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Cookie-Container5 Tips for Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen

Did you know that the average household throws away an estimated 15% of the food that comes into the kitchen? If you spend $100 a week on food, that means you’re throwing away $15 a week, $60 a month, and a whopping $720 per year. And it could be a lot more. Not only is this wasteful but it’s bad for your budget. Just think of what you could do with that money! Luckily, there are tons of ways to get a handle on your food waste and save some money in the process. Here are some strategies you should definitely put into effect.

1. Go Euro. We have a tendency to plan our meals for the week, buying all of the ingredients in one fell swoop. But this can be problematic in terms of food waste because fresh items may go bad before the week is out and many nights, overworked parents end up ordering takeout instead of going to the added trouble of making a meal after a long day at work. So take a page from the European playbook. Traditionally, Europeans tend to visit their local, neighborhood market daily to get whatever fresh items they need for their meals. This is a great policy that not only ensures variety and that your foods are at the peak of freshness, but also that there is less food waste from spoilage.

2. Cook in bulk. If you have a lot of extra food in your fridge and you fear it will go bad, simply cook enough for several meals and freeze it in the serving sizes you prefer. When you need a quick meal, all you have to do is thaw and heat your frozen meals. It’s an easy and economical way to use your food instead of letting it go to waste and it makes for easy meals on nights when you just don’t feel like cooking.

3. Make smoothies and sauces. If your fresh produce has a tendency to go bad, consider that there are uses for fruits and veggies that have gotten a little too ripe to look appetizing. So long as they’re not moldy or melting, many fruits and vegetables can be made into delicious smoothies with milk, soymilk, juice, or even water as a base. And if you want a cool and healthy treat for the kids, pour your smoothie into popsicle molds (you can order them on Amazon). As for other veggies, consider steaming them, throwing them in the food processor, and then simmering to make delicious pasta sauces that you can save for later. Produce could also be canned and jammed for later use or to give away as gifts.

4. Host a potluck. Rather than throw food away because you accidentally bought more than you ended up using this week, invite family and friends for a potluck. You can use up all the extra ingredients in your kitchen before they spoil and your guests can provide side dishes or dessert.

5. Use what you’ve got. Every so often, say once a week, it pays to go through your fridge and pantry to see what you’ve got and figure out how to use it in a timely manner. Whether you want to spice up your leftovers or you’ve got a bunch of random ingredients, you can find ways to turn them into appetizing meals with a little creativity. Instead of ordering pizza for dinner, pull out your fondue sets, get some sauces bubbling, and use them for dipping extra veggies and leftovers from the week. Or use a website like Supercook.com or MyFridgeFood.com that allows you to enter ingredients from your kitchen in order to find recipes that you can make with them. You’ll use up anything that might go bad and save some money in the process.

Recycle LogoHow To Reduce, Reuse, Recycle This Summer and Have Fun

Summertime brings with it a number of opportunities for fun and excitement. It’s the most popular time to grow closer to family. It’s the time of the year to consider fun as a significant priority. But we have to face the truth. Although some electric companies can be pretty fair about their prices, paying bills is the furthest thing from fun anybody can think of. Here are three ways to have fun this summer, either alone or with your family, that will both bolster your sense of joy while lowering your environmental impact and expected electric bill.

Make a Game out of Recycling With Sweet Rewards

Most people understand that recycling is becoming a necessity. An increasing percentage of the raw materials we use in day to day life are originating from recycled sources. Normally, being environmentally conscious doesn’t line up with having fun– but here’s where you introduce the game principal. In essence, you can make almost anything fun as long as you make it into an enjoyable game. Make a contest with your family members to see who recycled the most while using something like ice-cream as an incentive. If you live alone, give yourself a dollar for every pound you recycle. Use the money you save o treat yourself to something nice.

MacGyver New Equipment out of Mundane Household

Most people can appreciate MacGyver, even if most of the younger generation has never even seen an episode of the show. His uncanny ability to take mundane materials and create something incredible out of it has been envied for years. Now there’s no need to envy. Using the internet or a few crafts books, you’d be amazed to discover what you could do with household items. You can make art, interactive displays, games, costumes, projects– the list goes on. There are even some gadgets that will lower your monthly utility bills!

