12 Easy Steps to Reduce Food-Related Waste

Over the past few months, I have been challenging myself to minimize the amount of food and inorganic material waste that my family and I create.  Though I have been composting since 2013, I’ve become humbly aware of how much single-use plastic and paper products we dispose of on a regular basis.  From produce bags and food packaging to straws at restaurants to take-out drink/food containers when traveling… It’s mindboggling how much waste we can create and unflinchingly consume.  By making a few small changes in my life, however, I’ve been able to significantly reduce the amount of waste we create as a household and while I’m on-the-go.  Below are 12 easy yet impactful steps you and your family can take today to reduce food-related waste.

My inextinguishable inspiration is my 22-month-old son. I want his generation to know an ocean in which there are more fish than plastic for years to come.  I want him to understand how our food scraps can be returned to the earth to replenish the soil, as well as why composting helps reduce the amount of methane gas produced by landfills.  And, I want him to believe that his small gestures can have an impact on a larger scale; just as yours and mine can.  Let’s work together to create positive change.  Also, as I have found, these efforts have not felt restrictive or difficult.  Instead, they are empowering.  Another unexpected bonus: They’ve helped me become more organized!

12 Easy Steps to Reduce Food-Related Waste

  1. Compost 
    • Did you know that over 20% of our landfills are filled with food waste? When organic material gets trapped under piles of inorganic waste it doesn’t readily biodegrade and subsequently creates increased amounts of methane gas. Learn more about how composting can make the earth greener on this past Arogya blog. We also love these composting tips on the Grace Communications Foundation’s website, including what to do if you don’t have space for a compost bin. Not a gardener? Share your compost with a green-thumbed friend.
  2. Bring reusable produce/bulk bags to the store in addition to shopping bags.
    • Invest in a set of reusable produce and bulk shopping bags. I recently found a lovely set of organic cotton drawstring bags online and couldn’t be happier!  These bags are also a healthier choice as plastic can leach toxins into your food.

    These organic cotton bags are perfect for bulk items and fresh produce. They’re also great for carrying my homemade sourdough to a friend.

  3. Make an effort to shop in bulk (with your reusable bags).
    • In addition to minimizing the reliance on plastic bags, you’ll save money!
  4. Drink loose leaf tea

    Drinking loose leaf tea, such as our moonlight white tea, is a better choice for the environment.

    • Reduce packaging waste and enjoy a healthier and higher quality product by sipping loose leaf tea instead of bagged tea.  Loose leaf teas are also more likely to be grown with sustainable farming methods.  You can learn a lot more about loose leaf tea on the World of Tea section of our blog, as well as on our website.
    • If you enjoy coffee, invest in whole organic, shade grown beans. In addition to being delicious and healthier for you and the earth, it only takes moments to grind and brew sustainably grown coffee using a pour-over method.  Keep coffee warm with a flame-tamer on gas stoves or a warming center setting on electric stoves. Avoid the use of K-cups as they produce tremendous amounts of waste and have been found to leach chemicals into the brewed product. For more info on sustainable coffee, check out this blog by the Nature Conservancy.
    • Nitrogen-rich tea leaves and coffee grinds are wonderful for your compost bin! Return them to the earth.
  5. Invest in glass food storage containers (and reuse jars from the store)
    • Store bulk purchased food in glass containers, such as canning jars or airtight glass vessels. Smaller jars, such as those that once housed sauces and mustard, can be perfect for spices, nuts, and dried fruit.
  6. Always have a refillable water bottle on hand
    • Make an effort to leave the house with a full bottle of water. If you’re on the go a lot, check out collapsible water vessels, such as the HYDAWAY water bottle. There are also a number of collapsible tea/coffee cups on the market.  I always keep a few extra glass bottles in my car (such as empty kombucha bottles), too. On the subject of kombucha: If you enjoy drinking it, it’s quite easy to make! You can do so using our organic Assam or other black teas.
  7. Bring a bagged lunch.
    • If you’re not used to packing lunch, the task might feel daunting at first. With a little extra planning, however, doing so on a regular basis can nourish your body and soul. Plus, bringing food from home is highly cost effective.
    • Here are a few tactics that can help:
      • Make extra food for dinner the night before. You can enjoy the same meal for lunch the next day or dress up part of it a little differently in the morning (i.e. add roasted vegetables or lean protein from the night before to salad greens).
      • Carve out a little extra time in the morning to make a quick yet nourishing lunch. My go-to meals are sautéed veggies with soba noodles and/or tofu, veggies with leftover chicken or fish, and salad with a simple homemade dressing.
      • Have a designated lunch bag to make packing easy (insulated bags are great!). Try to remember flatware in addition to your food. I like to wrap mine in a cloth napkin.
  8. Create a “Zero Waste Kit”
    • I recently came across these great tips from zero waste blogger Emily Charles-Donelson. Her kit is perfect for the days when you don’t have a chance to bring your own lunch.
  9.  Support your local farms and farmer’s markets.
    • In addition to support sustainable agricultural methods, local farmers are far less likely to use excessive food packaging on their produce.
  10.  Reduce or eliminate paper towel and napkin use
    • Microfiber clothes are great for wiping spills or cleaning counter space. Keep one designated for floor use under your kitchen sink. We also have a stack of old dishcloths for soaking up more heavy duty floor spills (these are inevitable as our tot loves playing with the cat’s water bowl).
    • If you do use paper towels, compost them instead of putting them in the landfill.
    • Use simple cloth napkins at the dinner table.
  11.  Avoid wasting food.
    • America leads the world in the amount of food that’s thrown away. Counter this trend by:
      • Planning meals ahead (or loose outlines for meals) so you buy only what you need
      • Use over-ripe fruit for baking (i.e. banana bread), fruit compotes, or other culinary experiments (super ripe peach and roasted chicken? Why not!)
      • As the mother of a toddler, I’m learning the importance of giving my son small portions to start with. Though he’s quite a good eater, there are days that he’ll suddenly decide he doesn’t want a food he’s once devoured.
  12.  Start an organic vegetable garden. 
    • Of course, this final step is a little more work and might not be feasible for everyone. If can be tremendously rewarding and a great way to use that compost, however!



Do you have any waste-reducing tips that you’d like to share? Please do!



by Sophie Slater