In this guest blog post, Food Activist and Author of the Ending Food Waste Blog, Ashley Gelineau, explains why reducing your foodprint is important, the impact that food waste has on the environment and how you can make small changes to keep your healthy food fresh AND dispose of it properly. Yes, I meant to say foodprint, not footprint. It’s not a typo!
First, what the heck is a foodprint? While it’s not an official word, it is something that people write about more and more. I define it as the environmental impact of anything we grow, process and dispose of as it pertains to food. For example, to grow oranges it requires a number of resources like land, water, perhaps some fertilizer, and energy to manufacture into orange juice. The use of these resources directly impacts our environment - it’s a similar concept to reducing your carbon footprint, it just uses a more appropriate word!
That’s cool and all, but I don’t own an orange grove. What can I do to reduce MY foodprint since I’m not really using resources like water and electricity to grow oranges? Another great question. For most consumers this is exactly the case - we can only control so much in our lives, especially when it comes to farming and food production. Where I believe we become responsible is how we dispose of the byproducts of consumption.
For example, if you peel an orange and eat it as part of your breakfast, what do you do with the peel? Most of us would just throw it into the garbage, along with all the other things we throw away that aren’t organic matter. The problem with this is as that orange peel decomposes in a non-nature way (i.e. in a plastic bag surrounded by other materials), it releases toxic methane gas into our atmosphere. If you haven’t already read my page on food waste and the environment, I recommend you do to better understand this concept.
Or perhaps you go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of healthy fruit to eat for the week. Thursday rolls around and you realize that you haven’t been taking that orange with you to work to eat as an afternoon snack. It has all kinds of mushy spots on it, so clearly it’s no longer good to eat and you throw it in the trash. That is considered food waste, and is also part of your foodprint.
If you’re reading this blog it’s likely that you are already on a good path to eating healthy, or, at least aspiring to do so. And healthy means buying a lot of fresh produce and organic, non-processed foods to eat. Great job! The problem is knowing how to keep all those healthy foods fresh and to dispose of it in a responsible manner. Here are some tips that I try and always follow so I am doing just that.
- Plan your meals for the week before you go grocery shopping and stick to the schedule. This reduces your foodprint because you only buy what you need. The latter part of the recommendation is the harder one to maintain - sticking to the schedule. I’m completely guilty of this. I strive to bring my lunch most days to work, but inevitably once a week I get pulled into going out to lunch with co-workers, and I end up throwing away my perfectly good lunch. If you know that’s going to happen, I recommend buying food for 4 lunches instead of 5.
- Invest in air-tight food storage containers made out of glass. I say glass because they are less likely to end up in the trash after a few uses. It’s also better for you as you won’t be consuming the harmful chemicals that are present in those cheap plastic containers when you heat up your lunch! More importantly, these types of containers help your food stay fresh much longer than in the packaging. You can easily pick up a set of Pyrex glass “tupperware” for under $20.
- Start composting your organic food waste. In years past, composting required you to have a spot of land to pile your organic food waste on to. Now there are many different kinds of compost bins, composters and programs that help you eliminate organic food waste in an environmentally friendly way. Just type composting bin into Google and viola! So many choices.
Curious to know how long certain vegetables keep for when stored properly? Here is a chart that you might find helpful:
|Artichoke, Globe||Buds will keep several weeks at room temperature or up to two weeks in the refrigerator crisper. Keep them dry in a plastic bag.|
|Artichoke, Jerusalem||As with other root crops, the simplest method of storage is to leave it in the ground. It keeps 1 month in a dark, cool place away from intense cold. Keeps well in boxes packed with peat moss.|
|Asparagus||Fresh asparagus will keep in the refrigerator 7-10 days after harvesting. Break off the rough ends and stand upright in 1 inch of water or store in a plastic bag and put in the crisper.|
|Bean, Broad||Keep freshly harvested pods in the refrigerator up to two weeks. Shelled beans can be dried.|
|Bean, climbing or dwarf||Do not wash after harvest. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. They can be canned or pickled.|
|Beet||Roots will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator and the leaves for up to a week if stored in an airtight plastic bag.|
|Broccoli||Heads will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.|
|Brussels Sprouts||Early winter sprouts left on the stem and hung in a cool dry place will keep for up to a month. Singly harvested, they will keep for 7-10 days in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container. In both cases, remove all discolored leaves and wash just before using.|
|Cabbage||Heads will keep for several weeks in the crisper compartment of the refrigerator. Cabbage can be pickled as sauerkraut.|
