Reduce food waste at your Thanksgiving feast


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Give thanks for your food by making sure it’s eaten or disposed of responsibly (flickr).

Julia Poska | November 22, 2018

Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of food produced and sold in the U.S. goes to waste, according to varying estimates. Some is cooked but uneaten. Some goes rotten in the fridge. Some never makes it off the grocery shelf, and some never even makes it off the farm field.

Food waste is not only a disservice to the hungry, but a disservice to the planet, too. All food, from carrots to highly-processed cookies, is organic matter, which requires oxygen to decompose properly. In a densely compacted landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically, without oxygen, and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The considerable water and energy resources used to produce food are wasted as well when food goes in the landfill. Nearly 250 gallons of water go into just two 15 oz cans of corn. Over 2,000 gallons of water go into just two pounds of poultry, which includes the water used to grow food for the birds.

Be conscious of food waste this Thanksgiving by following these three tips.

1. Pace yourself

On a day reserved for overeating, it can be tempting to load up your plate with several servings at once. While eating is the best way to reduce food waste, when you eventually reach your limit, what is left on your plate will most likely go in the trash. Take only what you are certain you will eat, and go back for more as many times as you need. When you finish, your plate will be clear and leftovers will be prime for saving.

2. Actually eat your leftovers

If you anticipate having leftovers, be sure to account for them when shopping at the grocery store. You won’t need to buy as much food the weekend if Thanksgiving dinner will be making a reprise. If you still have more leftover than you think you will need, send it home with guests or even share it with pets. You can also freeze individual portions in airtight containers or bags to be eaten for weeks after the holiday.

3. Give scraps new life

Most food waste can be composted! See dos and don’ts here. If the host does not keep a compost bin or use a pickup service, someone else in attendance may be willing to take scraps home in a garbage bag or large container. Check with your city’s waste management department to see if they accept cooking oil for recycling (especially if you are frying a turkey!), which can be used to create biofuel.

 

 

Fresh compost for Iowa Capitol lawn


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Compost will be spread on the west lawn of the state capitol this week. (flickr/Kevin Thomas Boyd)
Jenna Ladd| September 13, 2017

The Iowa State Capitol Terrace lawn is getting covered with layers of fresh compost this week in an effort to improve soil quality and reduce storm water runoff.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is leading the project in partnership with the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with technical assistance from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship urban conservation program. Work crews will blow dark colored compost on the lawn west of the Capitol building. While the mixture of organic material and manure will be visible at first, it will mix in with top soil within a few weeks, according to a statement by the DNR.

“Soil quality restoration is something that people can do in their own backyards as well to improve the water quality in their neighborhood creek or other local water body. It also makes their yard look great, too,” said Steve Konrady of the DNR’s Watershed Improvement Program. He added, “Some communities in Iowa offer assistance to homeowners for this practice, and this Capitol Terrace project is a great opportunity to demonstrate the practice to Iowans, and to work to improve state lands and waters, and cleaner water downstream.”

Des Moines residents that live and work in the area need not worry about any foul odor. “Truly processed compost should be odorless — almost like a potting substance,” Konrady said to The Register.

On The Radio – USDA, EPA aim to curb food waste


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(Food Recovery Hierarchy/Environmental Protection Agency)
Jenna Ladd | July 18, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers a call to action released by the USDA and EPA to reduce food waste nationwide. 

Transcript: USDA and EPA announce food waste reduction goal

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced the first food waste reduction goals in U.S. history.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Released on July 1st, the U.S. 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal: A Call to Action by Stakeholders seeks to galvanize farmers, food manufacturers, grocers, consumers, and policy makers to reduce food waste by 50 percent before 2030. The initiative outlines best practices as identified by stakeholders including the creation of markets for aesthetically unappealing produce, implementation of community composting systems, and the development of new food storage technology that would prevent spoilage. The document is the direct result of a Food Recovery Summit that was held last November in Charleston, South Carolina.

Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jen Jordan organizes the commercial composting program at the Iowa City Landfill.

Jordan: “Fifteen percent of what goes into the Iowa City landfill is food waste so the city is definitely on board with efforts to help individuals and businesses reduce food waste, and not only to save the food waste from going to the landfill but to save money as well.”

Participation in the national 50% reduction goal is voluntary, but states like Massachusetts and Vermont have already instituted commercial food waste bans. Food waste makes up a majority of U.S. landfills and quickly generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. EPA notes that food loss reduction would help to mitigate climate change, address food insecurity, and save producers money.

For more information about food waste reduction in the U.S., visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus dot org.

For the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Iowa City recognized for participation in food waste study


Composting is one way to reduce food waste. (szczel/Flickr)
Composting keeps food waste out of landfills and re-purposes it for fertilizer and other uses. (szczel/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | December 2, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized Iowa City for its participation in a food waste study.

The 6-week study examined 50 households and asked volunteers to weigh and record their daily food waste. Participants were encouraged to practice four steps to reduce waste: smart shopping, smart storage, smart preparation, and smart saving. The “Food Too Good to Waste” toolkit calculated that when using proper techniques for purchasing, preparing, and storing, the average family could save between $30 and $1,600 on grocery bills each year.

The study diverted roughly 1,000 pounds of food from ending up in the Iowa City Landfill where food accounts for 15 percent of total landfill waste. The study did not separate preventable food waste (such as rotten vegetables) from non-edible organic waste (like coffee grounds).

The Iowa City Landfill has a specific facility for commercial compost. Over the past seven years the facility has diverted more the 850 pounds of waste from the landfill. The compostable material goes through a rigorous process, beginning with a microbial and bacterial breakdown of the organic matter. The material is than heated to more than 132 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks to kill harmful bacteria and weed seeds. Lastly, the material goes through a 30-day curing period. In all this process takes six to eight months and the final product is sold for fertilizer and other uses at $10 per pound.

According to data compiled by the Natural Resource Defense Council, the average person throws away about 20 pounds of food each month which amounts to $28 to $43.

Converting food waste into energy


Compost pile. Photo by Joi Ito; Flickr
Compost pile. Photo by Joi Ito; Flickr

Wastewater treatment plants are on the cutting edge of renewable energy production, using technology that allows them to convert trash into valuable energy.

Food waste is first shipped to wastewater facilities, where it is mixed with sewage. The combined waste produces a gas, composed mostly of methane, that can be burned as fuel. In addition to this biogas, some facilities, like Des Moines’ wastewater treatment plant, are even able to produce an organic mixture that serves as an effective fertilizer.

This method is also beneficial to the environment, since methane is a greenhouse gas and would contribute to global warming if released into the atmosphere.

There are currently 15 facilities in the United States that utilize this technology, compared to thousands in Europe. Experts predict that this trend, along with composting, will continue to grow and innovate.

For more information, read the article at Environment 360.

For instructions on how to create a compost bin for your home, click here.

Iowa City businesses help the environment through composting


Photo by Plan for Opportunity, Flickr.
Photo by Plan for Opportunity, Flickr.

Some Iowa City businesses are composting to reduce their impact on the environment.

The Bluebird Diner, New Pioneer Co-op and four Iowa City-area Hy-Vee stores all have composting programs.

Composting helps the environment by producing healthier soil and by keeping food waste out of landfills. As food decomposes in landfills, it releases the greenhouse gas methane.

Read more about the environmental efforts of Iowa City businesses here.

On the Radio: UI Hospitals and Clinics decrease cafeteria waste


Photo by max-R, Flickr.
Photo by max-R, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses the addition of compost bins to cafeterias at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are improving sustainability by adding compost bins to their cafeterias.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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