How to reduce food waste this holiday season

Pete Pearson works on food waste prevention and the intersection of agriculture and wildlife. Follow him on Twitter @petedpearson.

The holiday season is upon us, which means spending time with friends and family. And it almost certainly means enjoying holiday parties where food is front and center during the celebration. As the “food waste guy” at WWF, I always attract comments at the buffet line. Without doubt, I will hear calls to “clean my plate” and “we’d better not waste food with Pete around.”

While the attention can be repetitive, we might all need a “food waste guy” around to remind us how our attitude about food needs to change.

Agriculture accounts for 70% of the fresh water used by people and nearly 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
About 29% of global fish stocks are over-exploited and 61% are fully-exploited.
Agriculture is the largest driver of tropical deforestation.
The EPA estimates that during the holidays our household waste increases by about 25%.

My job at WWF was created to promote a more efficient food system that reduces waste. When we throw away food, we’re also throwing away the land, water, and energy used to produce that food.

Agriculture is vital for human survival, but its expansion is the leading cause of stress on the last remaining biodiverse regions around the globe—this at a time when we grow enough food to feed everyone and between 30-40% of what we grow never makes it to a dinner plate.

If we can make more food available from what’s already produced—by minimizing waste—we might slow deforestation in the Amazon or preserve the grasslands in the Northern Great Plains.

If you’re passionate about conservation, consider this: preventing and reducing food waste is one of the best things you can do to conserve natural resources and wildlife.

This holiday season, avoid tossing food in the trash by taking these steps:

Try not to over prepare food; instead try to prepare “just enough.”
Encourage friends and family to take leftovers home.
Store leftovers in the freezer to enjoy after you’ve had a break from them for a little while.
Search “holiday leftover recipes” online for new ideas.

The key is to get creative and prevent waste from even occurring. Make preventing food waste your personal act of conservation.

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