Reduce food waste with your new best friend Meal Prep Mate

March 15, 2019 by  
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In a world filled with convenient fast-food wherever you go and a focus on instant gratification, it can be a serious challenge to eat healthily and keep your food waste to a minimum. For many of us, our busy lives cause us to make daily food decisions that fill our diets with highly processed foods, which are often wrapped in single-use packaging. But there is a way you can not only eat  healthily , but you can reduce food waste while saving time and money, too. The answer is meal prep. In an effort to reduce food waste, the Save the Food campaign has launched Meal Prep Mate, a free online program that helps with meal prep no matter if you are brand new to prepping meals or a seasoned pro. Save the Food Back in 2016, a public service project called Save the Food began after the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) partnered with the Ad Council. The goal was to reduce food waste with a print ad campaign featuring close-ups of different foods that have the label “Best if used.” The ads also included food waste statistics. Now, the campaign is going further with Meal Prep Mate , a free, online resource that helps with every step of the meal prep process: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and portioning. The new Meal Prep Mate website “walks you through step-by-step guides of ‘what to know,’ ‘what to have’ and ‘what to buy,’ and it allows you to choose pre-designed plans or build your own plan.” No matter which route you take, you can plan your meals for up to five days each week and up to three meals each day. Meal Prep Mate The new website offers four different pre-designed plans that include a variety of dishes from meat-based to vegan  and everything in between. Once you choose how many days you want to plan for and how many meals and snacks you want to prep for each day, the website will give you recipes, a shopping list and nutritional information. There is a bit more work involved if you want to build a customized meal prep plan. You start the same way that you would with the pre-designed plans by choosing how many days and meals you are prepping for. Then, you must select proteins, produce and grains for each meal before getting your shopping list and ingredient quantities. To further reduce food waste, the website also includes ingredient storage tips, ideas for scraps and leftovers  and recipe suggestions. Portion control Meal prepping can definitely help with eating healthy meals each week, but one of the biggest challenges is portion size. Meal Prep Mate aims to help with that by suggesting portion sizes, so you don’t buy too much or too little at the grocery store and prep too much or too little food. Because everyone’s nutritional needs are different, Meal Prep Mate’s suggestions could be too large or too small. The first time you use the tool, be aware of how the portions work for you, and make any necessary adjustments. Getting started with meal prepping Have you seen those Instagram food prepping accounts that look like they prep 21 meals plus snacks every Sunday? They make it look so beautiful in the pictures and seem so easy in the captions. But these posts really just give many people visions of a time-consuming grocery shopping excursion on Sunday morning and hours of hard work over a hot stove. Food prepping shouldn’t be intimidating; you just have to start small. There is no need to prep every single meal and snack for an entire week. Instead, try just two or three days each week and aim for one or two meals each day. Katie Lolas, the expert food prep Instagrammer behind the popular Lady Lolas page, said that when you get started with prepping , think about what gives you the most trouble. “Pick your problem areas,” Lolas said. “For example, if you don’t have an issue cooking dinner, but always seem to make unhealthy snack choices, or you skip breakfast , then spend your time prepping options that will make those times easier for you.” If unhealthy snacks are the biggest problem in your diet , then focus on prepping those. If you always find yourself in a drive-thru after work or ordering take-out every night, then consider prepping a few dinners on Sunday. Yes, meal prep is important for healthy eating and reducing food waste, but it should make your life easier, not harder, said Lolas. The environmental impact of food waste Every year in the United States, Americans waste 40 percent of their food, according to NRDC . That is equal to 400 pounds per person. To make things worse, many Americans toss everything in the garbage, which means the food winds up in a landfill and releases methane. The great thing about food prepping is that it not only helps you live a healthier lifestyle while saving you some cash, but it also is a big help to the environment by greatly reducing food waste. + Meal Prep Mate + Save the Food Via NRDC Images via Shutterstock

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Reduce food waste with your new best friend Meal Prep Mate