|Carrots||Carrots will remain crisp in the refrigerator for 4 weeks or so if protected in plastic bags. They can be pickled or canned.|
|Cauliflower||Keep in the refrigerator up to a week.|
|Celery||Stalks will stay crisp for up to 10 days in the refrigerator.|
|Chayote||Freshly picked chayote will keep in the vegetable crisper for 1-2 weeks.|
|Chilies||Keep in a cool, dark place for up to a week or in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Dried they can last for month if kept in a plastic or glass container with a top.|
|Chinese Broccoli||Keep in the refrigerator crisper for up to a week.|
|Chinese Cabbage||Keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks. Keeps for months in a cool, dry place such as a cellar. When ready to use, discard outer discolored and battered leaves. Interior leaves will be firm. Never store in plastic bags.|
|Chinese Spinach||Leaves should be picked and eaten immediately since they go limp after harvesting. Good in salads or steamed. Not recommended for long-term storage.|
|Cucumber||Keep in refrigerator for 7-10 days. The flesh turns soft and translucent (and inedible) at very cold temperatures.|
|Eggplant||Fresh fruit will keep 7-10 days in the refrigerator.|
|Endive||Will keep up to two weeks in the crisper.|
|Fennel||Keeps for four days in the crisper. Ideal to use when purchased as the flavor decreases as it ages.|
|Garlic||Leaves are left attached to the bulb then left to dry in clumps in full sun for a few days. Never let the bulbs get wet. Hang in an open mesh bag in a dry, airy location. If peeled, keep in an air-tight container for up to a 1 week in a cool, dark, dry place.|
|Ginger||Mature rhizomes store well in a cool, dry place. If stored too long the flesh becomes dry and the flavor becomes bitter. Once dried, it can be ground into powder.|
|Kohlrabi||Bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.|
|Leek||Keeps 7-10 days in the refrigerator.|
|Lettuce||Keeps 7-10 days in the crisper.|
|Marrow Squash||Handle carefully and do not wash or brush skin. Keep up to a week in the refrigerator.|
|Mushrooms||Store in the refrigerator 5-7 days. Do not store in plastic bags. They m|
|Okra||Will keep a few days in the refrigerator.|
|Onion||Store bulbs in a cool, dry place in an open weave mesh basket or bag to allow free air circulation. Do not store with other vegetables.|
|Parsnip||Freshly harvested vegetables will keep in the refrigerator 2-3 weeks. They may keep a week or two in a cool, dry cupboard.|
|Peas||Pods keep for a short time in the refrigerator. They quickly loose their sugar content. Some varieties freeze well. Peas are best picked and quickly prepared.|
|Pepper||Sweet and bell peppers will keep up to a week in the refrigerator. They make great pickles, and hot varieties can be dried.|
|Potato||Keep harvested potatoes in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. Young or “new” potatoes should not be stored long.|
|Pumpkin||Handle carefully and do not wash or brush the skin of fruit before storing. Keep for several months in a cool, airy place or in boxes. Check occasionally for rotting or damage to skin and flesh.|
|Radishes||Keep 7-10 days in the refrigerator crisper.|
|Rutabaga||Rutabagas have a long storage period in or out of the refrigerator.|
|Shallot||Bulbs will keep in a cold, dry place for several months or the flesh may be chopped and frozen.|
|Snow Peas||Pods keep for a short time in the refrigerator but will lose their sugar content within a few days.|
|Spinach||Leaves will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week but they are better if eaten immediately.|
|Squash||Handle carefully and do not wash or brush skin of fruit before usage. Keeps up to a week in the refrigerator.|
|Sugar Snap Peas||Pods keep for a short time in the refrigerator. The seeds will lose a great deal of sugar content within a few days.|
|Sweet Corn||Sweet corn quickly looses its sugar content and the kernels become starchy. Use as soon as possible. Freezes well.|
|Sweet Potato||Do not wash before storing. Will keep up to 4 months. Do not refrigerate.|
|Swiss Chard||Keeps up to 2 weeks in the crisper but is best eaten when freshly picked.|
|Taro Root||Will keep several months in a cool, dry place.|
|Tomato||Tomatoes will keep 2-4 weeks in the refrigerator although they tend to lose flavor over long periods. They can be pulped then bottled or processed into soups and sauces and frozen.|
|Turnips||Can be stored in or out of the refrigerator.|
|Water Chestnut||Examine the vegetable for rotten spots and remove damaged corms. Unpeeled, they will keep in bags in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If peeled, store in water to prevent browning for up to 2 weeks. Water must be changed daily. They can be dried and ground into a flour. Flavor and texture is lost by canning.|
|White Radish||If the root is solid, it will keep in the refrigerator at very low temperatures for several weeks. They can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, pickled, fermented or preserved in brine.|
|Witloof||Witloof does not store well and becomes limp soon after exposure to light. A greening of leaves indicates development of a bitter taste.|
|Zucchini||Handle carefully and do not wash or brush the skin before storing. They will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.|
Want even more tips on how to get started reducing your foodprint at home? Check out my tip sheet that you can easily hang on your fridge.
Feeling inspired? Keep on keeping’ on and spread the word about reducing your food waste food print!