Many of us use this time of year to reflect on what we want to do differently. Whether it’s getting into an exercise routine, learning a new language or calling our grandparents more regularly, there are areas for all of us to make improvements.
Sometimes, however, resolutions not only help us become healthier and happier, but they can also help make the world a better place. What is one New Year’s resolution that you could make for the planet? Reducing your foodprint.
The food system is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. As consumers, many of those emissions are out of our control because they are based on the larger system. But there are some changes that have to happen with us: no new law will magically stop good food from going bad while it sits unused in our fridges; to stop that, we need to take action in our own homes.
This year, here are a few simple resolutions you can adopt to do your part to curb climate change by reducing the environmental impact of your food.
Cut your food waste. A recent EPA report found that 35% of the United States food supply gets wasted. This results in the annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 42 coal-fired power plants, not counting the emissions after the food is landfilled. There are two main ways to cut food waste: the first is food rescue (for example, delivering restaurant leftovers to homeless shelters instead of tossing them in the trash) and prevention (buying less or using up the food that’s in your fridge before it becomes waste).
Love Food Hate Waste – A UK-based consumer education project that provides helpful tips for storing food so it lasts longer, a handy tool for calculating appropriate portion sizes and more
Save the Food – A tool from our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council that has a lot of the same info as Love Food Hate Waste, plus a calculator to demonstrate how much money food waste is costing your household
“Best by” vs “Use by”: What you need to know about food dating – Our guide to understanding food dating labels so that you don’t mistakenly toss food that’s still safe to eat
Food Rescue US – To do even more to curb food waste, volunteer to support food rescue work across the country
Start composting. Even when we’re being conscious about food waste, we’re not perfect. And some food scraps are just that: inedible scraps. That’s where compost comes in. A 2019 PIRG Education Fund report found that composting all organic waste — including food scraps and yard trimmings — could eliminate nearly one-third of all materials sent to U.S. landfills and trash incinerators. That’s a lot of greenhouse gas emissions that could be eliminated by properly composting food scraps.
From kitchen worm bins, backyard tumblers, curbside compost pickup to drop-off spots, there are many ways to compost. Every community has something different, and you’ll need to do a little research to find what yours has to offer and what works best for you. If your community does not offer curbside compost pickup (which would work just like trash and recycling pickup), search for private haulers, community gardens, farmers markets or grocery co-ops in the area that accept compost drop-offs. If you can’t find any options like this or would prefer to do it all on your own, check out the resources below for how-tos.
How to kitchen compost – If you don’t have a yard or are concerned about attracting critters, here’s how you can set up a compost system in your kitchen
How to backyard compost – Background info and a cheat sheet to help you get started
FindACompost.com – Find where you can drop off food scraps or other materials for compost
Adopt a reducetarian mindset. Change is hard. Big, all-or-nothing change can be so hard that it doesn’t happen. Having a reducetarian mindset means committing to mindfully reducing one’s impact on the environment, without feeling chained to a strict set of rules. Maybe you can’t get all of your groceries locally all the time, but you could buy from a local farmer at least once a month, or get all of your meat, eggs, or produce from a local farmer. Buying all organic groceries isn’t financially possible for everyone, but you could commit to getting organic produce 50% of the time or buying transitional products, which support farmers transitioning from conventional to organic agriculture. Vegetarianism or veganism might not be right for you, but you could commit to only getting sustainably raised meat, doing Meatless Mondays or only having meat at one meal a day.
Eat Wild – Find local farmers that serve your area & learn about their growing practices
Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 – If you can’t buy all organic, use these guides to help you prioritize which produce to get organic
Reducetarian Foundation – Learn more about what it means to adopt a reducetarian mindset
For those who want to go beyond these three resolutions, in the coming weeks, we’ll share additional educational resources to help you learn more about our food system and find ways to take action.
No matter whether you commit to one or all of these resolutions this year, remember you’re taking an important step toward contributing to a healthier planet.
Food & Agriculture Advocate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Danielle works to ensure our food system produces enough nutritious food to feed everyone, without threatening our health, the planet, or the ability of future generations to grow food. Danielle lives in Chicago, where she enjoys staying active in the outdoors, trying out new recipes, and writing short stories.