Food Waste: Impact beyond the Plate

Hi, I’m Shannon and as one of the marketing interns for ILACSD I am excited to have the opportunity to explore the effects of food waste. My interest in food deserts and the lack of healthy food options in America led me to investigate how food waste affects our community and ways we can prevent it all together.

When I think about wasted food I imagine feeling guilty about leaving those last pieces of broccoli on my plate after dinner, however, food waste is much more serious than wasting a few good veggies. Food waste refers to the massive quantity of quality food that is wasted annually instead of being given to those in need. According to the National Resources Defense Council, “Forty percent of the food produced in the United States never gets eaten.” So what does food waste really do?

Food Waste Inforgraphic #1
Source: www.sustainableamerica.org

Don’t worry there are ways to fight back against food waste!

The San Diego Department of Public Works has some great solutions to help you minimize food waste in the future. They rely upon the Environmental Protection Agency’s food recovery strategy to most efficiently and cost-effectively reduce San Diego’s food waste. Based on this hierarchy, San Diego’s DPW established a food waste system based on 3 simple steps: Reduce, Donate and Compost.

Food Recovery Hierarchy

To best implement waste reduction in our personal lives, the DPW suggests re-considering portion sizes, limiting the number of menu items you order when you go out to eat and planning all the week’s meals so your grocery list only consists of what you need to make those meals. According to the DPW, it is important to be conscious of the volume of food you eat in comparison to the volume of food you waste.

Infographic about food waste
source: www.campuskitchens.org

Donating leftover food is another great way to reduce food waste! There are a lot of local organizations that lead San Diego’s effort to feed hungry San Diegans. Check out Feeding America and San Diego Food Bank for local options to donate your leftover quality food. Reducing food waste also means giving those without the means to feed themselves the food they need to survive.

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Kids think composting is fun too!

The final step is using spoiled and leftover food for composting in your own backyard or neighborhood! Check out our previous blogs on composting to see how easy and fun it really is.

It’s important to remember that food waste is a serious national issue so let’s work together to help make San Diego even better than it already is and improve the lives of thousands in the process!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero Waste 101

What is zero waste? First, let’s define what zero waste is to better understand how it affects you and what it means for our communities.

Zero waste is the process of eliminating reusable or repairable materials from ending up in the landfill. Zero waste encourages manufacturers, municipalities, and consumers to evaluate current consumption patterns and minimize single-use items. In order to divert materials from the landfill we must share the responsibility of producing and consuming sustainable products while limiting our use of disposable items.

Zero Waste Alternatives

Now that we know what zero waste means, let’s explore why this practice impacts San Diegans. Currently, the Miramar Landfill is composed of reusable substances; yes that is right REUSABLE substances. The top 3 reusable substances in our landfill are:

Organics (food scraps, yard waste) 39%

Construction and Demolition (building materials) 25%

Paper 17%

When we choose to send these items to the landfill, large amounts of methane gas are released which pose serious public and environmental health concerns. On the positive side,  all of this can either be recycled, reused or composted, which means, we can do something about it! ZW blog landfill

In response to the amount of reusable materials in the landfill (or should we say landFULL) the City of San Diego adopted a zero waste plan to focus on reusing rather than disposing items. Currently, the City of San Diego diversion rate has been consistent around 67%. Here is an outline of upcoming benchmarks for the city’s waste diversion plan:

  • 75%  by 2020
  • 90%  2035
  • 100% diversion rate by 2040.

The plan’s primary focus is on organics diversion. There are several resources available to help you reduce food waste through planning and composting. Learn more at by reading about some of our past food waste blogs and WasteFreeSD.org!

Even I Love A Clean San Diego’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database is getting a zero waste makeover! Stay tuned for the redesign release of WasteFreeSD.org this summer! The new database will include a easy to use search bar that will help you find convenient ways to divert waste from the landfill!

Get to know Sam!

Today, we’d like to introduce I Love A Clean San Diego’s Contract Manager, Sam! Sam hit the ground running when he first joined our team in October. Now that he is more settled in his role, we’d like to take this opportunity for all of you to get to know him better. Read on to learn about Sam’s journey to ILACSD!

Sam DeCapua, I Love A Clean San Diego’s Contract Manager (right)

Q: What brought you to I Love A Clean San Diego?

Before coming to ILACSD, I really enjoyed politics, but since there was such a wide array of issues that needed to be addressed, I realized that this is my chance to hone in on a topic I could really contribute to.

There are so many problems which affect us all in the environmental sphere, so I felt I had a great opportunity to make a positive change in my new-found home (San Diego) and I could work towards something I was passionate about: curbing food waste, educating others on the importance of the world around them. The great office culture that exists at I Love A Clean San Diego is a plus, too.

