Reducing Waste Of All Kinds
05/16/2008 | It is estimated that families now need to spend approximately $2,000 more on groceries than last year. This is the recent finding of the UK Daily Mail’s Cost of Living Index.
Paradoxically, billions of dollars worth of uneaten food are thrown out each year by most countries. The UK Waste and Resources Action Programme found that Britons alone waste approximately $20 billion worth of food a year due to people throwing away food that wasn’t eaten in time or leftovers that weren’t consumed.
These studies are certainly applicable to Bermuda, where consumers are reeling from increased grocery bills, whilst the Residential Waste Audit in 2006 found that 18% of Bermuda’s household waste was food waste (broadly defined as any organic waste, including peelings).
The result is that our wastefulness is costing us three times over: we pay hard-earned money for food we don’t eat; we create inexcusably high volumes of waste that contribute carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, thus threatening environmental and human health; plus, there are significant environmental costs of growing, processing, packaging, transporting and refrigerating of food that only ends up in the garbage.
So, the question we need to address is: as consumers, what changes do we need to make to our consumption habits in order to reduce our expenses and our waste?
Here are some easy changes you can make to reduce your grocery bill and the amount of your household waste:
Buy only what you need. The best way to do this is to plan your meals in advance for the week, using key ingredients for more than one meal and leftovers for others. A roast chicken with veggies is a great Sunday dinner, that transfers well to lunch sandwiches, soups and casseroles.
Base your meals around products that are on sale or that you have on hand. You can do a search by ingredients at sites like www.allrecipes.com to make it easy. For instance, when broccoli is available on sale, you can do an ingredient search to use it as a base for the week: chicken broccoli divan, broccoli salad, pasta salad with broccoli, broccoli quiche, broccoli fish bake.
Do not throw out leftovers. For many people, no thought is given to cleaning a plate out into the garbage. It’s how they were raised. However, for those who spent a great deal of time with grandparents who survived the depression, you’ll usually see the over-80 crowd holding onto even the smallest remnants of a meal for later, re-using their saran wrap, tin foil and paper towels, and making a lot of soups from scraps of vegetables, pasta, beans and meat.
Compost. Composting really is a lot simpler and rewarding than most people realize. Use an old large coffee tin or Tupperware with a lid to put all your biodegradable scraps of kitchen refuse throughout the week (or a garbage bin, if you have the kitchen space) emptying it in a compost bin or even just a wood-enclosed box in your backyard. Carbon rich materials such as ground coffee, fruit and tea leaves and nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings work well together. Visit www.compostguide.com for information on setting up a home compost.
Buy in bulk rather than individual serving sizes in order to reduce packaging and to assist in planning weekly meals. Oftentimes the unit price is lower than individual servings, saving you considerable money. Doing it yourself saves considerable money too, such as grating your own cheese, washing and slicing your own lettuce, and mixing your own cookie or muffin dough rather than buying pre-packaged.
Finally, always recycle. Tin, aluminum and glass can all be recycled, including tin foil, steel products, and lass jars. To further reduce your waste, avoid disposable products such as razors, batteries, and cheap plastic toys that will break after one use. Many question whether Bermuda’s recycling centre really does anything with these products. If you’re not convinced, schedule a tour of the new state-of-the-art recycling centre by phoning the Waste Management Section of Ministry of Works and Engineering at tel. 297-7699.