Reduce Food Waste This Holiday Season to Save Money and the Environment

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Food is the centerpiece of nearly all gatherings for the holidays. Yet, in the U.S. some 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S.  never gets eaten. Millions of pounds of uneaten meat, gravy, green beans, mashed potatoes and other seasonal trimmings wind up in landfills to rot. In fact, food is the single largest material disposed of at 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 each year per family. This is a statistic San Diegans can change.

Wasted food also wastes money, time, labor, transportation, water and land used to grow the food. And, decomposing food in landfills release methane gas, a climate pollutant that is up to 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide – so, what do we do?

Fortunately, small changes can make a big difference. This holiday season, by following a few simple tips from I Love A Clean San Diego and, residents of San Diego County can save money and help the environment while enjoying their holiday meals.

Plan to Reduce Before You Buy

The easiest way to reduce food waste during the holidays is to buy and prepare the right amount of food.

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. Save the Food’s online Guest-imator helps create a menu based on how many people are attending your holiday feast. Try it out here:

Reduce plate waste by using smaller dishes and serving spoons – seriously, it works. Guests can always come back for seconds. Having a plan for leftovers is another way to ensure that the food you prepare is eaten. Provide containers for guests to take home remaining food or use the leftovers in creative ways. There are a number of creative online leftover recipe resources that provide simple solutions.

Vegetable Dishes are Filling and Delicious Substitutions for Meat

Reducing meat dishes and increasing vegetable dishes is just as filling and delicious, and greatly reduces waste. Here is just one of hundreds of resources for vegetarian meals that keep the fall feel of a thanksgiving meal and this site provides suggestions for vegetarian leftovers.

Visit for more tips, including how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

Learn More About Reducing Food Waste

Residents interested in learning more about food waste reduction, can visit the County of San Diego’s Recycling website, or attend one of I Love A Clean San Diego’s free, family-friendly Zero Waste Workshops. An upcoming workshop will be hosted in Carlsbad on November 16. Learn more and sign up for the newsletter to receive event updates at

Keep Fats, Oils and Greases Out of the Drain

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. If discarded down a drain like a kitchen sink, oils, fats, and greases may block pipes and cause sewage overflow into homes, streets, lawns, and our ocean, not to mention severely damage home plumbing systems.

Contrary to popular belief, mixing oil with soap or pouring hot water down the drain afterwards are not effective methods for preventing “fat-bergs” that cause sewage backups.

Fortunately, free drop off locations exist for cooking oils.  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,, or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784).