Eat Well, Waste Less to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

When you consider ways to reduce your carbon footprint, you might think first of items such as transportation, power and water usage. Another important factor to reduce your carbon footprint is reducing food waste and encouraging others to do the same.

In the US, food waste amounts to 4.76 pounds per person, per week. 30 to 40% of all available food goes uneaten, and food is the largest type of waste in our daily trash. And when that food waste reaches our landfills, it mixes with other chemicals and creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Use these 5 tips to help reduce your food waste and your carbon footprint.

1. Plan your meals ahead of time

When you write out your meal plan, you have a realistic idea of what and how much food you will eat. Consider how often you will eat out, and who will be home for each meal to avoid over buying. Keep in mind that reducing or eliminating meat and dairy will help, too, because these foods require the most natural resources to produce.

2. Shop according to your plan

Remember to shop in your own refrigerator and pantry first! If you have food leftover from your last shopping trip, write that into your meal plan, using up the oldest food first. Buy only the food in your meal plan to avoid buying more than you will eat. And think about where your food came from. Highly processed foods require more energy to produce and transport than fresh food from a local farm.

3. Store smart

Know how to store foods, and for how long. For example, fruits and vegetables should be stored separately, or they will spoil faster. Watch the dates on food labels, but understand that a "Best by" or "Use by" date indicates when a food will be at its peak, not when it should be thrown away. If your food is labeled with an expiration date, watch these and move soon-to-expire foods to the front of the shelf to be used first. Use your freezer for items such as bread, which can be toasted from frozen, so it won't go stale or get moldy. You can also cook foods that are in danger of going bad, then store them as a meal in the freezer to be eaten later.

4. Donate or compost unused food

As soon as you realize you bought too much, donate it so someone else can use it. Compost food scraps instead of tossing them out with your other trash so that they won't end up in a landfill. If you are unable to compost it yourself, check with friends or neighbors, or push your municipality to create a community composting program.

5. Help educate others

The USDA, EPA and FDA made a shared commitment to reduce food loss and waste in the US by 50% by 2030. We have a long way to go! You can help by reducing waste yourself, of course, because this effort must occur in individual households. You can also share the Implementation Guide for Food: Too Good to Waste with your community leaders to help start the campaign in your area.

Keep in mind that when food goes uneaten, you waste more than the food itself. You also waste the resources used to produce it and get it to you, including water, energy, labor and transportation.

No matter how mindful you are of waste, getting food to your table requires natural resources. The ideas above to reduce food waste will help to reduce your carbon footprint, but won't eliminate it.

That's where carbon offsets can help. Buying carbon offsets contributes to industries and practices that reduce greenhouse gas, to compensate for your impact on the environment. 

Visit Green Mountain Energy's website to learn more.

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