By: Lorelei Elkins

Sharing a meal has always been part of the human story – more than just taking in nutrients for survival. It’s about sharing stories, bonding, and making new friends. It’s a creative outlet for some and it is when we count our blessings. Holiday food traditions are what many people look forward to the most this time of year. (It’s why we need our Maintain Don’t Gain challenges!) Here’s the thing; we generate about 33% more food waste this time of year compared to the rest of the year. Now don’t take it upon yourself to eat 33% MORE of the food because you’re concerned about holiday food waste, that’s not going to fly, (nice try!)

If you’re passionate about conservation and the environment, consider this: preventing and reducing food waste is one of the best things you can do to conserve not only natural resources, but reduce energy consumption and protect wildlife habitat.

Reducing our food waste:
• Saves money by purchasing less food.
• Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your impact on the environment.
• Conserves energy and resources by preventing the pollution involved in growing, manufacturing and transporting food.
• Conserves energy and improves air quality by reducing the tonnage of waste hauled to the landfill with huge diesel trucks.
• Reduces the amount of natural area needed for landfills (and all the associated social and environmental issues) to accommodate the extra waste.
See, there’s really no downside!

Here are a few tips to keep food out of the waste stream:
• Encourage friends and family to take leftovers home. (This one’s popular!)
• Try not to over prepare food – make just enough.
• Plan ahead by making a list including amounts and shop for just what you need.
• Take smaller portions on your plate.
• Store leftovers in the freezer to enjoy later.
• Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up.
• Cook what you already have at home before buying more.
• Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” and expiration dates.
• For larger amounts of food, contact your local food bank to see which ones accept holiday meal leftovers.
Compost everything you can.
Most of our uneaten food and food scraps end up rotting in the landfills. The Natural Resources Defense Council shows that more than 100 billion pounds ends up being thrown away every year. Yikes! Tis not the season to be wasteful, Tis the season to be jolly!