Take a Trip Back to Simplicity

We live in a society that’s practically dominated by electricity. Most of our means of entertaining ourselves rely on some sort of electrical power. This causes the bill to hike up, especially in the summer months. But why not take a step back into simplicity? You don’t have to play video games or watch television. You could go for a walk, have family story time, or play a board game. You can lose yourself in the mystery of a good book. There’s no limit to what you can do with some creativity. And your wallet will thank you later.

Author Bio

Annabelle is currently a loving and caring mother of two children. She lives outside of Milwaukee, WI and loves cheering for the Bucks and Badgers. She is a blog enthusiast and loves writing, if she is not writing she is cleaning up after her two lovely angels. She is learning a lot about electricity and what she can do to save money from Texas Electric Retailers.

Fresh-Fruit-BonanzaTop 5 Ways for You and Your Family to Reduce Food Waste at Home

The next time that you put some leftover food into your garbage can, here’s something to think about: Did you know that decaying food, overtime, will turn into what is known as methane gas? Not only is that gas considered to be potentially more harmful to our health than carbon monoxide, but it also significantly contributes to the global warming that is transpiring on our planet. That is definitely enough of a reason to want to seek out ways that you and your family can reduce food waste at home.

If you’d like a few tips on how to do just that, we have provided some really simple things that everyone can help to do below:

Plan out your grocery list ahead of time. Many nutritionists will tell you that it’s not the best idea to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry or without a shopping list. That’s because without one, you will oftentimes purchase things that you don’t really need; that could lead to foods sitting in your refrigerator or pantry well past their expiration date. Therefore, make sure that you write down what you want to get before you go and stick to the list as you shop.

Be smart about your leftovers. Even if you do honor your grocery list, there will be times when you won’t eat all of the meals that you have prepared in one sitting. When that is the case, try to avoiding throwing the food out. Instead, use them as leftovers or “upcycle” them into other meals. For instance, you can turn your leftover baked chicken and broccoli into a pasta dish or some soup or some leftover meatloaf can be turned into some sandwiches.

Don’t discard your fruit. Fresh produce tends to have the shortest shelf life of all of the kinds of foods that you can buy. However, when you notice that your fruit is turning a little brown or that it’s become too ripe, that’s the ideal time to use it for baked bread, muffins or even smoothies.

Remember that you can freeze food. Say that you come up on a really good deal on some meats but you know it will take a while to prepare them? All you have to do is wrap them up and place them into the freezer. Putting meat into the refrigerator will not keep it cold enough and that could cause it to spoil before you’re ready to use it. But, the above freezing temperatures in your freezer will can keep meats in good condition for months at a time.

Set up a compost. If you go to a website like Quoto, you might read the one that talks about turning lemons into lemonade. This is one way to look at how to turn the food that is no longer edible into something that can still be useful. If you have some flowers in your front yard or a garden out back, you can turn your food waste into compost and that can serve as fertilizer for your soil. For more information on how to make compost, visit Composting 101.

How to Prevent Food Waste With Eco-Friendly Storage Options

Finding eco-friendly solutions to everyday problems may not always be easy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that hard, either, especially with a vast community of greenies more than willing to offer advice (and an easy-access forum thanks to the internet). Plus, the green movement has expanded so much in the last several years, what with the growing awareness of the effects of pollution and waste on our planet, that many retailers are now offering eco-products in addition to their traditional wares. So when you come to the conclusion that using disposable plastic baggies or even permanent plastic containers to store your leftovers is an approach that is less than environmentally sound, you’ll be happy to hear that there are plenty of other options that will extend the life of your perishable foodstuffs without contributing to the destruction of the planet. Here are some to consider.

Plenty of people find ways to work with what they already have. Plastic storage bags may not be eco-friendly, but they’re certainly handy. So if you like the convenience but hate to throw them away, avoid the feelings of guilt by reusing them. Many of these bags are fairly resilient, so simply rinse them out with some warm water and dish soap, set them on your drying rack, and use them again and again (unless of course they have had raw meat in them, they’ve harbored mold, or there is some other form of unsanitary conditions…then you may want to toss them). Of course, plastic is probably the worst possible option when it comes to doing your part for the environment, so once you work your way through the plastic bags you’ve got, consider recycling your permanent plastic containers in favor of something a little healthier for the planet and for your family.

