Food Waste – Part Two: Wasting Less While Working from Home

Food Waste – Part Two: Wasting Less While Working from Home

It’s easy to lose track of how much food we throw away at home, but did you know that all of that dead food amounts to a big problem?

As I outlined in my first blog on Household Food Waste, the carbon, energy and waste impacts of uneaten food are astounding. Especially since more than 30% of food produced in the U.S. goes to landfill. So how can we shift the potential impact of all that food sitting in our fridges?

Plan ahead

Not surprisingly, the best way to reduce food waste at home is to plan ahead. Consider starting by getting a better understanding of what is or is not currently working. Are there food items that routinely spoil at your house? How have your habits or the conditions in your home changed over the past few years? Have your grocery shopping and cooking habits evolved to effectively meet your current needs? Once you start to see the themes, you can make a plan to help you waste less.

Intentional meal planning (and storage) can go a long way. Try weaving together options throughout the week that build on what you’ve already bought, cooked, or prepped. That batch of quinoa that served as a side with dinner last night, can become a hearty salad today for lunch, or even warmed up for breakfast tomorrow!

One of the biggest shifts with remote work is the need to make lunch at home, so this is a great chance to get creative and make use of food that would otherwise go bad. Time to eat those leftovers!

Set yourself (and your food) up for success

In addition to shopping strategically for foods that can work from meal to meal, it also helps to prepare and store food in a way that preserves freshness for as long as possible. Knowing that carrots, celery, asparagus, and cucumbers love to live in water; lettuce thrives when wrapped in a damp towel; and herbs can last for weeks in a glass of water on your counter can be a game-changer for getting the most out of fresh vegetables. is an incredible resource, with everything from custom meal plans to storage tips, to a dinner party calculator that estimates how much food you need to feed whatever size group you are hosting. There are also tons of fun food storage hacks available on social media.

Leverage the right convenience options

Getting fresh fruit, vegetables and other staples from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or a produce delivery service such as Imperfect Foods are great ways to expand the choices available to you at home. These convenient and nutritious options help rescue food that would otherwise go to waste and/or support local agriculture and food systems.

Meal kits are another solution you can feel great about when meal planning and prep are out of reach. According to a life cycle assessment study out of the University of Michigan (Beard, et al. 2019), grocery store meals are responsible for 33% more greenhouse gas emissions than that same meal from a meal delivery service. So much so, that the combination of streamlined and direct-to-consumer supply chains, reduced food waste, and lowered last-mile transportation emissions can offset the negative effect of using additional packaging. Of course, there are opportunities to select meal kit services that prioritize fewer and more recyclable packaging materials. You can also choose meals without red meat, which have a lower carbon footprint.

Compost your clean up 

It is inevitable that there will be times when it is not feasible to eliminate food waste and the associated packaging. Here are some things to keep in mind when you do need to dispose of waste:

  • Packaging: Know what is accepted for recycling in your community so your local recycling system can thrive. Visit your local recycling service website to learn the ropes. Most will have a flier or guide you can print out to keep the information handy.
  • Composting: Composting lowers greenhouse gas emissions by improving carbon sequestration in the soil and by preventing landfill-associated methane emissions. If available, add your food scraps and organic waste to your yard waste bin. Or sign up for a local composting service! It will promote regenerative systems (and help your trash smell better!)

Regardless of what changes you make – from small adjustments to a sweeping overhaul – every uneaten morsel counts. Overall, the simplest way to reduce your impact at home is to eat/use what you buy, before it goes bad. When you do have to throw away the scraps or leftovers – compost! Leaning into good practices can make a world of difference, no matter how trivial that brown banana may seem.

By Kendall Glauber, Recyclability Solutions Director at The Recycling Partnership and benefyd advisor