The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead

March 1, 2019 by  
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Having access to soft, fluffy toilet paper is one of those modern conveniences that makes life in the 21st century that much easier. But did you know that using this luxury could be doing more damage to the environment than driving a large, gas-guzzling SUV? On average, every American uses three rolls of  toilet paper  each week (28 pounds per year), meaning that just 4 percent of the world’s population is responsible for 20 percent of total tissue consumption. This is destroying forests and impacting climate change in a significant way. “The Issue with Tissue” A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council titled “The Issue with Tissue” said that many toilet paper manufacturers like Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Georgia Pacific use wood pulp from Canadian forests and zero recycled content when making their at-home toilet paper. “Most Americans probably do not know that the toilet paper they flush away comes from ancient forests, but clear-cutting those forests is costing the planet a great deal,” Anthony Swift, director of the NRDC’s Canada Project, said in a news release. “Maintaining the Canadian boreal forest is vital to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change .” What is toilet paper made of? Companies use different ingredients to make tissue products, but the typical main ingredient is paper pulp. It can come from a variety of sources, like post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled content or wheat straw and bamboo . However, the most common source of paper pulp by far is wood, AKA virgin fiber, because it has never been used in another product. Virgin fiber is “environmentally destructive” according to the NRDC. The two types of virgin pulp are softwood and hardwood, with softwood coming from spruce and other coniferous trees and hardwood coming from deciduous trees. Spruce and other coniferous trees are found in places like the southeastern U.S. and the Canadian boreal, and they produce long fibers that strengthen the tissue. Related: Evaporative off-grid toilets don’t need plumbing, water or electricity Without getting too scientific, making pulp from virgin fiber requires a mill that makes logs into wood chips, plus an energy-intensive chemical process to separate the wood fibers. To whiten the pulp, it also has to go through a chemical bleaching process. Making toilet paper from 100 percent virgin fiber “generates three times as much carbon as products made from other types of pulp,” according to the NRDC report. Manufacturing a single roll of toilet paper also uses 37 gallons of water , and transporting the paper can waste loads of gas. Sustainability scores The NRDC report gave “sustainability-based scores” for different at-home toilet paper brands. Because they use zero recycled content in their products, brands like Charmin Ultra, Quilted Northern, Kirkland, Up & Up Soft and Strong and Angel Soft received an “F.” Scott 1000, Scott Comfort Plus, Cottonelle Ultra and Trader Joe’s Super Soft Bath Tissue received a “D.” Brands that scored an “A” because they use recycled paper include 365 Everyday Value 100% Recycled, Earth’s First, Natural Value, Green Forest, Seventh Generation and Trader Joe’s Bath Tissue. The report concluded that when it comes to using sustainable components, Procter & Gamble was the worst paper company in the U.S. P&G has yet to comment on the report. A Georgia-Pacific spokesperson said that the company does use recovered fiber in addition to virgin wood, and a Kimberly-Clark spokesperson said the company’s goal is to cut the virgin pulp content in its products in half by 2025. Eco-friendly alternatives Who Gives A Crap This company began with crowdfunding back in 2012, and it has been growing ever since. It offers  eco-friendly toilet paper made from 100 percent recycled paper as well as no added inks, dyes or scents. Who Gives A Crap claims its 3-ply is as “soft as unicorn kisses and as strong as 1,000 ponies,” and you can buy it in bulk at just $1 per jumbo roll, which is 400 sheets. This company also donates 50 percent of profits to help improve sanitation and build toilets in developing countries. Family cloth This might be an option that is out of most people’s comfort zone , but in the spirit of cloth diapers comes family cloth —  wiping with fabric swatches , which are then placed in a wet-dry bag and laundered so they can be reused . Bidet attachment For some reason, Americans haven’t fallen in love with alternatives like bidets as many Europeans have. This is unfortunate, because bidets have amazing environmental benefits. Plus, they are great for personal hygiene. Related: How to upgrade your toilet with a handheld bidet sprayer If you aren’t familiar with a bidet attachment, it is a fixture that you add to your toilet seat. It will wash your bum and genitalia with water after you use the toilet. You can greatly reduce the need for toilet paper in your house by adding a bidet attachment to your toilet. If everyone in America reduced their toilet paper use by just one roll per week, it would save thousands of trees and have a significant environmental impact. Images via Shutterstock

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The environmental problem with toilet paper and what to use instead

This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation

March 1, 2019 by  
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Rammed earth is a building technique that uses packed raw materials from the earth like gravel, sand, silt or clay to build walls and foundations. Casa Lasso, designed by Rama Estudio in San Jose, Ecuador utilized the rammed earth approach (or “tapial”) to create five strong walls made of natural elements to both protect the home from strong winds and improve the thermal quality inside the home. The rammed earth provides added support for the wooden-beamed roof every 70 centimeters. Glass windows make up the upper closures of the structure, giving the entire area the potential for  sunlight  to shine through and light up the living areas. Speaking of living areas, there is room for six beds, all built into the rammed earth framework, in the communal area. There is also a master bedroom with pivoting panels to either integrate or close off the spaces. Much of the furniture and shelving in the kitchen and bedroom is built into the structured wall, ensuring that no space is wasted, no matter how small. The designers built the rustic fireplace into the lowest part of the home, with the intention of creating a centralized space that would “embrace” the area. Casa Lasso also uses a waste management system that connects solids and liquids into an internal irrigation and fertilizer network, meaning that there is no sewage system. Using pivoting panels, occupants have the option of closing the doors for added warmth and security or creating an extended and almost unblocked view of the outdoor area beyond the property. The area around the house is surrounded by eucalyptus plantations, making the land arid and soil difficult to grow in. Designers chose to plant native species in small landscaped islands throughout the property in order to combat this dilemma. As a result of the rammed earth building technique, Casa Lasso maintains an organic color. The combination of brown earth tones from the wooden panels, the large beams making up the roof and natural stone work makes this home blend in beautifully with the native landscape. + RAMA Estudio Via ArchDaily Photography by Jag Studio and  Andrés Villota via RAMA Estudio

