Is it just me, or does Earth Day have a way of making people feel fundamentally bad about themselves? It's like January 1st all over again, except this time it's not my holiday belly I'm scrutinizing — it's my plastic consumption, or my less-than-conscientious water usage. (I'm not one for long showers, but I am guilty of sometimes letting the faucet run while I brush my teeth.) Just like with New Year's resolutions, I set myself up for failure by raising the bar for improvement too impossibly high. This will be the year I start walking to work every day! This will be the year I always remember my reusable bags at the grocery store! But alas, walking isn't possible in all weather, and trips to the grocery store are often spontaneous — and I don't always have a trio of large canvas totes on hand. The real irony is that I probably laid out one of my elaborate energy-saving schemes while munching on a lightly bruised apple, destined for the trash after just six or seven bites.
We all want an A for effort, but reducing one's carbon footprint goes well beyond tossing plastic to-go cups in the correct bin. I know that now, after reading how 40 percent of all food in America goes to waste — and specifically, to our landfills. It seems unreal; you wouldn't slave over a gorgeous meal only to dump 40 percent of it into the trash. ( You wouldn’t dream of running your shower for two hours either, but that’s how much water goes into making a pound of cheese.) What's more is that this waste adds up to $162 billion in unnecessary water, energy and production costs each year. Much as I would love to blame it all on restaurants and large corporations, the hard truth is that it's individual consumers like you and me who throw out 20 percent of the food we buy, which translates to nearly 300 pounds of food per year! Don't believe it? Just ask Anthony Bourdain, the most-influential voice of the current food waste conversation.
This is just to say that my approach to environmental stewardship has historically been all wrong. Food waste was never my focus — yet buying only what's needed and using it all is one of the easiest, most-effective ways to benefit the planet in everyday life. Rather than set myself up for failure again, I'll start off small by adopting these simple food recovery practices from Food Network Kitchen and our friends over at SaveTheFood.com. Think you can stick to them too?
The 10 Commandments of Food Recovery:
1. Keep herbs like cut flowers – with their stems in a glass of water.
2. Keep flour fresher almost twice as long by freezing it.
3. Place ripe avocados in the fridge — that way, they’ll last longer.
4. Wrap leftover cheese loosely in wax paper, not plastic.
5. Use a slice of bread to soften up hardened brown sugar.
6. Save Parmesan rinds and use them to give stocks and sauces depth and umami flavor.
7. Use citrus rinds to flavor simple syrups; add zest to smoothies, soups, salads and baked goods.
8. Transform stale bread into croutons, breadcrumbs or a panzanella salad.
9. Turn wilting herbs into pesto or chimichurri sauce.
10. Save fryer oil and reuse throughout the week. (It doesn’t need to be thrown out after one use, so long as nothing burned in previous rounds.)