You may be hesitant to use aluminum foil because of the damage caused to the earth during the mining of metals that are used to create this kitchen staple, but there is a solution here that’s probably better than plastic. Many stores now carry 100% recycled aluminum foil (even the popular Reynolds brand has started to make this concession), which means that your purchase is actually slowing the roll of this type of mining and showing manufacturers that you prefer the recycled fare (this is how you vote with your consumer dollars). Plus, you can reuse and recycle it on your own, making it a fairly eco-friendly option for food storage.

But the best solution comes in the form of glass. And there are a couple of options here. If you’re lucky, you can get your mom or grandma to part with the family set of vintage refrigerator dishes (often made of Pyrex) which can go from oven to fridge and back again and come with glass lids (unlike modern options that tend to feature plastic lids). You can also find these sets on eBay and even at flea markets and garage sales (a pods promotional code that ends with a storage locker full of junk means you win when the owners finally sell it all off). Just get ready to cough up some dough; they’re not cheap, but they are an investment that will last you for years if you’re careful (and save you over the purchase of disposable plastic items in time). Another option is mason jars. They come in a variety of sizes, and thanks to metal lids that seal air tight you can store solids and liquids without the fear of leakage.

How Students Can Stay Green in College

Although the spring semester is almost over, it’s never too late to start thinking up ways to make your life on campus a little better for the environment. In fact, with finals over you’ll have some time on your hands to plan for your eco-friendly return in the fall. You may not have access to all of the same amenities you enjoy at home (like your mom’s organic vegetable garden, solar panels, a pick-up recycling service, or your family’s electric car), but there is actually a lot you can do to reduce your carbon footprint on campus.

Here are just a few ways to employ the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) while you’re working towards your own bright future.

1. Hike, bike, and bus. One of the easiest ways for most college students to save the environment along with a little money is to eschew the use of a personal vehicle. Yes, a car is a symbol of freedom and it can be quite convenient. But the truth is that most college students can’t really afford all of the expenses that come with a car anyway (insurance, registration, gas, parking, etc.). And whether you live on campus or nearby, you’re likely close enough that you rarely have use for a vehicle anyway. Plus, most campuses offer some kind of discount on bus passes, which are likely a lot less expensive than keeping a car in any case. By making the decision to non-op your car, leave it at home, and walk, bike, or ride the bus, you’ll make a big difference for both your budget and the environment.

2. Conserve. There are so many ways you can conserve, even when you don’t have access to low-flow toilets and alternative energy. For example, you can wait until you have a full load of laundry to run the washer and then use only cold water. You can get long-lasting, low-energy CFLs for your dorm room and use natural light as much as possible. And you can turn off the AC unit and electronics when you’re not in the room.

3. Recycle. Nearly every college campus has instituted some type of recycling program so that all you have to do is take the cans and bottles that build up in your room to a designated drop-box in order to ensure that they don’t clutter up the landfill. However, there are other ways to recycle, as well. For example, when getting rid of clothing of furniture you can donate to a charitable organization (like Goodwill), or if you’re dumping electronics that no longer work you can contact the local trash company about dropping off hazardous materials for free.

4. Ask for organics. The campus cafeteria may not offer organic or local options, but that doesn’t mean you can’t request them. With enough student signatures on a petition you can get the attention of the administration, and if you do the research and present them with locally-sourced, organic options and ways to save money on these items, you might actually do something good for your college and the Earth at the same time.

5. Start a community garden. If you simply can’t get the organic foods you want on campus, think about organizing a community garden. You don’t have to pursue an MSW online in order to help others in your community, and by starting such a project you can bring students together to do something that is good for them and the environment, as well as involving the campus in an outreach project that could have resounding positive ramifications.

Sustainable Play Items – the Green Way to Go!

Green and eco-friendly products are very common these days – there are so many products that make a ‘green’ or eco-friendly claim so that now we come to expect it on the shelves of our supermarkets, on websites or banks who claim to be ‘paperless.’

