Yard & Food Waste Collection: July 27th and August 3rd

Due to driver shortages, some yard & food waste routes in Northeast and Central Seattle were not completed last Friday, July 27. Residential customers in Northeast or Central Seattle whose yard and food waste were not collected on Friday, July 27, should bring in your containers and set them out next Friday, August 3 for collection. These customers can set out a double amount of yard & food waste on this Friday at no extra charge.

Head Back to School with a Waste-Free Lunch

It’s back-to-school time, which means your kids’ backpacks have pulled out of the closet and filled with trapper keepers, Yikes! pencils, Pee Chee folders, and five or six of those sweet RSVP pens that you can pass notes in.

Ok, clearly I went to school in the 90’s. Things have probably changed a bit since then…

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is school lunches—more specifically, the waste created by school lunches.

Plastic sandwich bags, aluminum foil, juice boxes, plastic utensils, single serving and all the other materials that make up the average student’s sack lunch create a lot of trash. In fact, its estimated that the average school-age child who brings their lunch to school generates around 67 pounds of waste per school year!* That amount of waste is bad for the environment and hard on your wallet.

You can do the earth and your wallet a favor this year by packing waste-free lunches for your child. Follow these tips below, then check out a couple of our favorite waste-free lunch resources.

Waste-Free Lunch Tips

  1. Swap the brown paper bag for a lunchbox or a reusable cloth bag.
  2. Skip the juice boxes—reusable water bottles are a smart replacement.
  3. Forget the single-serving snack packs—petite snack containers can carry the same small amount and be used over and over again.
  4. Avoid packing paper napkins. Cloth napkins can be washed and reused.
  5. Instead of plastic sandwich bags, wrap sandwiches in a cloth wrapper, or pack them in a reusable container with a lid on it.

For more waste-free lunch tips, check out a few of our favorite resources:

Food Waste Prevention: Storage

Food waste is a significant problem. Americans throw away approximately $165 billion worth of food each year, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The good news is that we can implement changes that can make a big difference.

During the month of September, SPU will be featuring tips to prevent food waste. This week, we will talk about ways you can prevent food waste at home.

When most Seattle residents think of food waste, they think of composting. While composting is fantastic (and required in Seattle), it is even better to eat the food we purchase than to compost it. Why? When you throw away an apple, you’re also throwing away all of the water, energy, and other resources used to grow that apple and get it to your plate! Once you have thoughtfully purchased your food, proper storage will keep it fresh so that you have the maximum amount of time to use it.

Below are tips on how to properly store some common fruits and veggies.

Vegetable Storage

Asparagus

  • Remove bands and ties. Store upright in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top in the fridge.

Broccoli

  • Wrap in a damp towel and store in your fridge’s crisper drawer.

Corn

  • Store loose in the fridge.

Mushrooms

  • Store in a paper bag in the fridge.

Parsnips

  • Store in a sealed container with a dry towel in the fridge.

Fruit Storage

Berries

  • Store in a shallow container lined with a dry towel in the fridge; leave lid slightly cracked for air circulation. Wash only when ready to eat.
  • Berries can be more susceptible to mold than some other fruits, and too much moisture is often the culprit. Storing in an unsealed container increases air circulation and helps prevent mold, as does washing only prior to eating.

Citrus Fruits

  • Store loose in your fridge’s crisper drawer.

Grapes, Peaches, Melons, and most other fruit

  • Ripen on the counter, then store in the fridge.

Pomegranates

  • Store loose in the fridge.

Wondering why you sometimes need the help of a damp towel or a paper bag? Damp towels help maintain proper humidity for produce that require more moisture, while paper bags do the opposite — they absorb excess moisture without letting produce dry out completely.

So now that your produce has been stored for maximum freshness, what should you cook up? Next week we’ll feature recipes and tips for making the most of your food. Can’t wait? Check out our food waste prevention resources here.

For more vegetable and fruit storage tips click here.
If you can’t eat food before it goes bad, you can freeze it for later use — but this shouldn’t happen because you used our tips from last week for planning and shopping efficiently.

