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11 Kitchen Hacks to Cut Down on Food Waste in the Tastiest Way

Food
11 Kitchen Hacks to Cut Down on Food Waste in the Tastiest Way
Thomas_EyeDesign / E+ / Getty Images

By Douglas Donnellan

With growing awareness of how food waste affects the environment, many conscious eaters are looking for ways to reduce their impact. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the global greenhouse gas emissions from food waste are larger than those of all countries except for China and the U.S. Part of curbing those emissions may take many revolutionary changes in the food system, but individuals can also reduce their own foodprint by using every part of their grocery store haul.


What might be viewed as waste, or even the traditionally less-valued part of an ingredient, can have big flavor and nutrition that home cooks may be ignoring. Preventable food waste also carries a hefty price tag. Data from the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that it costs the average U.S. household of four US$1,800 per year. According to the Australian Government, food waste costs its economy roughly US$14 billion per year while adding millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Considering a nose-to-tail, fin-to-fin and leaf-to-root approach may not only help lower the environmental burden from food waste, but can also add new and exciting flavors to everyday meals without breaking the bank­ — or the trash bin. Below is a list of 11 underrated parts of foods to help get the most out of your grocery shop.

1. Vegetable Leaves

Carrot tops are often discarded, but they can actually deliver a flavorful and nutritional punch. Chop the leaves finely for this tabbouleh salad, or use them in this waste-free pesto recipe. The same techniques can be used for many other forgotten leaves, such as beet and radish greens, even if they're no longer firm. Steven Satterfield, head chef of Miller Union and mindful eating advocate, states in an interview with Arts ATL, "I see it as a cook's duty to honor the farmer's hard work [from seeding, irrigation, pruning and harvesting, to bringing a product to market] by making the most of what might be considered scraps." Try this recipe for radish green quiche from Satterfield's cookbook, Root to Leaf.

2. Herb Stems

Cilantro leaves can add great flavor and color to many Mexican and Thai dishes, but don't forget about the stems and roots! Most of the flavor is packed into them, and they are a staple in Thai curry pastes. Waste-conscious chefs interchange leaves with the thinly sliced stems in practically any dish. Parsley stems can also be used in the same way, or left whole to add flavor to a vegetable stock.

3. Bones and Fat

The low price and convenience of vegetable oils may be partly to blame for forgetting the value of rendered animal fats. Follow this guide from the permaculture blog, Milkwood, for creating a cooking oil that is full of flavor and made from the parts of meat that are often trimmed away and discarded. After you've trimmed the fat and meat, leftover bones can be used to make stock. This recipe calls for roasting chicken bones and vegetables before simmering in a pot of water. Stock freezes well, and can be used to elevate soups and sauces.

4. Root Vegetable Peels

Peeling potatoes for a smooth mash? Save those skins by turning them into a crispy garnish, similar to the classic potato chip. Rinse the starch off of the peels, dry, add salt and olive oil, and bake until lightly browned. Find a more detailed recipe from the Framed Cooks blog here.

5. Stale Bread

According to food rescue organization OzHarvest, bread is one of the top five wasted foods in Australia. The North London Waste Authority estimates that 254 million edible bread crusts are thrown away across London each year, but considering its versatility, there are many ways to keep bread from landfills. Bread that's been dried out won't make for the best sandwich, but it will make for a much better French toast. Have a food processor? Pulse stale bread to make breadcrumbs, and then use it to coat chicken or eggplant for a waste-free schnitzel. Also, croutons can be made with just about any type of stale bread and can add a hearty crunch to salads.

6. Fish

Western palates have often shied away from any part of the fish that isn't the fillet, but to do so may be a missed opportunity. Fish heads and collars are considered by many top chefs as the very best parts. Follow this guide for getting the most out of your fresh catch or out of what's available at your favorite fish monger. Fish head curry is an iconic dish in many parts of Asia for its great flavor and low cost. If the sight of a fish head is not for you, they can still be used to make seafood stocks and sauces by following this guide. One chef based in Sydney, Australia has been making waves in seafood by showing how to use scales and even eyes in decadent and refined dishes.

7. Bruised Fruit

An apple with a brown spot shouldn't spoil the bunch. Blenders don't mind how imperfect your fruit looks, so smoothies are always a great option for cutting down on waste while getting in some great nutrition. Have more than you can deal with? Follow this guide for making jam, and you'll have a delicious condiment that will keep for months.

8. Cheese and Cheese Rinds

The rind is a terrible thing to waste. The leftover end of a parmesan or pecorino wedge may not be great to grate over a salad or pasta, but it still has flavor locked away. Bring it out by simmering in a pot of soup or broth for a delicious savory, umami boost, or try out these other great applications.

9. Wine

According to a recent scientific review of viticulture in the Douro region published by Intech Open, wine can take a surprisingly large amount of fresh water to produce. Don't send it down the drain if it's been opened for too long. When oxidized, wine takes on a vinegar-like acidity, which may be a bad idea for pouring a glass, but an excellent choice for adding a zing to sauces. Deglazing a pan with a cup of even an older wine can still bring delicious results. Have more leftover wine than you need to make a bolognese sauce? Try this recipe for poached pears with red wine caramel.

10. Broccoli and Cauliflower Stalks

After cutting florets from a head of broccoli or cauliflower, remember that the stalks and stems are just as tasty and nutritious with only a little extra attention. Slice the stems and stalks thinly and add them to the rest of the vegetables for more volume and texture diversity, without emptying your wallet or filling your bin. Otherwise, check out these other great uses for vegetable stalks.

11. Citrus Peels

Before squeezing limes, lemons, oranges, or other citrus fruits, consider the many uses of their peels. Full of vitamin C and flavor, the zest can add brightness to desserts, marinades, and sauces. If you find you'll have way more peel than can be used in a sitting, try this recipe for your own homemade lemon pepper seasoning. Another option would be to dehydrate the peels, keep them in the cupboard, and sprinkle in place of a squeeze of the same fruit. See how with this guide.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Food Tank.

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In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."

The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.

But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.

With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?

'Count Me In'

"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.

"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."

Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.

German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.

"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"

"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.

Assessing Success Is Complex

But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.

"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.

Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.

"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."

A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.

"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.

Awareness Is Not Enough

Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.

"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."

But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.

"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."

However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.

Choosing the Right Celebrity

Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.

For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.

"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."

McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.

But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.

But Does It Really Work?

While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.

"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.

This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.

The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.

"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."

Reposted with permission from DW.

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