Sometimes, learning about the planetary damage caused by human activities can feel overwhelming. That’s why SafeBee is breaking down complex issues and discussing ways we can lessen consumption’s negative impacts, especially as we near Earth Day 2018. One way is by reducing food waste.

In America, we waste up to 40 percent of food, according to the National Resource Defense Council, averaging 400 pounds of food per person per year. Growing, processing, transporting and disposing of this wasted food costs the U.S. about $218 billion a year. That breaks down to about $1,800 annually for the average U.S. household of four.

In addition to monetary costs, wasted food has environmental costs. One is carbon emissions, a contributor to climate change. Impacts from climate-related extremes, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Climate Change 2014 report, include heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, morbidity and mortality, and consequences for mental health and human well-being.

Worldwide, food waste is estimated to be responsible for 6.7 percent of all global greenhouse gases, according to an assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, primarily as methane gas. Methane gas as a pollutant is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, and 84 times more potent during a 20-year period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Additionally, all of this wasted food consumes landfill space and cropland. One-third of landfill space is made up of compostable materials, and as we fill landfills, we will need to convert more land into landfills, as well as plow under more land for crops.

The wasted food also uses up an estimated 24 percent of the world’s clean water, according to a World Resources Institute working paper. That’s 45 trillion gallons of water worldwide every single year.

We can all make a difference by reducing our own food waste, which will help our families save money - and help the environment. Implement these ideas in your family’s life, and pass them along to friends.

How to Reduce Food Waste

The EPA offers up these tips:

  • Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  • Plan your menu before you go shopping, then buy only those things on your menu.
  • Buy only what you will use.
  • Use food in creative ways. For instance, turn stale bread into croutons; sauté beet tops for a yummy side dish.
  • Freeze, preserve or can surplus fruits and vegetables.
  • At restaurants, if you order more than you can finish, take home the leftovers for your next meal. At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.

Other tips:

  • Share leftovers with friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors; or freeze leftovers in airtight packaging.
  • Compost spoiled food, which produces very little methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Also, composting converts the food waste into valuable organic material, reducing the need for fertilizers. This applied on a large scale adds up quickly. Rodale Institute found that using compost reduced carbon dioxide per hectare of cropland per year by 10,802 pounds more than using conventional manure fertilizer, and helped protect waterways from nitrogen runoff. If your city does not offer curbside compost pickup, you can purchase a compost bin for your backyard that makes it easy to compost, or start your own compost pile.
  • Go to the NRDC’s Save the Food website, which includes additional tips, the Guest-imator app for help planning the right amount of food for a dinner party, and Handpick, which generates delicious recipes for foods you enter into the app. It’s a good way to find ways to use food before it spoils.

All of these tips together will save your family money – and help the planet. Be sure to share these tips with friends and extended family members. As the saying goes, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” (Gandhi)