Earth Day 2012: Announcing Bi-Rite’s Food Waste Challenge

“One half of the food prepared in the US and Europe never gets eaten.”–Dive!, the movie

We as a society might waste this much food, but we’re also coming up with good ideas about how not to. Here are just a few ways we’ve already talked about combating the problem:

  • Getting involved with one of the organizations that have cropped up in the past couple of years to solve our country’s waste issues. Halfsies offers restaurant-goers a choice that provides a healthier portion size, reduces food waste, and supports the fight against hunger; Food Shift works with consumers, businesses and communities  to build awareness and close the gaps in food delivery and consumption; and Marin Organic hosts a gleaning program which gathers excess produce from farms and delivers it to public schools, to name a few.

It’s this last point that brings me to the matter at hand today….I’m pleased to announce Bi-Rite’s first Earth Day Food Waste Challenge! Yes, the name could be sexier. But the idea couldn’t, because the point of this challenge is for us all to practice how we as individuals can put a dent in the amount of food that goes to waste. For an issue as complicated and overwhelming as our waste-disposal system and the challenge of feeding everyone who’s hungry, I’m empowered by the ability each of us have to waste less in our own day-to-day.  So how will the challenge work, you ask?

1. We want to hear from you, our community, about what foods you find yourself throwing out most often. First that comes to mind for me is herbs; I’m always challenged to finish the whole bunch (although the “Any Greens Pesto” recipe from Eat Good Food makes it easy!). Tell us in a comment here which foods you can never seem to use up before they go bad.

2. We’ll take the answers we hear most from you, and make those our target foods for our Food Waste Challenge, which will take place at Bi-Rite Market the week leading up to Earth Day (Sunday, April 22nd).

3. During that week, we’ll give you recipe cards for each of the target foods. Each card will have a few different recipes that make use of its featured ingredient. We’ll invite you to email us a photo of any dish you cook from it–I’ll post each photo sent in on our blog.

4. We’ll donate 10% of proceeds from sales of the target foods that week (up to $1,000) to Three Squares,  an organization that works throughout the Bay Area to provide nutrition education and improved access to healthy food in low-income communities. They’re teaching people how to shop for ingredients and cook smartly, and this will help them towards the 600 classes they teach every year!

So without further ado, let’s kick this thing off! Please reply to this post with a comment on what foods you find yourself throwing out most often, so we can help you find creative ways to use them up next month!

I can never resist a good retro poster


33 Responses to “Earth Day 2012: Announcing Bi-Rite’s Food Waste Challenge”

  1. dave says:

    little bits of leftovers: small amount of pesto/sauce that wasn’t as tasty as had hoped for

  2. Alexa says:

    limp kale, carrot top greens, fennel greens

  3. Carolyn says:

    wilted/mildew produce. cheese that has turned.

  4. Emily says:

    Definitely Celery & beet greens. I freeze veggie scraps for future broth/soup making, but too often, they appear freezer-burned by the time I am ready to make my soup. Thoughts?

    • P. K. Newby says:

      Ooh, sorry … I perused the earlier comments too quickly … so great to see their are other veggie stock makers out there! I’m not sure I get what you mean by “freezer burned” veggies, Emily. Frost definitely develops on mine, too, mainly b/c they are often wet when I throw them there, but I’ve never found it an issue that matters or impact taste (like, say, frozen cookies or whatever). I’d just go ahead and throw them in a pot and make your stock! You could also try using a heavier freezer bag and make sure it’s airtight to reduce some of the frost formation.
      Cheers, @pknewby

  5. Daria says:

    sour cream — I only buy it when a recipe calls for it, but it isn’t offered in small containers, so I always end up throwing out the rest of the container.

    • Rachael says:

      Do you eat greek yogurt? I’ve found that you really cant tell if you replace sour cream with greek yogurt, because I’m with you, I’d never use the whole container of sour cream. Greek yogurt can be both breakfast/a snack w/ fresh fruit, or it can thicken sauces/ casseroles/ dips or can be dolloped on top of a burrito!

  6. Angela says:

    The first things that come to mind are celery, carrots, & cilantro, because most stores don’t sell them in reasonable quantities. Though recently we’ve started freezing leftover vegetables & saving them for broth.

