Global Green’s food waste prevention and recycling outreach materials

Making sure the food in your fridge feeds your body, not the landfill…

Over the past five months, Global Green has been piloting food waste diversion programs in 30 multi-family buildings across 10 cities in California with the generous grant support of the Walmart Foundation. In addition to distributing compost pails and visual guides illustrating what can and can’t be placed in the green waste bins, we have also been carrying out a simultaneous food waste prevention campaign. Keeping a key focus of our outreach on making sure food isn’t wasted in the first place (source reduction), and encouraging that which can’t be avoided (food scraps) to be collected and composted, our programs cover a wide range of diversion strategies so as to keep as much food as possible from ever entering the landfill.

Around 40% of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten, and even though collecting that organic waste and turning it into compost has its environmental benefits, it certainly doesn’t outweigh the massive amounts of energy, water, and land that go towards food production. Thus, preventing food waste at the source is essential for a sustainable future. 

Global Green developed a number of materials modeled after the EPA’s Food Too Good to Waste toolkit, with tips for improving behaviors and preventing edible food from spoiling. We currently have the materials in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese, and we’re hoping to translate them into more languages for maximum community engagement. Read on for a description of our outreach materials, all of which are available to download below.

Our Food Waste Prevention Toolkit comes with a large Eat First! sign, to be placed near, in front of, or underneath the most perishable items in your fridge. Research shows that a substantial percentage of what gets thrown away are items that we simply forget are there. (We all, at one point in time, have pushed some produce to the back of the fridge and forgotten it there, only to find it rotting days later, right?) 

We also distribute a Smart Storage Guide, which identifies the fruits and vegetables that should be stored in the fridge, and which ones at room temperature. It’s straightforward, but many of us live our lives unaware that bananas are better off outside of the fridge to ripen properly.

Our Smart Shopping List reminds people to plan their meals in advance and bring a shopping list to the market. This strategy has been proven to help us waste less and also save money by not buying unnecessary groceries. Further, we all know that shopping while hungry does not always lead to mindful  grocery choices, nor does it encourage purchasing the right products or the right quantities. 

Additionally, when launching our food waste diversion pilots we also invite residents to participate in a set of voluntary surveys exploring their views on food waste diversion. We begin with a pre-survey, carried out when residents receive compost pails and/or Food Waste Prevention Toolkits, and we end several weeks later with a post-survey distributed to participants by phone or email. As an incentive for survey participants, we enter them into a raffle for a gift card or a gift basket with clever food preservation tools, such as clear glass storage containers (seeing our food ensures we don’t forget about it), and produce bags that preserve veggies for longer. Gift baskets have also included reusable bamboo cutlery (disposable plastic utensils are rarely recyclable), as well as reusable cloth bulk and grocery bags. 

Some highlights of the surveys included questions rating the difficulty of separating food waste at home, as well as rating the perceived importance of composting food scraps. Even though we haven’t finalized our data collection and analysis, we’re already seeing trends emerging. To our pleasant surprise, most survey participants rated composting food scraps as very important in both the pre- and post-survey. Even more encouraging to our efforts, a significant number of participants felt food waste collection was easier after they had tried it for a few weeks than at the beginning. These responses hint at a bright future for our vision of successful food waste diversion programs with widespread, strong public participation. 

Don’t forget to check out our infographics and the full body of the surveys below!