward off ants and mosquitos, and re-crisping celery with potato slices or lemon juice.

The Green Cycler also had general tips for creating a zero waste kitchen, but the one Jean-Francois likes best: Get A Chicken – a hen to eat food scraps, provide eggs, and terrorize our little cats.

And how do you set up a kitchen for zero waste?

This answer is going to be harder to find, but I fell in love with one site that I am going to lose hours on. The Kitchn website has a whole section with ideas for setting up your kitchen. True, the goal there is for ease of use, but a number of these ideas are inspiring for a girl with a container fetish.

If clutter is your challenge, you may want to check out Sue Rasmussen’s website. She provides tips for de-cluttering each activity that takes place in a kitchen.

And finally, Real Simple has approaches to organizing your kitchen based on the type of chef that you are (daily, gourmet, Sunday-only…).

But what about all those jars of spices?

This is the real issue in my chef’s (a.k.a. Jean-Francois’) kitchen. He is search challenged when it comes to looking for ingredients on the spice shelf. We’d love a solution that keeps our spices out of the light, but easy to find. If anyone can point us to good ideas, I will send Jean-Francois to your home to cook you dinner.

Weekend food waste roundup – 24 March 2013

Weekend RoundupI found a few good stories on food waste this week, but one has so completely captured my thoughts that I want to give it centre stage.

Let me set the scene. About two weeks ago at a dinner party, I adamantly argued that the Good Samaritan Law protects any business and individual in the United States that wants to donate leftover food to non-profits working to feed the hungry. By adamantly, I mean I was dogmatic and unwavering in my opinion. (Any one want to place odds on whether or not I will be invited back?)

Well, the Los Angeles Times published an article this week that makes me wish I had been less pig-headed that night. The Good Samaritan law protects donors, but it does not, it seems, protect the non-profits who distribute food from local health and safety codes.

This strikes me as odd. I mean, the caterers must abide by the same codes, so why would the non-profits refuse food? Because, they cannot afford to be shut down because of a violation or lawsuit.

I am annoyed enough about the red tape and obstacles facing food redistribution that I want to learn more. If any of you know of communities that have found ways to work around these codes, or change the laws to help donors and charities get food to people who need  it, I’d love to hear from you.

Weekend food waste roundup – 16 March 2013

Recent articles on food waste.

The tone of news stories about food waste shifted a week or so ago. For nearly a month, news outlets and bloggers seemed so overwhelmed with the size of the problem, that few bothered to dig deeper. But, those rehashed stories on the amount of food wasted in developed nations are now becoming more nuanced.

According to the USDA, the annual cost of food waste for an average family of four in the United States is $2,275.

My interested in waste management was piqued by an investigation onthe life cycle of our food waste once it has been collected. This story focuses on a community that already requires food waste to be separated from other waste. For those who need to see the magnitude of food waste we generate each week, call your local waste management centre. Many waste and water treatment plants offer tours for the public.

Another report claims that LED lighting might slow food decay in grocery stores and save about 300,000 tonnes of food waste, simply because LED light do not burn as hot as incandescent lights. (Of course, the study was funded by Sedna LED, so more research is needed, but it may be a way to work with local grocery stores to help find new ways to reduce their costs and reduce food waste.)

Massachusetts is leading the way in the United States, with two approaches to reduce the amount of food that ends up in land fills. The state now requires businesses in the food industry to compost their organic waste, the goal is to expand this requirement to every home in the state.

But there is a more interesting approach to managing food waste that might be even more efficient. A province in Korea has implemented a mandatory “pay-as-you-throw” system charges households for throwing food in the bin. What appeals to me about this approach is that economic cost of wasting food becomes more transparent and big wasters pay more for being wasteful than those who are frugal.

And, finally, it looks like the plastics industry is jumping into the food waste debate and looking for ways to help reduce food waste with better packaging. This report has me wondering about other landfill issues, but we work hard to reduce packaging waste  at home too, so I may be a bit biased.