Food Waste Prevention: the Grocery Store

Food waste is a significant problem. Americans throw away approximately $165 billion worth of food each year, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The good news is that we can implement changes that can make a big difference.

During the month of September, the At Your Service blog will feature tips to prevent food waste. This week, we’ll talk about ways you can prevent food waste at the grocery store. In the upcoming weeks we’ll also discuss food storage, using leftovers, and composting.

When most Seattle residents think of food waste, they think of composting. While composting is fantastic (and required in Seattle), it’s even better to eat the food we purchase than to compost it. Why? When you throw away an apple, you’re also throwing away all of the water, energy, and other resources used to grow that apple and get it to your plate! Before we can eat our food, we (usually) have to buy it. So, the very first step in food waste prevention is to plan out your grocery list.

Plan Ahead

The quote “failing to plan is planning to fail” is widely attributed to Alan Lakein, and well, we think Lakein has a good point. Taking the time to thoughtfully plan out your grocery list will help you avoid excessive and impulse buying. Bulk or sale items may be enticing, but if you don’t end up using all of the food you purchase, then you’re wasting both food and money. Having a predetermined grocery list and sticking to it will save time, money, and food waste by making sure you are only buying as many groceries as you need and plan to use. There are even apps that will help you make and manage your grocery list, if you don’t want to go the traditional pen and paper route.

Check Your Kitchen

Before you leave for the store, make sure you know what you already have in your cupboards, fridge, and pantry. Don’t accidentally buy another carton of eggs or more bananas if you already have those items. If you don’t want to take the time for a thorough look through, snap a picture of your fridge or pantry so you can easily double-check when you’re at the store.

Equipped with your carefully thought out grocery list, you’re ready to conquer the grocery store… right? Not so fast. Remember to give “ugly” produce a chance.

The Illusion of Produce Perfection

Picture your local grocery store’s produce section. Did an image of perfectly stacked, shiny, colorful produce come to mind? We bet it looked similar to the picture at the top of this blog post. Attractiveness sells, which is why an estimated 6 billion pounds of “ugly” produce is wasted every year. But don’t fall for the illusion of perfection. When it comes to produce, just like books and people, it’s what is on the inside that counts. A funny shaped potato, orange, or carrot is just as delicious and nutritious as its “perfect” counterpart. Buying “ugly” produce will save them from being tossed into the landfill for merely superficial reasons. Learn from “Wonky” Mr. Potato Head — all shapes and sizes are great! An added bonus is that some grocery stores will even sell “imperfect” produce at a discounted price.

Now that you’ve efficiently planned and bought your groceries, how do you keep them fresh so you have more time to use them? Stay tuned for our fruit and vegetable storage tips next week. Can’t wait? Check out our food waste prevention resources here.

Photo courtesy of Guy Montag via flickr.

Lower Your Carbon “Foodprint”

By now, you’ve probably heard of a carbon footprint, where you measure the carbon associated with your daily activities, like commuting, heating/cooling your home and taking trips. But one of the biggest choices you make to impact the climate may be related to food, or your carbon “foodprint.”

Food production is very energy intensive, as it includes direct emissions from food growing, as well as energy associated with transport, food production, processing, packaging and distribution. Food waste is another big contributor (food in a landfill doesn’t break down as it does when composted, instead releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas). This is particularly impactful when otherwise edible food is thrown out – all the energy it took to grow the food is lost, too.

But there are plenty of ways to lower the impact of what you eat. First, you can take a quick survey to find out your carbon foodprint, which will give you a better idea of how various food choices impact the environment. You might be surprised by a few things, especially if you love dairy…

No one wants to waste food, but it happens. In fact, Americans waste about 25 percent of all food and drinks we buy, adding up to more than $1,600 each year. Ouch! Luckily, there are ways to prevent a lot of waste and some good tools out there to help us along the way. Check out the Food, Too Good to Waste toolkit to learn tips on planning meals, shopping, preparing and storing food (hint, basil will last longer outside the fridge!).

Some things you just have to toss, so don’t forget to throw your scraps in the compost or yard collection bin (or feed to chickens if you have them, they’re some of the best recyclers around).