Have you ever thought about what your children play with and how these items may impact the environment?
Now that summer will be upon us soon, outdoor play is something we should start thinking about now and sustainability should be on our minds.

Some equipment does not last!

Unfortunately, a lot of consumer products we buy for our children are not built to last. Typically, these tend to be the cheaply made plastic toys that break or stop working properly. The sad fact is that usually the cheaper products, which are made of plastic, tend to be the ones that end up in landfills and aren’t biodegradable, so will sit there for many years to come.

What are the greener options?

There are two main things you can do to be more environmentally-friendly when buying play equipment, and in particular outdoor play equipment.

1. Buy to last. This can be a hard one as there are usually no guarantees. It also depends on how boisterous your children are. However, larger items like swings and climbing frames can come with a 10 year warranty – like Action Climbing Frames which can be bought at the Big Game Hunters climbing frame shop, Mad Fun and All Garden Fun, amongst others.

Wooden play items will on the whole have a longer life than many of their plastic counterparts. Apart from a longer life, the wood can be re-used if still in good condition once the play equipment is no longer used or needed and most importantly it will not fill up landfill, as it will eventually degrade.

2. Think about the materials they are made from. A lot of wood that goes into playhouses, climbing frames, tree houses and swings comes from sustainable wood sources. This means that the wood comes from somewhere where they are constantly planting new trees so the amount of trees does not diminish.

Look out for people reusing things to make new play items. Garden Games uses old tyres for its tyre swings, which uses up old tyres, which would otherwise have no use, and makes something fun for children to play on. Rubber does not biodegrade so they can fill up landfills just like plastics! Instead, by using them as swings, they are not sitting in landfills, and costs to the consumer have been reduced as the tires are being reused for this purpose.

About the Author

Written by Abbi Stewart, advisor and creator of play equipment for children at Big Game Hunter’s climbing frames shop at www.climbingframes.com.

Eco-Friendly Shades: Protecting Both Your Eyes and the Earth

As the summer months finally start to roll around, the bright beams of the sun have many individuals reaching for their sunglasses. Currently, due to the wide selection of shades on the market, sunglasses have become viewed as a way of making a fashion statement; endless combinations of colors and shapes create a diverse sunglass market. This season, instead of investing in a pair of shades made from one-time-use plastics, consider purchasing a pair of eco-friendly sunglasses. Available in a wide selection of styles, these sunglasses are constructed from recycled or biodegradable materials, and some of these styles of green shades do more than just protect eyes — they also harness the power of the sun. Below are a few stellar (pun intended!) options for eco-friendly sunglasses.

1. Wooden Frames

Perhaps the most common option for eco-friendly sunglasses, wooden frames made from either recycled or sustainably-sourced wood provide an excellent alterative to the traditional plastic frames. Such wood-based frames can be purchased through brands like Proof, Shywood, Kayu, and iWood. And as if saving the earth and consumers’ eyes isn’t enough, several of these brands ensure that their sale of shades does more than that. More specifically, Kayu donates $50 from every purchase of sunglasses to an organization dedicated to providing corrective eye surgeries for individuals in developing countries. Proof donates a pair of eyeglasses for every set of shades sold; additionally, Proof also is involved in planting trees in Haiti. The price of sunglasses with wooden frames varies, depending upon the specific brand.

2. Recycled Goods

Falling under the third concept of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” motto, sunglasses made from recycled plastics (and other materials) are also considered eco-friendly. Shywood and HUF have collaborated to make such sunglasses from recycled broken skateboards while Urban Spectacles has brilliantly designed a pair of retro-looking shades made from recycled beer bottles. At the same time, Shywood has also teamed up with Bushmills to create a pair of sunglasses made from recycled wooden whiskey barrels. Between the beer bottles and the whiskey barrel designs, environmentally-friendly consumers can definitely choose to embrace a whole new meaning of “Drinking in the sunshine.”

3. A Hairy Matter

Arguably the most unique idea in green sunglass materials has been presented by two students at the Royal College of Arts. Made from a creative combination of human hair clippings and bioresin, these sunglasses are completely biodegradable. Since they are not currently backed by a large scale company, the pricing information for “Studio Swine Human Hair Sunglasses” is only available upon request.

