What’s the link between leftover peas and melting ice caps? If they're tossed in the garbage, they do more damage than you may think: nearly 13 percent of all waste in America is uneaten food, and decaying produce contributes significantly to harmful methane emissions from landfills.
Methane has global warming potential over 20 times that of carbon dioxide, and when you factor in the chemicals, transport, and industrial processes that go into getting those peas from farm to plate … well, you can see why the 96.4 billion pounds of food that Americans waste each year adds up to a pile of a problem.
So what can we do?
Households throw away food for two reasons: either we prepare too much and waste the extra, or we don’t use perishable items before they spoil. Luckily, there are a number of simple, common-sense strategies we can use to avoid this kind of waste.
1) Know how to recognize and serve reasonable portion sizes. It’s hard to predict how much food we’ll eat in a sitting, and all kinds of external factors—the size of our dishes, misleading packaging, and our own appetites—encourage us to load our plates with more food than we could possibly consume. Here are some handy ways to beat that temptation:
- Use measuring cups and portion tools (particularly with pasta, rice and other foods that expand when cooked).
- Weigh foods that are difficult to gauge by eye (such as meats and cheeses).
- Know the recommended daily nutritional allowances for those sitting down to the meal.
2) Plan before you shop. Supermarkets are full of slick promotions and bright displays that convince us to buy! buy! buy! despite our better judgment. The result? Half of that 2-for-1 deal ends up rotting in the garbage can. By making a list in advance and avoiding in-store marketing gimmicks, you can save food and money during your shopping trips.
- Check the cupboards and refrigerator before you make your list.
- Avoid spontaneous purchases.
- When possible, buy loose food rather than pre-packed so you can get the precise quantity you need.
- Pay attention to expiration dates.
- Check labels to see if you can freeze an item if you don’t end up using it when planned.
3) Pay attention to how you store your food.
- Vegetables should generally be stored in the refrigerator or another cool, dark place.
- Store bananas separately from other fruit (they emit a gas that quickens the ripening process).
- Remove moldy fruits and vegetables right away—they make the food around them go bad more quickly.
- Store bread in an airtight container.
So, all we are saying is, "Give Peas a (Second) Chance."