As prices continue to climb everywhere from the grocery store to the gas station, you may be infuriated to find out that a big part of the rising cost comes from food waste. Each year, global food waste costs consumers an estimated $750,000,000,000. I had to put my glasses on to make sure I’d typed enough zeroes, so let’s just agree it’s obscene.
While nobody you know can touch a number that absurd, many Omaha-area entrepreneurs, restauranteurs, and food connoisseurs are finding meaningful ways to hit waste where it hurts. From moving to compostable flatware and to-go containers to skipping the shipping on produce, everyday answers might hold some of the solutions to skyrocketing costs, both monetary and environmental.
Where to Shop
While some shoppers become loyal to whatever grocer is closer, and others will cross town to cash in on a coupon, finding a low- to no-waste spot to shop is the cleanest and most sustainable option for looking not to necessarily save a lot of green, but to live a little green. In all cases, bring your own washable bamboo or canvas totes, coolers, or boxes to negate the use of single-use bags.
Local sourcing is a one-two punch of avoiding the cost of shipping and keeping money local. Supporting local growers means you’re getting the very best Nebraska and Iowa have to offer, and keeping factories from driving out family farms. Find food from local farms at your nearest seasonal market, and be sure to sign up for shares of Community Supported Agriculture with the growers of your choice for the freshest seasonal fare delivered weekly.
Aksarben, 2285 S. 67th — Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Village Pointe, 168th and Dodge – Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Old Market, 11th and Jackson – Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Bellevue Washington Park, 20th and Franklin – Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon
Papillion City Park, 84th and Lincoln – Wednesdays, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Florence Mill, 9102 N. 30th – Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
4914 Underwood Ave.
The only local grocer that is fully dedicated to the cause, Exist Green is not only a model of a clean, green, zero-waste machine, but proof that sustainability can be done not simply well, but elegantly. In this solar-powered, package-free, and plant-based boutique, BYOB is the law of the land. That’s Bring Your Own Ball Jar. Goods are sold by weight and cover the kitchen from snack drawer to seasonings. Produce is sold “ultra-seasonal” — meaning it isn’t shipped from a faraway pennies-a-day hothouse sweat shop, but sourced locally from farms run by your friends and neighbors.
Browse the fragrant teas and spices, rich oils, alternative flours, and the freshest of fruits and vegetables Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and learn more about Exist Green by visiting the story by Regan Thomas in our March issue.
You could call the rest of the spots on our list “mindful” if not specifically dedicated waste reduction, but each offers sustainable steps toward cutting our carbon footprint one shopping list at a time. From locally sourcing wherever possible to offering bulk items to be purchased by the pound in your own reusable receptacles, you’ll find less plastic and more opportunities to upcycle by shopping at any of the following markets.
17602 Wright St.
10020 Regency Circle
HyVee and Baker’s Supermarkets
(Multiple locations, many locally sourced and each equipped with a bulk-food health section.)
10305 Pacific St.
This addition to our list is somewhat controversial, as TJ’s doesn’t offer a bulk-food section or provide incentives to customers for reducing their individual impact on the environment, but it has certainly taken the issue to heart in more ways than one. In 2019, Trader Joe’s vowed to reduce non-recyclable plastic use in its stores by one million pounds per year. Before the end of the first year, TJ’s had smashed the goal and now pledges to eliminate four million pounds every year. It has done this by replacing Styrofoam trays with recyclable PET1, cling wraps and plastics with compostable film, and reducing or replacing packaging on items from the deli to the flower department.
Additionally, Trader Joe’s is committed to reducing food waste within every community it works. Food waste not only increases greenhouse gas emissions but raises food costs that result in further food waste. Trader Joe’s abides by a strict food rescue policy that sees all safe-to-consume foods that are no longer fit for sale donated to local pantries and food recovery programs. In 2017, more than $350,000,000 worth of food was donated by the grocer.
A Growing Solution
Some items you find yourself repeatedly putting in your cart could very likely be sourced a lot closer to home. Regrowing fruits and vegetables from the seeds and trimmings of what you’ve bought is a sustainable solution for even micro-growers. From resprouting romaine leaves to potting potato eyes, you can become an urban farmer even without an acre to your name. Window boxes, deck pots, and trays of microgreens all become hyper-local produce without a trip to the store.
Check out Regrow Food Scraps from FoodRevolution.Org for easy tips and tricks to get the most use out of your produce.
Leftovers Go Further
An important step to reducing food waste is to take an honest inventory of how much food we are throwing out each week. Take the time to weigh your waste for a week before it finds its way to the bin. On average for every American, 30.8 pounds of trash makes its way to the landfill each week. That doesn’t mean you personally throw out 4.4 pounds of waste each day, but finding out just how much of that number you’re contributing to can make a meaningful impact.
Once you’ve assessed the damage, learn how much of your family’s total is food waste. You may find your family can cut costs by simply buying less. With supply chains making more items harder to get, and gas prices adding major dollars to each dash to the market, buying less kills two birds with one stone. Avoiding food waste completely isn’t possible, with vegetable peels, fruit cores, and mashed potatoes that touched the peas on your toddler’s plate, a significant amount of once-edible fare will find its way to the trash. Instead, consider compost.
Composting does more than make richer soil, it reroutes food waste that quickly turns to greenhouse gasses in the landfill. A simple step toward lower emissions is to separate organic waste from your trash and recyclables. What you do with it from there is up to you. You can add scraps to your backyard garden (break down tougher items like banana peels and melon rinds by baking them, finely chopping them, or giving them a quick trip through the blender before they find their final resting place) or you can partner with one of Omaha’s innovative compost and vermiculture companies.
There are about 7.9 billion reasons to be weary of waste, and dozens of steps you can take every day to take a little of the load off local landfills.