IMG_1259Q: What environmental topic are you most passionate about?

Although I think they are all important, I think food waste is a BIG one. It is a stark reminder that we have this abundance of food, which if channeled properly, could be a large step forward in effectively ENDING hunger in the United States. What a change that would be! Not only that, but food waste creates methane, which is 25 times more dangerous than CO2 emissions, when disposed at landfills. I’m also very intrigued by the Zero Waste initiatives showing up around the country. I love that California has been so aggressive to reduce the waste we create. It’s a great goal to pursue, and I’m really looking forward to contributing to the implementation of those lofty goals.

Q: What is your most recent environmental goal?
Since joining I Love A Clean San Diego, I’ve seen what a noticeable difference the smallest habits and actions taken daily can make. Therefore, I’ve tried to reduce buying excess packaging which creates unnecessary trash, as well as making sure I plan my portions for food to avoid wasting valuable food by either spoilage or excess. Packing lunches goes a long way in saving the environment and your wallet!IMG_1513

Q: “When I’m not at a the office or a cleanup you can find me…”

I love going to the gym, it is a big part of my life. Additionally, I love doing outdoorsy stuff, and I really want to get into surfing soon! Apart from all of that, I really love reading and watching Netflix. I’m also getting into the local restaurants and breweries, and as a big burrito and beer fan San Diego has definitely exceeded my expectations!

Join the conversation #AmericaRecyclesDay

Ani_team15Ani has written another amazing blog for this week! If you follow us on social media, you know that we’re gearing up for America Recycles Day, the one day a year that is dedicated to making the most of our resources through recycling and upcycling! By the end of this blog, not only will you know what ARD is all about, but we hope you’ll be inspired to celebrate with us by boosting our recycling efforts here in San Diego!  

The 8th annual America Recycles Day is November 15th so be sure to mark your calendar! The goal of America Recycles Day, an initiative led by Keep America Beautiful, is to acknowledge our recycling efforts and stir up a conversation about what more can be done to ensure our communities stay litter-free. This is ever so important in San Diego as the city is moving towards a 75% waste diversion rate by 2020, an ambitious goal that will engage the community to think twice about what is thrown out. That means that in addition to beefing up our recycling efforts, the city is also encouraging upcycling and repairing many things that would have otherwise been thrown away.

End of campaign infographic
Click here to see the full infographic highlighting last year’s results!

Last year during our campaign, an estimated 1,015 gallons of paint, 255 gallons of motor oil, and 980 gallons of other household hazardous waste was properly disposed of thanks to the help of Waste Free SD, the County of San Diego’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database lead by yours truly, I Love A Clean San Diego.

What’s new this year?

  • GLEANERS! Don’t know what a “gleaner” is? Not to worry, we’ll get you up to speed!
  • Test your blue bin knowledge. Let us know how much you know about curbside recycling.
  • In need of a fast way to recycle your old cell phone and make some cash? You’ll learn more about one of my favorite tried and true options!

This year we would also like to recognize Sony for supporting our America Recycles Day campaign and allowing us to share important recycling information with all of you through social media. Sony is one of our longest standing supporters, helping us achieve our mission year round by volunteering at cleanups and supporting our environmental education programs. Thank you, Sony!

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Sony is our America Recycles Day sponsor! Thanks for investing in a clean and sustainable SD, Sony!

Be sure to connect with I Love A Clean San Diego on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep the conversation going during our 2-week long campaign. We want to congratulate your efforts and encourage everyone to recycle! Let’s keep San Diego clean, together #AmericaRecyclesDay

 

No yard, no problem! Composting in small spaces.

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Today’s blog comes from our Hotline Manager, Amanda!

Earlier this year, our Hotline Manager, Amanda, wanted to increase her composting knowledge, much like our Education Manager and Master Composter-in training, Erika. After taking a series of classes, Amanda wanted to share these two new methods that are great for small spaces. Read on to learn the basics of two innovative composting methods; perhaps you’ll find one that works for you! 

Many of you already know about traditional backyard composting, but there are other options out there to help you recycle your organics at home. Today, I’ll cover some basics on two composting methods you may not have heard of yet: vermicomposting and bokashi.

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Erika keeps her vermicompost under her desk and just as it should, it doesn’t smell!