Weekend food waste roundup – 27 January 2013

Recent articles on food waste.There was a lot of coverage on food waste again this week, mostly inspired by the UN’s Think, Eat, Save initiative, and the comments of Yuan Longpin, who thinks food waste should be a legal offense in China.

The Conundrum of Food Waste | NYTimes.com This week, two United Nations agencies opened a global campaign calling for changes in the way that food is harvested, transported, processed, sold and consumed. Different regions need different solutions. Developing regions tend to suffer food losses in the production process through poor harvesting techniques, spoilage or improper storage, while industrialized nations in the Americas, Europe and prosperous parts of Asia waste food at the retail and consumer end.

And more on the UN initiative:

Fines for Food Waste and the “Clean Plate Campaign” | China Digital Times (CDT)  Yuan Longping, an agricultural scientist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the “father of hybrid rice“, has publicly endorsed the implementation of fines for wasted food. “I suggest the government prohibit wasting food by treating it as a kind of crime and shameful behaviour,” he said. “Many banquets I have attended offered dozens of different dishes to the guests, who only briefly tasted each dish and then threw them away. The authorities should fine them.”

Scientist wants food waste criminalized | China.org.cn Another article about Yuan Longpin – his recent statements got a lot if coverage, and have been forwarded 16,600 times on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Eateries think small to fight food waste | chinadaily.com.cn Nearly 750 restaurants in Beijing have joined a campaign against wasting food by offering smaller dishes. This represents a huge shift in a country where providing more food than people can eat is the proper etiquette, and was inspired by Yuan Longpin’s recent statements (see above).

Branstad: University of Iowa Hospitals could do more to reduce food waste | TheGazette University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which wasted about 350,000 servings of food worth $181,000 in the last year, could do more to reduce food waste, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said, reacting to a Gazette report showing UI Hospitals wasted about 12 percent of food prepared for employees and visitors in seven dining areas from Dec. 1, 2011, through Nov. 30, 2012. UI Hospitals does not regularly donate unsold food, nor does the hospital recycle food waste into compost.

Hong Kong’s mounting food waste problem | CNN.com The city of seven million people is set to run out of space for its trash by 2018, with the Tseung Kwan O site set to be topped up by 2015. Some creative approaches are turning food waste into desirable products like bags and brushes, but the real solution lies in changing people’s buying habits.

Curbing food waste | ANN Food waste collection facilities in many of Seoul’s 25 wards stink to high heaven as private food waste disposal companies have stopped processing the food waste collected there amid disputes over fee hikes.

The food-waste debate could use a pinch of common sense | Macleans.ca That banana looks a bit brown. The yogurt is past its “best before” date. And no one else is eating those end slices, so why should you?

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Weekend food waste roundup – 16 December 2012

Food waste in the news

16 December 2012

Household Food Waste: Opportunities for Companies to Provide Solutions | Reports | BSR – An overview of solutions companies can pursue to help consumers reduce household food waste.

Food waste needs government lead | FOODmanufacture.co.uk  – Government and big business needs to show they have “broken the back” of food waste recycling before foisting it on householders.

CleanWorld opening second biodigester system to turn food waste into natural gas, electricity – Sacramento Business Journal – Organic waste recycling center will turn Sacramento food waste into natural gas, electricity and soil amendment products.

Universities join effort to reduce food waste, turn scraps into compost – Cronkite News –  Committing to the Food Recovery Challenge organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Arizona’s three public universities have pledged to reduce food waste on their campuses by a minimum of 5 percent over the next year.

And a useful resource

StillTasty: Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide – Save Money, Eat Better, Help The Environment

Weekend food waste roundup – 25 November 2012

The Food Movement Takes a Beating – NYTimes.com – A look at how the food movement fared in the recent US elections.