  7. Meghan says:

    Milk. I wish you could buy it in bulk so you could get just the right amount for what you needed.

    • Kirsten says:

      What a novel idea, haven’t heard that one before! Completely agree, for me personally milk is a challenge (I end up making a lotta smoothies towards the end of a bottle!). Good thought for us to run by Straus!

    • Rachael says:

      I’ve never done it, but a lot of people who buy in bulk when it is on sale freeze it.

  8. claudia says:

    Celery, carrots, sour cream, cream cheese, radishes, lemons, limes.

    Viva Three Squares1

    • Rachael says:

      You can freeze cream cheese (so you could cut the block in half and put half in the fridge and half in the freezer). The texture changes slightly in the freezer (more crumbly), so this could slightly affect what you are making with it. I have had previously frozen cream cheese and bagels and don’t mind the texture.

  9. Tony says:

    I have never used more than a few stalks of celery out of a bunch before it goes bad. I guess I could just do the ants on a log thing.

  10. Carrie Rose says:

    Whole bunches of herbs are a challenge. Except for basil, when making pesto
    or parsley, I end up drying the rest when I’d really rather have fresh herbs.
    I’d love to have a bin of mixed herbs available, like with mesclun, so that there could be a variety to buy by the pound. Celery tops are also a challenge. There are many Greek recipes that use lots of celery, including the leaves, but you certainly can’t use so much in stocks because it is a dominant flavor. A celery bunch can be stored in the fridge by putting the root end in a wide-mouthed jar with an inch of water and tent the top with a plastic bag. Celery strips are great
    to serve with dips of all kinds. Good for you.

  11. Kim says:

    Definitely celery. I never need to use a full bunch.
    It would be great to buy 1/2 at a time.

    • Kirsten says:

      Well today’s your day Kim, because you CAN buy 1/2 a head of celery any time! Or a single stalk…or whatever amount you need…because we sell it by the pound! (Think many of our guests may not realize this–thanks for bringing it up.)

  12. Caitlin says:

    Celery, green onions, and things you buy in bunches that you never need much of. Carrot tops seem a shame to waste, but I’ve never heard of anything you can do with them (not like beet tops). Citrus – either left over halves/quarters of lemons and limes, or whole oranges and grapefruit that get mushy or hard, simply because I buy them without remembering that I’m not really a fan. I actually throw out very little (I think a lot of people underestimate the actual expiration time on a lot of foods and throw away things that aren’t actually bad, like moldy cheese. Cheese IS mold, just cut it off!) I also compost a lot, so I feel like that makes waste a little less wasteful, but I’d love to know how to make spare scraps more useful.

  13. Nicki Ferguison says:

    Fruits and veggies. When I see them going bad I will freeze them until I am ready to use them. I’ll also juice them too! For example, with herbs (cilantro and parsley) I will throw them in a juicer with whatever veggies I’ve got in the fridge. Fruits, specifically bananas and berries, I will freeze. When I’m ready I’ll throw them in the food processor with some dates or almond milk and have a delicious dairy free, raw dessert!

  14. Rachel says:

    1/2 jars of tomato sauce (seems to grow mold by the time I’m ready for the other 1/2), sourcream, ginger root leftovers, green onions

  15. Kelley Kruze says:

    I certainly have troubles with herbs as well! They seem to go to waste as I can never finish using them all. Also, citrus is a tough one sometimes. Especially lemons/limes. I need them when I cook and love to have them around, but they can easily go moldy after 3-4 weeks in my veggie drawer.

    For all of those with celery troubles out there – make stock! You need quite a bit of celery for it.

    Thank you for your wonderful work! 🙂

  16. Liz K says:

    Lettuce, herbs. I also have the same problem with my leek/carrot/celery tops getting freezer burned by the time I’m ready to make more stock. We just have SO many tops in the winter, there gets to be quite the backlog.

    One quick suggestion…veggie pot pies and roasted veggies are a good way to use up limp vegetables. Pot pies are great for limp carrots and celery, and roasting up limp beets and parsnips works well.

