And why at least one banana always ends up in the trash…
Over the past five months, Global Green has been piloting a food waste collection system in 30 multi-family buildings across 10 cities in the US, with the generous support from Walmart Foundation. In addition to distributing compost pails and visual guides illustrating what can and can’t be placed in the green bins, we have been carrying out a food waste prevention campaign.
Around 40% of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten, and even though collecting that organic waste and turning it into compost has its environmental benefits, it certainly doesn’t outweigh the massive amounts of energy, water, and land that go towards food production. Thus, preventing food waste before it happens is essential for our sustainable future.
Global Green developed a number of materials modeled after EPA’s Food Too Good to Waste campaign, with tips for improving our behavior and preventing edible food from spoiling. We currently have the materials in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese, and we’re hoping to translate them into more languages for maximum community engagement. Read on for a description of our outreach materials, all of which are available to download below.
Our food waste prevention toolkit comes with a large Eat First! sign, to be placed under the most perishable item in the fridge. Research shows that a substantial percentage of what gets thrown away are items that we simply forget about. (Remember when you left that banana behind the salad bowl, only to find it all brown and rotting a few weeks later?)
We also distribute a smart storage checklist, which indicates which fruits and vegetables should be stored in the fridge and which ones at room temperature. It’s straightforward but many of us still don’t know that bananas are better off outside of the fridge to ripen properly.
Our smart shopping guide reminds people to always plan their meals in advance and bring a shopping list to the supermarket. This has been proven to help us waste less and also save money by not buying unnecessary products in the first place. Further, we all know that shopping while ravenous does not lead to making good choices and getting the right products or the right amounts.
In addition, we invite tenants to participate in a voluntary survey about their view of food waste diversion, divided in two parts: a pre-survey done at the time of receiving the compost pail and food waste prevention toolkit, and a post-survey, distributed to participants by phone or email a month after receiving their compost bin. As an incentive for survey participants, we enter them into a raffle for a gift card or a gift package with clever food preservation tools, such as clear storage containers (seeing our food ensures we don’t forget about it) and produce bags that preserve veggies and greens for longer. Raffles have also included reusable bamboo cutlery (because disposable plastic utensils are usually not recyclable) and reusable grocery bags.
Some of the highlights of the surveys included rating questions for the difficulty of separating food waste at home and the importance of composting organic waste. Even though we haven’t finalized our data collection and analysis, we’re already seeing trends emerging. To our pleasant surprise, most people rated composting food scraps as very important in both the pre- and the post-survey. Even more encouraging to our efforts, a significant number of participants felt food waste collection was easier after they had tried it for a few weeks than at the beginning. This hints at a bright future for our vision of widespread food waste diversion programs with strong participation from the public.
Don’t forget to check out our infographics and the full body of the surveys below!