4. Solar Power

Unlike the other sunglasses that just focus on protecting eyes, these glasses also work to harness the power of the sun. Made with dye-sensitized solar cells and a power jack at the end of the glasses’ frame, these handy shades can be used to provide power to your favorite mp3 player in addition to protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays.

5. Green Plastics

Finally, eco-friendly sunglasses can also be considered to be any sunglasses made from plant-based plastics. For example, fashion giant Juicy Couture recently placed its “Choose Green” shades on the market; all of these glasses are made with 55% renewable plant-based plastics, as well as bamboo accents.

When making your sunglass purchases for this new summer season, remember to look for green alternatives like the ones mentioned above. Although such shades might be higher in price than traditionally-constructed sunglasses, the long-term benefits of these shades arguably justify this price difference.

About the Author

Author Sara Roberts has a background in health and technical writing, and is a content contributor for Just Eyewear, an online retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses. Visit Just Eyewear on Facebook.

Yard Sales: The Eco-Friendly Way to Shop

Anyone who has been trying to reduce their carbon footprint has likely discovered the benefits of buying second-hand items. Just thinking about the many harmful drawbacks of the manufacturing cycle is enough to set your teeth on edge. In fact, it can hardly be called a cycle at all; it’s more like a straight line (with some pit-stops) from the manufacturing plant to the landfill. Natural resources are mined from the Earth by heavy-polluting and wasteful means, after which raw materials are subjected to more waste and pollution thanks to a variety of chemical processes at manufacturing plants. Then these finished products are wrapped in all kinds of packaging that consumers will purchase and discard (more waste), until finally the many disposable products that permeate our society are carted off to their final resting place at an overflowing landfill (more waste, more pollution…you get it).

Giving items a second life by reclaiming them breaks the linear mentality and creates a cycle in which less manufacturing and waste is required. Sounds pretty good, right? It is! And by frequenting yard sales, you can save money on this most eco-friendly mode of turning one man’s trash into your green treasure. However, there are a few things you should think about when you purchase items in this manner, such as what you can reasonably use and the impact it might have on the environment when you bring it home.

While you are probably doing a good thing by keeping most items out of the landfill, there are a few caveats to consider. For example, you must reflect on whether or not continuing to use the item will do more harm than good. Suppose you find an old fridge that still works. If it’s not an energy-star model, it will suck up massive amounts of electricity, unlike a much more eco-friendly model. But if you want to turn it on its side, throw a couple cushions on the top, and make it an interesting seating arrangement in your backyard, that’s a different story. Or what if you get a living room set and then decide to have it reupholstered. Do you have any idea how many chemicals are used in the process? You might as well get a new couch if that’s your plan!

The point is, you need to put some thought into the items you’re buying second-hand so that you make sure your purchases are the greenest possible choices. Whether you frequent San Francisco, New York, or Aurora garage sales, the truth is that you’re not likely to find items that were originally conceived to be eco-friendly. Sorry to break it to you, but conflict-free diamonds, organic clothing, and furniture built without varnish or glue are not common finds on the yard-sale circuit. You’re much more likely to find stuff that was made before the term “eco-friendly” even existed. So if you’re going to try to make strides for a greener future by buying second-hand goods at yard sales, it’s a good idea to find items that will help you to reach your goals rather than ones that will set you back in your efforts.

Reducing Food Waste During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time for gifts, decorations, and lots and lots of food. As a result, it’s also a time of spectacular amounts of waste. In the United States, we generate an extra 5 million tons of household waste each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, including three times as much food waste as at other times of the year. When our total food waste adds up to 34 million tons each year, that equals a lot of food. With the holidays now upon us, the Worldwatch Institute offers 10 simple steps we all can take to help make this season less wasteful and more plentiful.

As Americans prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, here are 10 tips to help reduce the amount of food we waste:

Before the meal: Plan your menu and exactly how much food you’ll need.

1. Be realistic: The fear of not providing enough to eat often causes hosts to cook too much. Instead, plan out how much food you and your guests will realistically need, and stock up accordingly. The Love Food Hate Waste organization, which focuses on sharing convenient tips for reducing food waste, provides a handy “Perfect portions” planner to calculate meal sizes for parties as well as everyday meals.

