• Use the EPA’s toolkit, Food: Too Good to Waste, to find out how much food you are wasting.
  • Learn about EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy to learn the best ways to divert food from the landfill.
  • Learn more about how to reduce food waste at home here.
  • Start with a weekly meal plan. A 2012 report by the National Resource Defense Council found that American families throw away about 25% of the food and drinks they purchase.
    • Make a list of meals for the week and plan to use leftovers. If you like to make large portions at a time, plan to freeze half to serve the following month.
    • Take stock. Check your refrigerator and pantry prior to grocery shopping so you don’t over-purchase.
    • Order your food online; this cuts down on impulse purchases and can save time and money.
  • Expand your kitchen skills and food resilience:
    • Freeze, preserve, donate, or can surplus fruits and vegetables - especially abundant seasonal produce.
    • Read more on the EPA’s website for tips on planning, storage and meal prep to reduce food waste.
  • Donate food instead of tossing it. 40% of landfill waste is food; keep your food out of the landfill.
    • Join Get Food Smart TN, a TDEC program that promotes food recovery, donation, and composting in the state of Tennessee.  Learn more about what consumers, schools, hospitality, grocers, and other organizations can do to reduce hunger and food waste. The program has approximately 150 participating locations at this time.
  • Volunteer at your local food bank or volunteer to glean with a local organization at regional farms; volunteer gleaning provides fresh produce for local food banks.
  • Think about your food sourcing.
    • Go to the farmer’s market! Local farms and produce are typically better for the environment – and tastier – because they haven’t been shipped long distances.  As a result, they have a smaller carbon footprint and are fresher.  Too, local farms display products in bulk – avoiding the waste of selling packaged produce products. Cost is usually comparable to grocery stores and the money you spend benefits your local economy. See Michigan State’s report here.
      • Please visit TN Department of Agricultures website on farmers markets more information.
    • Investigate your favorite food producers and snack companies. Many food companies engage in waste diversion, alternative energy, and sustainability measures. When you have a choice, pick the food company whose values align with yours.
  • What about that meat? Meat has a large carbon footprint because of the natural resources that go into its creation. Compare carbon footprints of popular foods on Greeneatz.  You can substantially reduce your food carbon footprint by making a few changes:
    • Swap red meat for white. Larger animals – like beef cattle – have a much larger carbon footprint than smaller animals – like chickens or turkeys – that don’t live as long or use as many resources.
    • Try Meatless Monday! Replace meat with fresh produce. Generally, this provides monetary savings and adding beans and vegetables to your diet supplies necessary nutrients and fiber.
  • Processed foods: eliminate processed foods when possible and eat fresh! Extensive resources go into the processing of foods, which are then packaged, and then shipped across the country. At each juncture, the carbon footprint increases. Learn more from Terrapass.
  • What about your grill? New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation recommends purchasing a propane grill, if you are in the market for a new one. Charcoal grills produce about three times more carbon emissions than propane gas grills.
  • Start a compost pile! Compost is created using food waste that cannot be donated or reused and is an alternative to sending food waste to the landfill.  It can be utilized as a soil amendment and reduce the need to purchase fertilizer.
    • TDEC’s Composting website provides how-to information for residential and larger-scale composting.
    • The EPA has a website that covers composting at home. Click here for more information.
    • The U.S. Composting Council provides extensive resources, including composting certification courses, as well as free resources for performing composting in the home or school.
    • The EPA provides guidance for residential composting.
    • Cornell’s Waste Management Institute provides extensive, free guidance and resources to support small-scale composting.
    • Report your community composting through Tennessee Environmental Council’s website to support continued composting throughout the state.
  • Financial savings: How much can you save if you’re able to use the food you buy, instead of throwing it away? 20% of your food budget? 40%? More? Take the “locavore” challenge: can you use local foods, only, for one week? For a month? It’s not impossible; your grandparents did it.
  • Environmental benefits: Reduce your carbon footprint and the waste you generate by buying local and eating fresh, instead of processed food.
  • Quality of life: Eating fresh promotes good health and reduces stress. It can even enhance sleep. Try it out!



Jennifer Tribble