SEATTLE — The nation’s first citywide composting program based largely on shame began here in January.
City sanitation workers who find garbage cans filled with aging lettuce, leftover pizza or even the box it came in are slapping on bright red tags to inform the offending household (and, presumably, the whole neighborhood) that the city’s new composting law has been violated.
San Francisco may have been the first city to make its citizens compost food, but Seattle is the first to punish people with a fine if they don’t. In a country that loses about 31 percent of its food to waste, policies like Seattle’s are driven by environmental, social and economic pressure.
But mandated composting reflects a deeper shift in the mood of the nation’s cooks, one in which wasting food is unfashionable. Running an efficient kitchen — where bruised fruit is blended into smoothies, carrot tops are pulsed into pesto, and a juicy pork shoulder can move seamlessly from Sunday supper to Monday’s carnitas to a rich pot of broth for the freezer — is becoming as satisfying as the food itself…
Wasting less in the kitchen is just smart economics, said Dana Gunders, a project scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council whose book, “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook,” comes out in May.
Eating better may cost more, she said, but an efficient cook can make up the difference. “We are so price sensitive in the store, and 10 cents will swing us one way or other,” she said. “But in the kitchen we throw out so much money without even thinking about price.”
Reducing food waste is moving so quickly into the cultural mainstream that it ranked ninth among the top 20 food trends on the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot in 2015” list, based on a survey of almost 1,300 chefs.
Imperfect fruits and vegetables are being promoted by grocery stores and organizations like endfoodwaste.org, whose social media campaign includes a stream of misshapen produce photographs on its Twitter feed, @UglyFruitAndVeg…
As someone with a lifelong dependence on prepared foods (our cats once rejected my mother’s carefully prepared Thanksgiving turkey, and they loved Spaghetti-Os), I have a peasant cynicism about government messaging that conflates household consumption with industrial inefficiencies. Between single-portion packaging and our bioactive food-scrap recycling units (aka, the dogs) we don’t actually generate much “food waste” here, except when one or the other of us gets overenthusiastic about how much farmers-market bounty we can eat after one of our too-rare seasonal excursions. But I know there’s plenty of useful tips for reducing food waste that don’t rely on “Pressure-cook your kale ribs to substitute for asparagus, and use skate bones for a tasty dipping sauce!” hipsterism.
So… What are your favorite tips for reducing food waste / recycling leftovers / using less-than-optimal ingredients?