Vermicomposting is a method of composting where organic material is broken down through the use of worms, red wigglers and red tigers being the best types of worms for this method. Vermicomposting is a great option for apartment and condo dwellers or those that do not have yard waste available. It can be done on a small scale (even under your kitchen sink!). Mostly food scraps are added to the vermicompost bin, as opposed to traditional composting where large amounts of carbon rich yard waste is needed. Vermicompost bins are available for purchase, and some residents may even be able to purchase subsidized bins – click here to see if you qualify! Or if you are feeling handy and you want to build your own vermicompost bin, check out some basic instructions from the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.

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Practice makes perfect! At this station, kids learned how to sort out compostable vs. non-compostable items.

I Love A Clean San Diego has also integrated our newly acquired composting knowledge into some of our education offerings as well! Recently, we partnered with the City of Chula Vista & the Chula Vista Recreation Department to augment their youth after-school program, Empower Hour.  ILACSD educators lead  several hands-on activities during May & June to cover topics such as waste diversion, recycling and composting.  During the composting activities, the kids learned how to sort recyclables from compostable materials, and even got their hands dirty during the compost bin and worm discovery activities. If you’re interested in learning more about our education presentations, please contact our Education Manager, Erika at education@cleansd.org!

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Here’s ILACSD’s Program Assistant, Joseph leading the worm exploration station!

Here are 7 tips to maintaining your vermicompost bin:
1. Worms don’t have lungs, they breathe thru their skin. Fats and oil will coat their skin and they can no longer breathe, so avoid putting fatty or oily foods in your vermicompost bin.
2. Worms don’t like motion, vibration or extreme heat/cold.
3. Your bin should never smell, an odor would likely mean you are over feeding your worms.
4. If you are adding watery food, add some paper as well.
5. Moldy food is ok to add, the bacteria actually helps give the worms a head start on digesting the food.
7. Food scraps are best in smaller pieces.

Are you ready to start composting? Find local resources, such as bins, worms and classes near you at www.WasteFreeSD.org!

Bokashi is another composting method where you can pickle your food waste and thus store for later use in your traditional compost pile. What makes it unique is, unlike traditional composting, dairy, meat and bones can be used with this method. An inoculant, a combination of anaerobic microbes, is used to pickle the food waste and are available for sale online or you can also find online tutorials. Once you get your inoculated grain/paper and a 5gal bucket (or larger!) you are ready to go.

Simply add your food waste to the bucket and some inoculated gain/paper as you go along. After you bucket is full, it will take ten days to two weeks for your pickled food scraps are ready to be added to your traditional compost bin. As you are adding to your bokashi bin, place a plate on top to keep pests away. If you see white mold it is ok, only be concerned if you see green ,red or brown mold. Bokashi workshops are offered by Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, but keep an eye out for them on www.WasteFreeSD.org because they fill up fast! 

A Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Erika-teamToday’s blog comes from our Education Manager, Erika. Earlier this year, Erika took it upon herself to find new ways to reduce the amount of waste she creates each day – she signed up for a composting course! Now that she is on her way to becoming a Master Composter, she wants to share what she has learned in hopes of inspiring you to take a composting course near you! Read on to learn more about how food waste impacts our landfills and how you can become a skilled composter as well! 

A rind is a terrible thing to waste, so do something! Join the Master Composters!

Here at I Love A Clean San Diego, many of my coworkers and I feel strongly about waste reduction. In the past few years, I have seen my own transition from using some disposable items in my life. An example being bringing my stainless steel pint glass to the Adventure Run last week, so that I wouldn’t have to use a disposable plastic cup for that IPA at the end of the race. While I have been able to carry my bamboo cutlery and stainless steel straw around, I noticed that I was still creating quite a bit of waste – food waste. In San Diego, we lead the country in per capita waste, with disposing about 1.3 million pounds in 2012. Of that trash, a 2012-2013 study showed that food represented the most prevalent material composed in our landfill, accounting for 15% of the total waste stream. In residential waste, that percentage increased to 18%. After learning these startling statistics, I realized there is so much more that I can do with regard to waste reduction. So, with waste in my mind, I signed up for a Master Composting class.composting blog - 1 SMW chart - composting blog 2

Hands on learning is always best!
Hands on learning is always best!

