I recently read an NRDC report that said 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month adding up to over $165 billion each year. HOLY $#*^. I could get SO MANY JARS WITH THAT MONEY!!!!! So where does all of this food end up? Almost all of it in the landfill where food matter accounts for 16 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Methane, that gas that is driving climate change and destroying the planet…yep, that one.

I come from a mom who comes from a mom that wouldn’t let her leave the table until she finished everything on her plate. I never had that problem (I have always had a hefty appetite) but the idea of not wasting food is one that I grew up with. It just doesn’t make sense. Composting rotten food turns it into nutrient rich soil that you can use to produce nutrient rich food with. DUH! So why send it to the landfill where it won’t turn into anything but gas and wasted space?

I prevent that by saying NO, THANKS to food waste. While some dream of endlessly bountiful fridges overflowing with produce, I pride myself on letting my fridge go bare every week. At 22 years old, I get enjoyment out of scrounging together meals from “nothing” because it means that I have used up everything in my house and prevented any waste. For instance, tonight. My fridge, to many, could have seemed totally empty and a trip to the store or a takeout call would have been in order, but to me there was a big opportunity for a great meal.

Armed with half an onion, some dried peas, a handful of wilty kale, a few shriveled mushrooms, three potatoes that were starting to dry up and some dried rosemary I made split pea soup and rosemary roasted potatoes. Besides being insanely delicious, there is now enough food in my fridge to feed me for the next two days. I’m saving money, time, and preventing wasting food that could have been destined for compost.

Part of living a Zero Waste lifestyle is using up everything I have before buying anything new. The same ideology is applied to my food. By stocking up on staples like rice, dried peas, and dried beans, I can stretch any perishable by challenging when it should be decommissioned and making it into a hearty meal. Then, the only thing I am tossing into my compost are things like potato skins, onion peels, and coffee grounds. What happens to it then? It hangs out with some worms for a while until it is done cookin’ and is used to grow more food or fertilize some awesome NYC flowers. Total win.

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  1. I live a vegan lifestyle with the exception of eating eggs from my pet chickens. I also try very hard not to waste food. I make a lot of green smoothies and use almost all the parts of the veggies and fruits with very little waste. I have found a solution that works very well for the scraps I do have left (like onion and banana peels). I have made a compost bin in the chickens' yard from large interlocking bricks that were given to me by a neighbor. Now when I put my veggie and fruit scraps in the bin, the chicks eat all the things they like and leave the rest to compost. It has the added benefit of the compost being stirred by the chicks when they are scratching in the bin to find things to eat, so I never have to turn or stir the compost. I also dry eggs shells, crush them in the food processor, and give them to the chicks as a source of calcium, which they need. Sometimes as an treat for them, I will cook extra pasta or rice which they love. If people live in the country or in a city with regulations that allow backyard chickens, they are wonderful pets. They will eliminate most of your food waste!

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      This is absolutely amazing and I am massively jealous. I would LOVE to have chickens. What a great benefit that you get fresh eggs from chickens that you feed with food scraps and an extra hand with composting! My dream is to be able to have a home with enough yard space for some chickens so that I can have fresh eggs, as well as space for a garden. I love that you are already living this way, it is so inspiring! One day i'll move out of NYC and make it a reality! Until then, I have people like you to inspire me πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much for sharing!
      Lauren

  2. I think you would really like the book "An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace" by Tamar Adler. A lot of the ideas you talk about in this post are present in the book. She saves scraps of food and the basic idea is that the end of one meal is the start of the next (i.e. everlasting). After reading her book, I now save kale stems and parsley stems, and chop them up and puree them into soups.

  3. Hello
    lovely blog, but especially his decision to zero waste, so I will continue this blog from bloglovin, from now because just missing me by reading some post,
    over the potatoes leave a recipe to use and are riquisimas spiced and cut a little thicker I never throw it away, because I serve as garnish
    recipe:
    tosted pica bread (as in soups)
    2 tablespoons oil and heat and add the bread cubes until golden
    2 garlic cloves, peels potatoes, shredded cheese (optional) salt, pepper and I do them to the skillet cheese and bread I mix at the end and I ire and off
    Seasoned with balsamic vinegar from Modena or the like and accompany my meals, and as always I use the frozen, remove and use zero waste exempted that are in poor condition I do compost, a elcanario greeting. Translated with Google

  4. Hmmm…it occurred to me that with such an empty fridge it might make sense to downsize the size of the fridge to also reduce the amount of electricity you're using as well. I aspire to have a fridge so bare. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. My Partner and I sure do differ when it comes to this topic.
    I love seeing us use up items in the fridge, an over filled fridge just makes me unhappy. It’s easy to forget about that hummus you made a few days ago if it’s behind a pile of other food.
    My partner on the other hand insists on shopping every weekend. And when I’m not there they will end up buying multiples of items we already had, because they had forgotten about them. It’s absurd sometimes how much food we throw out.
    This week I managed on convincing them that perhaps we don’t need as much as we are buying, and so we bought slightly less. we still have plenty of food.
    It’s an upward battle but I am determined to limit the waste we make.

  6. Hi Lauren,

    I just saw your TED talk and is really inspired again! I am also an Environmental Management Student and just need to complete my last exam to graduate. I have two kids and a husband and really put some though into this but just forgot after life got in the way. You really just inspired me again and I can feel my mind and body to get excited and make some changes. I am also a bit curious about the milk assuming you recycle it? We have a market where you can take your own jugs which I will use even though its a bit far, do you think freezing it and buying in bulk in your own jars will help? Even though you will use a bit more electricity to keep it frozen it will save on everyday plastic packaging.

    Anyway, cant wait to start reading your whole blog and getting into sustainability again. Thanks for being such an inspiring person!

    Jean x

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