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Goal: Reduce food waste this holiday season

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching, bringing the friend and family food fest with it! While we prepare the feast and give thanks for the plentiful food we have, it is important to consider the amount of food that goes to waste this holiday season.

Food is one of the most important areas of sustainability in our daily lives and it is often overlooked! Reducing food waste is important for everyone because it saves both money and resources.

Did you know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 35 percent of turkey meat cooked at Thanksgiving gets wasted?

That’s a lot of wasted resources!

When we reduce food waste we save:

  • The resources and water used to grow crops and raise animals
  • Manufacturing and energy resources
  • Transportation resources and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Money by buying less and throwing away less
  • Disposal costs and emissions

That last one is significant– food sent to landfills is a powerful source of methane. A whopping 40 percent of food meant for eating is thrown away.

All of this rotting food produces a lot of greenhouse gases. In fact if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the U.S.

Fortunately, there are several simple, but impactful things we can do to reduce food waste.

As consumers, we influence market trends, and the purchases we make on the local level have a global impact. The simple choices we make every day can literally make a world of difference. When there’s less demand for food production, fewer resources are needed. And when fewer resources and energy are used, more is saved for future generations to use.

When we waste less, we are setting a good example for our children AND saving money!

Here’s how:

  • Buy food locally. Visit our local farmer’s market. The Winter Market offers the public year-round access to fresh vegetables as well as grass-fed meats, dairy, honey, eggs, baked goods, and seasonal offerings. When we purchase items locally, we reduce both the amount of packaging that is used and the emissions from transportation. The best part is that our purchases help sustain local farmers and our economy. The Market runs every Saturday from November to April at the Rio Grande Depot.
  • Plan your weekly meals. Consolidate the energy used in your kitchen and plan your meal (and leftovers!) for the week. The simple act of checking our cupboards and making a list before we go shopping has shown to significantly reduce our food waste and grocery bill! There are numerous free list sharing apps that can be downloaded to help streamline the list-making process.
  • Buy organic when possible and eat it. When we buy organic vegetables we are reducing pesticides that make their way into our water systems. Growing research shows that the vegetables are more nutritious. Buying organic may cost us a little more, but that added value prompts us to eat them before they spoil.
  • Check the FoodKeeper Resource. When in doubt check it out! It’s very important that we all learn the difference between ‘best before date’ and ‘use by date’. The USDA launched a FoodKeeper App to provide consumers with easy access to clear, scientific information on food storage, proper storage temperatures, food product dating, and expiration dates.
  • Compost at home. Did you know that Salt Lake City’s brown containers are not just for leaves? Fruits, veggies, coffee grounds, and eggshells can also go in your brown curbside compost container!
  • Donate what you don’t use. By donating our unwanted food, it diverts the food from landfills and puts food on the table for families in need. Not enough time to take it yourself? Food Rescue will come to pick it up from you. Check out their website at and download the Food Rescue app!
  • For extra garden produce, check out Backyard GardenShare.

Thanksgiving is ground zero for food waste and one of the first places you can apply the USDA and EPA’s new challenge to reduce the 35 billion tons of food that is sent to U.S. landfills each year.

For more tips on reducing food waste at home, check out the EPA’s Reducing Food Waste at Home toolkit.

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