(BPT) – By Joe Dillon | President, Emerson InSinkErator
Americans spent more money on food at home than in restaurants in 2020, halting a restaurant spending trend that has been steadily rising over the past decade. This return to the home kitchen is likely to stay, as 7 out of 10 Americans say they intend to continue cooking at home more, even as restaurants and the world open back up for diners.
Cooking at home has substantial benefits – more quality time with family, greater control over ingredients – but many home cooks find themselves grappling with a new challenge: food waste. The United Nations found global food waste has risen to a mind-boggling 1 billion tons per year. In the United States, households waste nearly one-third of all food purchased.
This level of excess is a hard fact to swallow in a country where more than 1 out of 10 people lack access to an affordable, nutritious diet – and the impacts of food waste have a ripple effect. Food sitting in trash cans isn’t simply a limited resource thrown away: It actively harms the environment by generating methane when it breaks down in landfills. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In the United States alone, the production of lost or wasted food generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.
So what can be done when we consider that food waste is an inevitable part of preparing food? After all, even the most conscientious home cook will still find themselves with banana peels, strawberry stems and corn cobs that must be discarded.
Every individual can have an impact on this global issue. Here are three places to start that can add up in a big way.
- Make a list – and stick to it. Too often, food waste begins in the supermarket when consumers head into the store without a clear plan. Some people may plan what they’ll make for dinner each day and shop accordingly. Others may know their family loves cheesy broccoli and buy it weekly, with loose plans to work it into the rotation. The only right way to approach food planning is choosing what works for each individual family. Being realistic – will the kids really eat Brussels sprouts on Tuesday and Thursday? – can help cut down on food waste by leaving it in the store aisles for someone else to buy.
- Shop your refrigerator first. Crisper drawers are badly named: Even the crunchiest carrots will turn limp and soggy when forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. Consumers can cut down on food waste if they take inventory of the refrigerator before heading to the grocery store – and even before making their grocery list. Is there celery that passed its “ants on a log” prime that’s just right for minestrone? Could the strawberries that have seen better days sing in a smoothie? By being intentional about using food that was already purchased, consumers can cut down on their own food waste – and have an excuse to get creative in the kitchen.
- Choose the right way to dispose of food. When home cooks do have food waste, there are better options than the trash can. Food scraps in the trash generate bacteria and germs that can multiply and affect the hygiene of a kitchen. These food scraps are also bound for landfills, where they’ll contribute to damaging the ozone layer.
Composting can be a viable option for many families, as can a garbage disposal. Many may not realize it, but using an advanced garbage disposal like Emerson’s InSinkErator is an environmentally sustainable choice for food waste. InSinkErator garbage disposals grind even the toughest foods into tiny pieces. From there, food waste is sent through a home’s wastewater plumbing to treatment facilities equipped to handle the small particles. In many cases, wastewater facilities are able to use specialized equipment called anaerobic digesters to capture the methane from food breaking down and turn it into renewable energy. This is a win for consumers who want to do their part – and a win for the environment as well.
Food waste is a challenge that every family faces. But with the right information and food-waste fighting tools like the InSinkErator at your disposal, every household can make an impact.
Joe Dillon is president of Emerson’s InSinkErator business. Since its inception in 1938, garbage disposal inventor InSinkErator has kept 80 million tons of food waste out of landfills.