Why Greek Yogurt Makers Want Whey To Go Away : The Salt : NPR – Wheying in on traditional Greek yogurt?

Meeting will explore food waste reduction | Burlington Free Press | burlingtonfreepress.com – Vermonters are preparing for a phased-in ban on dumping food wastes in landfills. Would be great to see this implemented across the country planet.

Porcine furnaces make many meals of food waste – Crookston, MN – Crookston Times – Crookston, MN – Every year, about 23,000 tons of food scraps are fed to 5,000 hogs in Anoka County.

Pig, beer & lanterns

Harmonise food safety regs for ‘huge difference’ to food waste – Does erring on the side of caution lead to unnecessary waste?

Tips for Reducing Food Waste | 3BL Media – An interview with Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland and wastedfood.com.

Food waste site sparks opposition – News – getsurrey – Residents see biogas as a necessary and ecologically useful method of waste disposal, but not in their neigbourhood…

Weekend food waste roundup – 11 November 2012

Some interesting ideas

11 November 2012

Portion-mania: problematic for waists and waste. But could McDonald’s be on to something? | Dana Gunders’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC – Is it possible that McDonald’s is doing something right?

Removing trays from dining halls cuts food waste – Khaleej Times – A simple strategy to reduce food waste.

Be a Hero! Help Stop Fresh Food Waste and Get a Green Wallet with the New Green Savings Hero Partner Program from the Green Refrigerator Machine by Ozonator – Yahoo! News – Ozone technology in the Green Refrigerator Machine extends the shelf life of perishable foods, gives families more time to eat their fresh foods.

A reminder for the holidays

Reducing Food Waste During the Holiday Season | Worldwatch Institute – A few things to keep in mind over the holidays, when we tend to waste even more than usual.

Food recovery initiatives

Hilton Hotels to Share Food Waste in Hungry Egypt | Green Prophet – Hilton Worldwide has launched a pilot program to distribute surplus food to community organizations that feed the poor in Egypt.

Students turn waste food into meals – Wilmette Life – The Campus Kitchen Project is a nationwide non-profit with 33 participating colleges and high schools.

Composting initiatives

Composting option resolves some companies’ waste woes | The Tennessean | tennessean.com – Turning waste from breweries into compost.

City looks to expand composting program | The Columbia Daily Tribune – Columbia, Missouri

Bennington Banner: Vermont towns plan for new solid waste guidelines – Bennington Banner

222 million tons mentions

Food Apps that Help Reduce Waste During the Holidays, from Special Grocery Lists to Restaurant Deals and More – The Daily Squeeze

Weekend food waste roundup – 28 October 2012

For those of you in L.A., this is just a small reminder that I’ll be speaking at Westfield Century City on Tuesday as part of the CODA Electric Vehicle Speaker Series. If you’d plan to attend, RSVP to concierge@codaautomotive.com by October 29.

And in other news…

Students taking action

JM Gets a New Hydration Station – Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School installed its first “Hydration Station” at the school last month, and paid for it from savings the school achieved by diverting food waste and turning it into electrical energy.

Business Rx: Food Recovery Networks seeks steady income stream – The Washington Post – Student-run Food Recovery Network seeks revenue stream to make it financially self-sustaining in the long term.

The ups and downs of food waste?

Brazil favelas maid fights food waste with ‘viagra’ in Italy – The Malaysian Insider – Regina Tchelly teaches others how to reduce waste in her cooking classes, by showing them how to make such dishes as banana peel brigadeiro. She claims that her trademark dish, watermelon rind risotto, has viagra-like properties. I suppose that’s just as true of my watermelon rind chutney, which has the benefit of lasting longer.

Bengaluru drowning in its own waste | GulfNews.com – Greater wealth has spawned more garbage, and the managers of the country’s development have been unable to handle the load.

A Rise in Food Prices Could Stem the Tide of Food Waste · Environmental Management & Energy News · Environmental Leader Is cheaper always better?