The United States puts about 80 billion pounds of food in the garbage every year. Food takes up more space in our landfills than anything else. Landfills account for about 20 percent of methane emissions.
Others think so too. That’s why several sustainable thinkers have come up with creative solutions to reduce food waste in Utah. Between providing community compost bins, to diverting surplus food from dumpsters to eager consumers, the following businesses are leading the charge in ethical eating.
Waste Less Solutions
Dana Williams is the founder of Waste Less Solutions, a nonprofit committed to making a significant reduction in food waste in Utah.
“We hear about it all the time,” says Williamson. “Meat plants disposing of tainted meat, food shortages in grocery stores reflecting food wasted in the fields.” While the mere existence of recycling bins has made us more aware of our garbage, most of us still throw away a lot of food. Restaurants and institutions throw away even more. Waste Less Solutions partnered with technology-based nonprofit Food Rescue US divert to our community’s food waste to those who continually struggle with food insecurity, i.e., hungry people. In Utah, that’s about 400,000 people.
“To date, we have saved over 1,070,000 meals—equivalent to providing three meals a day to over 356,000 individuals within Salt Lake County area,” says Williamson.
Small bites, that’s what it takes.
“We are getting donors in the food industry, agencies that work to feed the hungry and volunteer rescuers who will deliver the food from donors to the receiving agencies. We educate consumers and food entities on the issue and solutions, and we offer a food diversion program that engages our community to help rescue edible food and get it to those who are food insecure.”
Waste Less certifies restaurants that are working with them, giving out a checklist of 10 things to do. The restaurant gets marketing promotions and good karma by being certified.
“We also want to teach consumers about food waste—we’re working on doing rescue from backyard gardens and encouraging people to take home food they don’t eat in restaurants.”
Like we said, small bites. Rico’s, The Pago Group, The Downtown Farmers Market have all signed up. Other donors include The Blended Table, Tracy Aviary, Stone Ground Bakery, Lux Catering and Events, and many many more.
Why not encourage your favorite restaurant to join the effort?
When Luccin Ifote noticed the amount of food waste his former grocery employer was creating, he was frustrated. Grocery stores, bakeries and other food marketplaces throw out massive amounts of surplus food at the end of the day. While others saw an unfortunate yet unavoidable byproduct of food production, Ifote saw an opportunity.
“I thought, ‘how can we eliminate food that would end up in the trash and give it to people that are willing to pay for it at a discounted price?’” Between rising inflation and growing consumer consciousness, more people are looking for alternative food sources. Iffote’s business, Extrabites, became that alternative solution.
Still in its early stages, Extrabites was only just created two months ago. Working as a middleman, Extrabites connects food vendors with customers. “Extrabites is a marketplace where people can shop from different bakeries and grocery stores to buy their surplus food at a discounted price,” says CEO and Co-founder Ifote.
Here’s how it works: Users visit extrabites.com and subscribe to receive text notifications when a business has a food surplus. After making a selection, the consumer pays for the items at a discounted price, some as much as 70% off. The food vendor will list time slots for available pick-up, making it a seamless shopping experience for all parties.
Considering its wide application and efficiency, it’s not a surprise that Extrabites is turning heads. In just a few short months, the platform has gained 2,500 customers and has partnered up with local businesses like Chubby Baker, Liberty Heights Fresh, Provo Bakery, Doki Doki and more. But Ifote is far from finished. “Eventually, we want Extrabites to incorporate delivery and function like Doordash or Ubereats,” he says. He also wants to partner with grocery chains like Smiths, Harmons, Target and Walmart.
Reducing food waste in Utah while giving people access to healthy and affordable food is a win-win for all parties. Visit Extrabites.com to start shopping surplus food near you.
Of course, there’s no avoiding the fact that some food needs to be thrown out. Whether it’s scraps left from dinner or a mystery meal that’s turned into sludge in the back of your work’s fridge, throwing out inedible food is a necessity—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contribute to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of aiming for the trash bin, food can be disposed in compost bins. Building a compost bin at home isn’t rocket science, and the resulting soil-like particles are a gardener’s best friend. However, the less appealing byproducts of decomposition turn many off, especially for apartment dwellers.
Enter—Animalia. A local shop selling handmade goods and a bulk refill station, Animalia also offers a community food waste collection. Located in the back parking lot, people can drop off acceptable items in large green bins and rest assured their food isn’t rotting in a landfill.
Exactly where does all that compost end up? Once a week, Momentum Recycling hauls off the compost bings to Wasatch Resource Recovery’s anaerobic digester. The food is converted to biogas for sustainable energy production or given to local farms as biofertilizers. Users pay a small service fee depending on the weight of their drop-off to cover this service.
Composting as easy as one, two, three! Visit Animalia’s site to view acceptable food waste items.