By: Kelsey Lorencz
What’s one thing we all need, most of us waste and some of us don’t have enough of? Food! In the U.S., food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of the food supply wasted each year. This is based on USDA estimates of 31% food loss at the retail and consumer levels, and this waste adds up (1). Tossing food in the trash not only hurts our wallets but also hurts the environment and makes it harder for the people who need food to get it.
Thankfully, there are some simple things you can do to help minimize your environmental footprint when it comes to food. Only buying what you need, using up food before it goes bad and composting scraps are all great ways to reduce waste at home. You can also consider choosing foods that are produced with sustainable practices and naturally result in less waste. Try these sustainable swaps to help protect the environment while still enjoying delicious food.
Use peanut oil for frying.
Looking at the grocery store shelves, there seems to be an endless supply of cooking oils to choose from. If you’re planning on pan or deep frying, you may want to reach for the peanut oil. Refined peanut oil has a high smoke point and stands up longer to high temperatures versus oils with lower smoke points. You’ll also be able to use less oil, as peanut oil quickly crisps the outside of food, limiting the amount of oil absorbed (2).
And don’t worry, your fried food won’t taste like peanuts (not that this would be a bad thing in my opinion). Refined peanut oil is odorless and won’t affect the flavor of the food cooked in it (2).
Swap other snacks for peanuts
As consumers, sometimes it’s easy to think only of the waste we produce or the resources we use while buying and eating food. Considering resources, such as water, it takes to grow your favorite snacks is another way to become a more eco-conscious eater.
Peanuts have the smallest water footprint of any nut, taking just 3.2 gallons of water to produce one ounce of peanuts. While most major nuts are water efficient, tree nuts require significantly more water than peanuts. To produce one ounce of nuts, almonds use 28.7 gallons of water, pistachios use 23.6 gallons of water and walnuts use 26.7 gallons of water. You can find out more about peanuts and sustainability here.
Swap single servings for bulk
Individually wrapped snacks do have their convenience but it comes at the cost of the environment. A large portion of the plastic, foil or paper ends up in landfills and adds to the waste we create from food.
If you can find your favorite foods in large family-sized packages, purchase this instead and portion it yourself into reusable bags or containers. This works great for yogurt, muffins and trail mix.
The eco-friendly takeaway
We don’t have to be perfect or sacrifice delicious food to make a positive difference for the environment we all depend on. Making small swaps and being mindful of how much packaging our food has can help drive change further down the food chain.
Kelsey Lorencz, RD is the owner of Graciously Nourished, a plant-focused eating consulting company that provides budget-friendly plant-focused recipes.
- Why should we care about food waste? USDA. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/why
- Dunford, N. T. (2020, January). Why peanut oil is good for frying food - Oklahoma State University. Why Peanut Oil is Good for Frying Food. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/why-peanut-oil-is-good-for-frying-food.html