Last October, my friend, @girlforaccleanworld, and I joined with a dozen other composting inquirists, skeptics, novices, and enthusiasts to begin our composting journey to potential Mastery. At first, I was quite anxious. I previously had a horrific experience with a vermicompost, resulting in [read quickly] maggots and other vermin. Needless to say, I was apprehensive but determined to further reduce my waste through composting. The great thing about the course is that there is such a great variety in reasons why people compost – from professional development, to reducing waste, to ameliorating compost gone wrong, to education – there were people from all walks of life.
Another great thing about the course is its hands on approach. On the first day, we were already getting our hands dirty, layering greens (food scrapes, grass clippings, etc.) and browns (cardboard, paper, other wood products). Each week, we measured the temperature and moisture of the bin, turned it, and looked for grubs – ok, that might have just been me. I was captivated by how clean everything was and how quickly different items could degrade. While I learned a lot in the class, the take home for me was:
• Anything and everything (natural) will eventually turn to compost, it just is a matter of time.
• You can be active or passive, it will still turn to compost
• Compost does not smell – if it smells, give it a turn, it needs to breath
• Composting doesn’t need a ton of space, especially vermicomposting

Vermicomposting

Since completion, I have been working toward 30 hours community composting service to become an official Master. I have become more conscious of my grocery shopping, as to not buy more than I need, and have been able to help people out with their composting woes. I would highly recommend the class to anyone. For more information visit http://www.thelivingcoast.org/programs/composting-programs/. There is also a 5 week long composting workshop available through the Solana Center that starts on April 11th. For additional information please click here.

Let’s work together to minimize our food waste! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for helpful tips and tricks about how to reduce waste in your life!

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Photo Credit: @girlforaccleanworld. Thanks for allowing us to use these great photos!

 

Eco Holiday Tips: 5 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Today’s blog is brought to you by Emily, one of our environmental educators. Emily loves holiday treats (especially her grandma’s jell-o salad), but hates seeing good food go to waste. Keep reading to see how you can reduce the amount of food you throw away.

‘Tis the season for friends, fun, and food.  With all the festivities this time of year, it’s easy for us to be up to our eyeballs in pumpkin spice lattes, turkey sandwich leftovers, and sugar cookies from the grandkids. And with food comes food waste. This holiday season, give a gift to the environment by putting your trash can on a diet.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans throw away up to 40% of the food supply each year, valued at almost $390 per consumer in 2008. That means every year we’re throwing away enough food to constitute at least a month’s worth of groceries. Since food has become so convenient and readily available, many people wonder what the big deal is. What’s wrong with this picture? We are wasting resources – land and water to grow the food, money to purchase it, and time and energy to prepare the finished product. After unwanted food enters our trash cans, it makes a long, diesel-powered journey to the landfill (soon to be the landfull), where it rots, releasing harmful greenhouse gases. About 14.5% of our municipal solid waste is food waste. Fortunately, the solution is within our reach.

Now, before you go all Dr. Brown on us, let’s look at some simple steps you can take today.

  1. Serving size – As this World War II poster reminds us, taking more than we can eat is one of the most common reasons we dispose of food. It’s better to return for seconds than to throw usable food away. When eating out, asking for a take-out container (or bring your own) when your food arrives to help remind you to take home the leftovers. As you teach your children, friends, and family to be mindful of the helping they put on their plate, you are instilling healthy habits for them and the earth.Don't Waste Good Food

 

  1. Make a list and check it twice – Despite our best intentions, sometimes our food spoils. Planning ahead before you even get to the grocery store can help prevent that. For example, if you know you want to make a recipe using chicken stock, plan to cook another dish using chicken stock later that same week.
  1. Embrace the ugly – Picking through the produce piles is like a quest for the perfect fruit or vegetable. However, if a potato has an odd knob, or an onion has a conjoined twin, chances are it will taste exactly the same as its normative cousins, especially if you’re chopping it up. Now, we’re not condoning purchasing bruised or unfit for consumption. Rather, you’ll be giving a home to an otherwise discarded piece of perfectly good produce. Besides, it makes for a wonderful game of Rorschach Vegetables.

Ugly Fruit

  1. Love those leftovers – For some, leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving. Others, however, tire of the same meal for weeks. For inspiration on how to jazz up your leftovers, turn to the wonderful world of Pinterest. Maxed out on turkey sandwiches? Freeze your cooked turkey for up to 6 months and keep that tryptophan train runnin’ well into the spring.

Waste Free SD Tip: Choose reusable containers to store your leftovers instead of non-recyclable plastic resealable bags.

  1. Compost – You don’t have to have a lot of space to compost! Contrary to popular belief, apartment dwellers as well as homes with yard space can significantly reduce the amount of food waste that makes it to our landfills and in return, you’ll have a nutrient rich compost for your garden by spring! Click here to learn more and stay tuned for our blog series on composting, coming soon to a computer screen near you.

 

Turn your winter leftovers into nutrient-rich soil by Spring!

As with other eco-friendly actions, reducing food waste is all about our choices. Start today with a small commitment to take a step to decrease your food waste. It may take time to build these habits, but when we’re able to stretch the life of our landfill to accommodate our children and grandchildren, it will certainly be worth it.

 

To learn more, check out this video: