food waste

Mother Nature is Happy With Your Green Thanksgiving

Each year American families gather around a large table with family and give thanks. Many of the common items that we give thanks for are family, friends, health and life that we have. But, what is mother nature thankful for this year? I am sure that she is not very thankful for the food and decorations that we burn through to have a beautiful celebration. So what are some ways that we can appease her this Thanksgiving.

First we will start with the decorations and items needed for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. When you go to the grocery store be mindful of bringing a reusable shopping bag with you. Try getting away from using what the store provides you (paper or plastic) when you get to the checkout. Also when you are confronted with the easier option of prepackaged foods in the vegetable aisle try to steer clear. Take the extra few minutes or even seconds to bag your own vegetables from the section. And always be mindful of how much you are buying. You are only feeding your family not a whole army. Now moving onto when you get home and start setting up the table or buffet line try to be conscious of what you are using. Use cloth napkins and plates, but if you happen to run out of plates and have time to order try to find bamboo plates and cutlery
So now that the table and food items are set let talk about our actions to the celebration as well as at the celebration. Over 42 million people will be hitting the road this Thanksgiving and I am pretty sure most of those cars on the road only contain one or two people. So how about we take a page out of our daily commute book and try carpooling. I am not saying that people should go out of their way to carpool, but if you know someone going to the same area or location why not tag along. We emit enough on a normal week or weekend much less on holidays. Once we are at the Thanksgiving celebration lets try to change the way we look at how much we have on our plates. Yes... Thanksgiving is about over indulgence but we can still indulge while being mindful. The NRDC estimates that 40 percent of the Thanksgiving feast ends up thrown away each year. So how about we take a step back from those large helpings and just go back for seconds and shoot maybe event thirds. But if we over load our plates and don't finish everything all of that foods goes right into the trash. while on the other hand if you were to leave it in the pan or dish it could then just become leftovers. Also, while we are on the topic of conservation how about we take it easy on the water this year. Remember we in California are still in a drought. Only pour water when it is needed.
Now we are to the grand finale of "greening" your upcoming Thanksgiving feast; avoiding food waste. We are all guilty of having food waste especially on this day of thanks. But, we will help you with trying to make a difference and limit your food waste as much as possible. There are a few options that are easy and conventional while others are out of the box. To start off with try composting your food scraps, since this is the easiest option. If you are not a fan of composting try freezing your excess leftovers. Sure turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving are good, but what about the stuffing. After three days in a row of that for lunch you may want to pull your hair out, but if frozen your leftovers can be kept for longer and used down the road. Now we move on to the out of the box ideas out there where you are able to send your uncooked leftovers to someone in need as well as donate leftover produce so that it doesn't go to waste. If you are interesting in sending your uncooked leftovers try out the organization City Harvest.  They will take packaged goods that you didn't cook as well as prepared foods that were not served. Once donated they share the food with those that are less fortunate. If you would just rather donate your extra produce check out The organization is worldwide and all you need to do is to download the app and find out where you are able to drop the items off at. And last but not least the animals. Sure your dog enjoys being fed by the kids at the kid table, but those aren't the animals that I am talking about. I am talking about zoo animals! Rhinos and zebras like turkey day too! Contact your local zoo if you have one and see if they will take your leftovers for the animals. 
At the end of the day you don't need to try all of our recommendations that are outlined here we are only trying to help you make a difference in which ever way possible. We want to make sure that mother nature is as thankful as we are for what we have. 

The Green Teams Part II

I try to be energy conscious and waste as little as I can. Then again, I am lucky to live in a part of the country that allows me use public transportation (or walk) to almost any destination, does not have air conditioning in any apartments and has compost and recycling bins nearly everywhere. (For those of you that don't know, I moved to Seattle! and am happily still working full-time for the Clean Energy Organization.) I never use a hair dryer for more than a few minutes and only run big appliances (laundry, dishwasher) after peak hours. My microwave and stove get used once a day, max. But this is energy use on a very small scale for one very small person. 

SCREAMS inefficiency
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So what happens when, instead of being in charge of just your own energy use, you’re suddenly in charge of hosting tens, even hundreds, of thousands of fans (who are hungry and thirsty, cold or hot, and may be seated far from the action of the game) in a stadium that holds all of these people, food and ticketing staff, security plus the stars of the event and their managers, coaches, team owners, etc? Not only is there a need for several food and beverage booths, powerful HVAC systems, jumbotrons, surround sound speaker systems, expansive locker rooms, and numerous multi-stall bathrooms, but everything (and by everything, I mean every nook and cranny) has to be brightly lit and perfectly air conditioned. That sentence included A LOT of energy-draining things, which can only mean that the energy needed to power all of them is nothing shy of A TON. And as I mentioned in Part I of this mini-series, it seems hypocritical to live as I do and work where I do when I also snatch up every opportunity I get to go to one of these events.

We energy-enthusiast sports fans got lucky, though, because the industry has been significantly decreasing its energy use for a few years now. At this massive scale, energy use will always be high, but hosting these events in a LEED building or incorporating solar panels does make a difference. Take the Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania for example. In 2010, 40,000 solar panels were installed; they power the entire facility and cut the raceway’s annual energy bill by over $500,000! That’s a lot of savings! It was also the first raceway to participate in the Dream Machine program, which provides a fast and easy way for fans to recycle. You can read more about these and other green initiatives here; and think about incorporating similar practices yourself because as the Raceway itself declares, “it’s not that tricky”.

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I've been playing tennis for nearly two decades now and learning that the US Open Tennis Center in Queens has been going green since they launched a pilot program in 2008 with NRDC (thanks to the amazing Billie Jean King, see pages 24-26) made me very ecstatic indeed! Initiatives cover recycling, transportation, energy management, and many more facets of the jam-packed two-week event, including event merchandise. The Center reduced water flow by 75 percent (!!!) in 2011 with new low-flow faucets; all match balls are reused in summer camps or donated to community organizations; all tennis ball canisters are taken apart so each metal and plastic component can be recycled separately and correctly. Plus, the Center composts almost all of its waste, down to the cooking oil. What does this amount to each year? HUGE savings and hundreds of tons of waste diverted from landfills. Can’t beat that!

NFL and MLB fans, stay tuned for Part III!

Wellness Wednesday: Reducing Food Waste

I have mentioned waste and recycling in a previous post, but recently came across another article in the Fresno Bee talking specifically about food waste. UC Merced and several other colleges have received praise by the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency for their efforts to reduce food waste and increase awareness on the topic.
Source: Schaumburg's Sustainable Future

Food waste is expensive, crowds landfills, and adds to greenhouse gas emissions.  UC Merced composts cafeteria waste and has switched to recyclable food containers as part of its goal to achieve zero net energy consumption by 2020.

Ways you can help reduce food waste:

  • When eating out, order an appetizer or two, choose from the children’s menu, or share an entrée with a friend. Portion sizes at restaurants are absolutely out of control! This tip not only will help with food waste, but likely the size of your waist. I usually gravitate towards the appetizers on a menu because they just sound better! If you still have leftovers, take them home and enjoy for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner or get creative and incorporate with other ingredients for a whole new meal.
  • Take inventory of your fridge and pantry before grocery shopping. How many times do you come home from the store and struggle to find room in the pantry or refrigerator shelves? Take a cue from those who live in big cities: shop more frequently and only for what you will use for a few days or up to one week. Sure it is a bit more effort but you are more likely to use all of your ingredients before they expire or rot. I like to challenge myself to become more creative in the kitchen by utilizing everything I have to the very last drop, so to speak. Soups and stews are a great way to utilize leftovers and produce that are on their last leg. Overly ripe fruit that has not yet spoiled can be cut up in small bits and then frozen for use in smoothies or frozen yogurt.
  • Similar to the tip above, never grocery shop while hungry! It’s amazing what ends up in your cart when your stomach is growling. It’s likely that these impulse purchases will lead to extra waste/waist.
  • If portion control is an issue for you, eat off of smaller plates/bowls. You are less likely to stuff yourself silly and/or throw the extra bits of food on your plate in the trash.