Practicing sustainability with food storage

It's easy to be more sustainable with how you use and store food. According to the EPA, about 95 percent of our food waste ends up in landfills. You can reduce food waste by buying strategically for your family's needs and storing it properly.

In addition, it's better for the environment and for your family's health to use storage containers that are nontoxic and long-lasting. Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. Plastic containers often contain BPA, the risk of which grows when we heat the plastic (as happens in the microwave or dishwasher). 

Buying and cooking

Wasting less food starts with shopping smart. Create a meal plan or list of foods you or your family usually consume in a week, and buy those. If you often end up with more fruits and vegetables than you can use while they're fresh, consider shopping more frequently but in smaller amounts.

Chop up a week's worth of produce items, so they're ready to go when needed—it will make it less likely they'll languish in the fridge and spoil. Take it one step further and prepare entire dishes in advance, refrigerating or freezing them to eat later on.

Learn to adapt recipes or improvise your own, based on what's in the house right now. Use up leftovers and veggies by creating your own soups, salads or casseroles from available ingredients. Who knows—you might end up inventing the next favorite family recipe.

The fridge and freezer

There are plenty of long-lasting alternatives to plastic refrigerator containers. In the mid-20th century, people used glass refrigerator dishes in fun matching sets. They're still around, if you're into the vintage look. Today, you can also store your items in myriad glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers to avoid using plastic.

Freezing groceries reduces food waste and allows you to buy in bulk, but make sure you don't then fill your freezer with items wrapped in plastic. A greener choice would be to use mason jars or empty milk and juice cartons. If you use glass, reduce the risk of cracking by choosing containers that are relatively thick, and allow the contents to freeze before putting on the lid.

Portable snack bags

Many of us are used to packing school lunches or office-to-gym snacks in plastic sandwich bags. But that adds up to a lot of waste, even if you reuse each one a few times. Of course, you can use glass, steel or BPA-free plastic containers for food, but if you want a lightweight option for hauling around all day, try reusable snack bags.

Many companies make cloth snack bags that are easy to wipe clean or even throw into the washing machine. See this article from Kitchen Stewardship for a rundown of some of the options, with photos and reviews of each.

See more quick tips on green household practices