At PackIt, we’re all about sustainability, finding easy ways live waste-free and minimizing our impact on the Earth. You probably already recycle and try to limit your energy use, but there’s another important way you can help the planet that often goes forgotten. That’s limiting food waste.
Americans throw out a shocking of food annually, nearly 35 million tons! That amounts to 20% of our total waste, and it amounts to more than all of the metal, paper, plastic, or glass we toss out. Some experts estimate that almost 40 percent of food ends up in a dumpster, which seems kind of criminal when you consider that one in five kids in the U.S. face hunger.
When spoiled food is tossed, it’s not just valuable nutrition that’s lost. Food production has a huge water footprint too. (Check out this fascinating piece about how much water is needed for all sorts of common food sources.) That has serious implications, especially in drought-stricken places like PackIt’s home state of California. On top of all that, methane gas from decomposing food also adds to climate change.
The good news: There are so many easy ways to make a difference on a daily basis. Here’s are 13 of our favorite super-simple ways to save food, water and other resources—not just on Earth Day, but every day.
1. Wash and prep fruits and veggies as soon as they make it home
It’s easy to let fresh foods linger and spoil if they’re not ready for consumption. If you take a few minutes to clean and cut them right when they get home, you’ll be much more likely to eat them when you’re feeling hangry and have no time to prep.
2. Invest in tight-sealing, reusable containers
Storage containers should be durable enough go from home to work or school and back without exposing food to air. Even better are those that can withstand freezing and reheating. If you’d rather not fork out for new containers, you can reuse much of the packaging your food already comes in. Yogurt, gelato, and takeout containers make excellent food storage, and help you avoid those unsightly plastic baggies that clog landfills.
3. Split up leftovers
Instead of dumping it all into one container, split up leftovers into lunch size portions before you pop food into the fridge. That way it’s easy to grab pre-portioned meals on the go. Also consider doubling up on every meal you make and freezing half in lunch-size portions. Your future self will thank you for your foresight!
4. Check your fridge temp
There’s nothing worse than bringing home gorgeous greens, only to find they’re sad and droopy after only a day. Wilted leaves are an indication that your refrigerator is too cold, and sucking up more energy than needed. Experts recommend setting the refrigerator temperature between 38 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Follow the "first in, first out" rule
We’ve all been there: you buy fresh food and stick it in the back of fridge, then one week later, surprise! Your kid has a new science project on the wonders of mold. Make sure to keep all perishables at the front of the fridge so you know what to eat first before it spoils.
6. Use grocery lists to avoid impulse buys
Before you go gaga over those luscious-looking heirloom tomatoes or perishable items on sale, think hard about whether you can really use them. Make a point to stick only to what you came for and try not to shop when you’re hungry. An empty stomach often equals an overflowing cart!
7. Give it away
Even if you have Ina Garten-like skills in the kitchen, any meal can get old if you’re eating it five times in a row. Try setting up a food trading system—yes, just like grade school!—or potluck lunch club with co-workers where you swap your home-cooked foods for a meal that someone else has made.
8. Make leftovers last longer with a freezable bag
The beauty of PackIt freezable lunch bags isn’t just that they keep fresh food cool everywhere. It’s that they do it for a whopping 10 hours, which means you can actually bring home any food you don’t eat and stick it back in the fridge. Bonus: The built in cooling system saves you from having to waste water and plastic baggies on DIY ice packs.
9. Preserve perishables
When you know you won’t be able finish an entire bunch of food, consider other methods to extend its life. Drying/dehydrating herbs is a great way to save them for another day (try this tutorial for oven drying). Canning and pickling are two other ways to reinvent fresh produce as something even tastier down the road.
10. Pack liquids separate from solids
If you use our Freezable Salad Bag, you know how it keeps greens incredibly crisp and fresh for hours. But if you pre-mix a salad with dressing before heading out, you might be left with a sogfest at lunch that you have no choice other than to toss out. Store dressings and sauces in smaller containers apart from the main event so you can mix it all right before you eat.
11. Trick your food into lasting longer
Try squirting a little lemon juice on apples and avocados to preserve their life. Also be sure to seal foods tightly and minimize perishables’ exposure to air when you’re storing them. Check out more great ideas for making your food go further here.
12. Get into composting
It’s not optimal for everyone, especially apartment-dwellers, but if you have outdoor space, the earth and your flowers will thank you for using scraps to sustain new plant life. You can also keep fruit and veggie trimmings in a container throughout the week, then drop them at a composting center or farmer’s market near you.
13. Shop with freezable grocery bags
What’s the point of buying fresh organic food, especially organic, if it spoils by the time it gets home? The PackIt Freezable Grocery Bag is the only reusable bag that can keep perishables cool up to six hours. It’s easy to leave home without remembering reusable bags, so we love this tip from one fan: Put your house keys inside your freezable bag and you won’t forget it!
How do you do your part to help our planet? Share your tips below!