Zero Waste Team Helps Reduce Food Waste

By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
kirsten@ladailypost.com
 
What’s the best tool for saving the environment? Education. And currently, a team of Zero Waste Team members are spreading the word about food waste reduction to local restaurants.
 
According to a report presented during a recent Environmental Sustainability Board meeting, the team visited 13 of the 26 local eateries on how they can reduce waste.
 
Jody Benson, a member of the team, told the Los Alamos Daily Post, “Our goal initially was to tell them that waste reduction is good for the bottom line.”
 
She added that team members were interested in finding out if there were ways the County could assist in reducing food waste.
 
What the team discovered was many restaurant owners and staff are interested in food reduction although how much food customers or staff toss out wasn’t known. Benson said many were interested in sending leftover food either to a food bank or to be composted.
 
She added some restaurants already practice some food reduction methods. For instance, Ruby K’s provides day-old bagels to the high school and Yaun’s Dumpling and Noodle House will provide leftover food either to the owners’ church or to friends.
 
Furthermore, Blue Window Bistro owner Melissa Paternoster is very committed to using green practices in her business, Benson said.
 
Environmental Services Division Manager, Angelica Gurule said the goal is to reduce the food waste sent to landfill. This, she said, can be accomplished either by reducing food waste to begin with, food donation or composting.
 
However, County-operated food composting currently isn’t feasible due the expense, Gurule said. Another highly effective tool to accomplish this goal is education, she said.
 
Despite everyone needing food to survive, 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. alone is wasted, she said, which adds to greenhouse gas emissions.
 
“That’s why it (food waste reduction) is such a power way to reduce greenhouse gas,” Gurule said.
 
Benson and Gurule provided ways to cut down on the waste. The methods ranged from restaurants serving smaller portions to diners sharing meals or bringing their own containers for any leftover food. They also suggested restaurants collaborate with local service organizations such as Famine to Feast to deliver uneaten food to those in need.
 
One of the most effective tools in reducing food waste is planning, Gurule said. This is something both restaurants and residents can do. Gurule recommends people develop a menu of meals for the week.
 
To encourage restaurants to go green and honor those that do practice environmental sustainability, the Zero Waste team is considering awarding green restaurant certificates. Additionally, Benson said there is some discussion of holding programs that would educate restaurant owners on going green.
 
“We want to keep educating and let them know resources are available,” Benson said.
 

Zero Waste Team’s Recommendations On How Restaurants And Other Businesses Can Cut Down On Waste:

  • More recycle dumpsters more conveniently located nearer the vendors.  All our vendors would like this convenience.
  • More frequent pickup of recycle.
  • Local glass recycle especially for restaurants serving alcohol.
  • Cardboard recycle for every single business, with more frequent pickups. Cardboard recycling is FREE!
  • County (or some kind of) reliable compost pickup.
  • Education! Formal, County-supplied education of owners, management, and staff as to what’s recyclable, what’s not, and that it costs not only the County, but the Earth, to have contaminated recycle.
  • Energy audits for businesses to give them both a clear indication of current energy use and a baseline for comparing progress.
  • Offer/train staff to do a food waste audit
  • Develop a prestigious award for restaurants and other businesses when they meet the County-developed Green criteria.

If you are interested in joining the Zero Waste team email zerowaste@lacnm.us

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