  17. P. K. Newby says:

    I agree with the writer, herbs is a tough one & thx for the “any herb pesto” suggestion – great idea! Lots of comments above on limp greens, carrot tops, and so forth. A few suggestions about this. First, limp greens can be easily rehydrated by putting into a bowl of cold water, letting it sit 5-7 minutes, and watch them plump back up! Turn them onto a dish towel to dry and store in a plastic container or plastic bag (reused, of course 🙂 ) for salad anytime. For carrot tops, herbs, veggie skins, and so forth, keep a plastic bag in the freezer for your “scraps” and make your own veggie stock. All great ways to get the most out of your veggies! There’s a video on my blog Play a Good Knife and Fork on how to make veggie stock if you are so inclined to check it out. So easy! Cheers, PK (@pknewby)

  18. Christine says:

    The rest of the anchovies in the can… (Recipes usually call for one or two, and since I don’t typically eat them on their own, I’m always scrambling for ways to use them. What’s their useful refrigerator life, anyway?)

    And bunches of thyme, sage leaves, sour cream, buttermilk…

  19. Danielle Lynch says:

    herbs (except basil), cauliflower greens and buttermilk!

  20. Laura Kopp says:

    Celery, sour cream, coconut milk (i buy it to make a couple of portions of curry but can’t figure out what to do with the other half of the can)

    For those who throw out citrus, when I have too much, I press and freeze the juice and defrost when I have a friend coming over for cocktails. For bananas, I freeze them and, when I’m ready to eat one, I let it sit for 20 minutes and then serve with cinnamon and it’s almost as good as ice cream. While I’m at it, if you only like broccoli crowns, my tip for broccoli is to cut the outside off the stalk and chop or process the stalk to use in coleslaw or stir fry.

  21. Most attrition around our house is due to mold and slime. Mold most often in the form of citrus fruits that have sat too long in the damp climate and on cheeses that are a little past their prime. I do cut mold from fruit and cheeses and can sometimes save them if I spot it fast enough. Slime usually affects cilantro that I do not use fast enough — the stems will slime over whether I keep it in water or in plastic.

  22. ann says:

    I’m on a fixed budget so I literally cannot afford to throw anything out – think depression era mentality.
    Here’s some stuff that I always recycle:
    – sour milk, buttermilk is excellent for baking.
    -anchovies go into most Italian sauces I make including one with chocolate & chili peppers!
    -herbs – when I’m done using fresh I put them in my herb pot to dry out. I even use the twigs for roasting or stocks.
    -Vegetable scraps — I freeze all veg scraps (esp. onion skins) & save for stock
    -unused bread freezes well – cubed and toasted I use for soups or make into bread crumbs
    -citrus peel – I save for marmalade or citrus paste ( I put citrus paste in everything including meat dishes and desserts!)

    • Kirsten says:

      Love the depression era mentality, Ann! Glad my gramps taught me that from a young age….

  23. […] With Earth Day fast approaching, the good people at Bi-Rite Market have issued a challenge. A Food Waste Challenge. […]

  24. Sarah says:

    I sometimes throw out wilted lettuce and celery, the end of loaves of bread, and the end of a tub of Greek yogurt as my favorite brand only comes in large tubs.

  25. yayoi the stocker says:

    oh my goodness! what am i going to do with all these boiled eggs? maybe i can make a nourishing face mask with a few. i am excited to hear some non food applications to these common ingredients. i know ive felt like i could floss with celery veins. also, my mom has always had me taking medicinal baths with oranges, ginger, she would put yogurt and mayo in my hair…

  26. Kathy Mitro says:

    Dear CHANGE


    A call for Federally mandated food

    donation laws is essential at this time.

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    popping up in each small community, is

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    donation not a choice but a

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    To go after communities about food

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    the legs just grow back. I do not believe

    in fighting or defying I believe in

    identifying the problem and solving it.

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    The solution is to make it illegal NOT to

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    I totally agree the problem with

    eradicating hunger is not lack of food

    but problems in food distribution. It is

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    Federal MANDATES requiring all Food

    Establishments to donate all edible food

    each day instead of most current actions

    which toss this perfect food into

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    will bother with the trouble of donating

    it and easing great hunger-to it is

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    and eradicate all hunger in the United

    Kathy Mitro
    386-795-9643 Daytona Beach, Forida


    You can give as much media attention to

    getting these laws passed as possible.
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    Put this call for mandatory food donation

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    The President of the United States:

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    included in this email.