2. Plan ahead: Create a shopping list before heading to the farmers’ market or grocery store. Sticking to this list will reduce the risk of impulse buys or buying unnecessary quantities, particularly since stores typically use holiday sales to entice buyers into spending more.

During the meal: Control the amount on your plate to reduce the amount in the garbage.

3. Go small: The season of indulgence often promotes plates piled high with more food than can be eaten. Simple tricks of using smaller serving utensils or plates can encourage smaller portions, reducing the amount left on plates. Guests can always take second (or third!) servings if still hungry, and it is much easier (and hygienic) to use leftovers from serving platters for future meals.

4. Encourage self-serve: Allow guests to serve themselves, choosing what, and how much, they would like to eat. This helps to make meals feel more familiar and also reduces the amount of unwanted food left on guests’ plates.

After the meal: Make the most out of leftovers.

5. Store leftovers safely: Properly storing our leftovers will preserve them safely for future meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be left out for no more than two hours. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, making them more convenient to grab for a quick meal rather than being passed over and eventually wasted.

6. Compost food scraps: Instead of throwing out the vegetable peels, eggshells, and other food scraps from making your meal, consider composting them. Individual composting systems can be relatively easy and inexpensive, and provide quality inputs for garden soils. In 2010, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to pass legislation encouraging city-wide composting, and similar broader-scale food composting approaches have been spreading since.

7. Create new meals: If composting is not an option for you, check out Love Food Hate Waste’s creative recipes to see if your food scraps can be used for new meals. Vegetable scraps and turkey carcasses can be easily boiled down for stock and soups, and bread crusts and ends can be used to make tasty homemade croutons.

8. Donate excess: Food banks and shelters gladly welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. The charity group Feeding America partners with over 200 local food banks across the United States, supplying food to more than 37 million people each year. To find a food bank near you, visit the organization’s Food Bank Locator.

9. Support food-recovery programs: In some cases, food-recovery systems will come to you to collect your excess. In New York City, City Harvest, the world’s first food-rescue organization, collects approximately 28 million pounds of food each year that would otherwise go to waste, providing groceries and meals for over 300,000 people.

Throughout the holiday season: Consider what you’re giving.

10. Give gifts with thought: When giving food as a gift, avoid highly perishable items and make an effort to select foods that you know the recipient will enjoy rather than waste. The Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit, works with farmers and producers in tropical areas to ensure they are practicing environmentally sustainable and socially just methods. The group’s certified chocolates, coffee, and teas are great gifts that have with long shelf-lives, and buying them helps support businesses and individuals across the world.

As we sit down this week to give thanks for the people and things around us, we must also recognize those who may not be so fortunate. The food wasted in the United States each year is enough to satisfy the hunger of the approximately 1 billion malnourished people worldwide, according to Tristram Stuart, a food waste expert and contributing author to State of the World 2011. As we prepare for upcoming holiday celebrations, the simple changes we make, such as using food responsibly and donating excess to the hungry, can help make the holiday season more plentiful and hunger-free for all.

About the Worldwatch Institute

Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than 20 languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.

For an eeeek-o-friendly HalloGREEN, make sure to pick up the 2011 Reusable Trick-or-Treat bags from ChicoBag™! With five frighteningly fun designs to choose from, parents can make sure each child gets their own reusable treat bag for trick-or-treating! Even more thrilling – four of the five designs glow-in-the-dark when charged before heading outside! When finished using the bags, they roll up into a smaller, built-in pouch with a small clip for carrying with you for other uses, such as grocery shopping. Made to be sturdy & durable – the bag can hold up to 25 lbs, perfect for hauling home all the loot this Halloween! Plus, the bags are machine washable – just make sure to hang them to dry.

Halloween designs include Frankenstein, Haunted House, Jack-o-Lantern, Purple Ghost and Skull. Learn more at ChicoBag.com. For other earth-conscious ideas for making this a scarily healthy HalloGREEN, visit GreenHalloween.org.

*Company generously provided samples & images for this piece.*