How Your Family Can Reduce Food Waste This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us, which means we’ll be spending time with friends and family, exchanging presents, and enjoying festive meals. Of course, working off all those indulgences will be relatively easy for the 53% of adults who meet the CDC’s guidelines for aerobic physical activity. But there may be other reasons to have food-related guilt during the holidays. And we’re not talking about spending the entire afternoon on the iPhone you just bought after a holiday meal.

That’s because, according to statistics, we waste a lot of what we buy and prepare. While the average person generates over four pounds of trash each and every day, Americans throw away 25% more trash than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That equates to nearly 1 million extra tons of garbage every week, as reported by the National Environmental Education Foundation. On Thanksgiving alone, roughly 200 million pounds of turkey are thrown away. And considering that Americans waste 50% more food today than they did in the 1970s, the problem extends beyond the holiday season. Even more alarming is the fact that approximately 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted.

For families who want to protect the planet, it’s important to remember what this holiday season is really about. While companies want American consumers to focus on extravagance and making sure they have everything they need to make the holidays special, the truth is that we could all focus a little more on being thankful for — and making the most of — what we already have. In other words, it’s possible to host an incredible holiday celebration without contributing to our already out-of-control waste problem.

For one thing, you’ll want to be smarter about your holiday food shopping. Planning out the menu and proper portion sizes before you head to the grocery store will allow you to avoid the trap of making too much. After all, if you’re worried you won’t have enough food, you’re more likely to go overboard with the cooking. You should also consider shopping locally, if you can. Although one-third of homeowners say they switch to a healthier lifestyle after a kitchen remodel, buying local produce for your Thanksgiving feast or Christmas dinner can encourage you to try new dishes that will delight everyone at the table. If you can follow the “root to stem” method, all the better. Use as much of these items as you possibly can to prevent waste and venture outside your culinary comfort zone.

Of course, you may love holiday leftovers — and there’s nothing wrong with that! But make sure you’re committed to using up that leftover food. If there’s too much to keep at home, send your guests off with an extra portion to enjoy (in a reusable or recyclable to-go container). After all, you’ll probably be too busy recovering on your sofa — where you might be sitting for more than the average of four hours a day during the holidays —  to use all of your leftovers. You might also consider the ways in which you’ll plan on repurposing your leftovers so that you don’t tire of them. And if there are any fruits and veggies you know will go to waste, consider composting them to improve your landscaping. You could even sign the family up for a composting program as part of a New Year’s resolution.

Although some waste may be unavoidable — and no one is perfectly sustainable all the time — these tips can help guide you through the season. By making sensible choices about holiday cooking and eating, you’ll be able to do your part and feel truly merry.

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