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This Ecuadorian home uses the natural elements of rammed earth as a foundation

Austin passes law banning restaurants from throwing out food waste

October 5, 2018 by  
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Restaurants in Austin, Texas have revamped operations this week by adopting sustainable measures for food waste . According to a new law, which went into effect on October 1, local eateries must now dispose of waste in a responsible manner as part of Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO). The businesses are encouraged to choose from a variety of options, including donating unconsumed goods, sending leftovers to farms or composting organic waste in order to divert trash from landfills. Employees are also being given supplementary training on how to properly handle food waste with care for the environment. The URO is a major catalyst for Texas’ Zero Waste by 2040 pledge and also includes lateral initiatives to broaden recycling measures and safeguard sustainable economic development. Related: New study finds food waste will increase to 66 tons per second if left unchecked “The City is committed to helping companies, large and small, find cost-effective solutions and establish diversion programs to ensure food and other organics are put to best use while meeting ordinance requirements,” said Sam Angoori, Interim Director for Austin Resource Recovery. The organization has become a go-to for businesses that need help reshaping their operations to comply with the new food waste regulations. And the help is certainly needed. According to local government studies, “the [Austin] community needs to divert more than 90 percent of discards from being burned or buried” in order to transform Texas’ zero waste ambitions into a reality. Government research from 2015 reveals that about 37 percent of trash sent to overburdened landfills is actually organic, meaning it could easily be composted and reused to benefit — not harm — the environment. “When we waste food, we not only add organic materials to landfills (where they generate methane, a powerful global warming pollutant), but we also waste all the water , land, energy, money, labor and other resources that go into growing, processing, distributing and storing that food,” explained Senior Research Specialist Darby Hoover from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Austin joins cities such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco leading the way with food waste redirection programs of their own. San Francisco boasts the top score on the environmental leaderboard by diverting an astounding 80 percent of its total waste from landfills and, most importantly, showing other cities that it can be done. More likely than not, other cities will soon be embracing similar initiatives based on the successes of their pioneering neighbors — something that both people and the environment can be thankful for. + Austin Resource Recovery Via The Huffington Post  and  The Rockefeller Foundation Image via  Pawe? Czerwi?ski

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Austin passes law banning restaurants from throwing out food waste

United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade

May 30, 2018 by  
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United Kingdom Secretary of the Environment Michael Gove has introduced a bill to Parliament that would ban the purchase, sale, possession for sale and international trade of ivory . Though the bill contains several exceptions for ivory found in museums, musical instruments and some antiques, it would be one of the most comprehensive ivory bans of any country. The United Kingdom is the largest legal ivory exporter and the bill, if passed into law, would certainly put a dent in this lucrative trade. While environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have praised the bill , they also have identified weak points within it, such as the potential for the exemptions clause to become a widely-used loophole. The NRDC also urges the bill to require those who benefit from the exemption to provide more detailed documentation. The bill will be submitted again on June 6th for what is known as the “second reading,” during which members of Parliament will be able to make amendments to the bill. Then, the bill will be sent to committee, then return to the floor of the House of Commons for a final vote. The NRDC and other organizations are expected to engage with the crafting of the bill as it moves through the process. Related: The world’s largest ivory market just banned ivory According to the BBC , Gove said that the successful adoption of the bill would “reaffirm the U.K.’s global leadership on this critical issue, demonstrating our belief that the abhorrent ivory trade should become a thing of the past.” He continued, “Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol.” Those who break the law could face jail time of up to five years or an unlimited fine. This is not the first instance of British leadership on curbing the ivory trade. “Since the U.K. government held the Illegal Wildlife Conference in 2014, the U.S. and China have both enacted bans on their domestic ivory trade, so the U.K. doing this now is extraordinarily important,” Stop Ivory founder Alexander Rhodes told the BBC . “The EU on the other hand has been very resistant — I am hopeful that the U.K.’s strong position will lead to change.” Via NRDC and BBC Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade

Top grocery stores lag on antibiotic-free food

May 22, 2017 by  
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As restaurant chains rush to cut antibiotic-raised chicken, a new report by the Natural Resource Defense Council argues that Costco, Walmart and others aren’t doing enough.

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Top grocery stores lag on antibiotic-free food

The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs

January 26, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump seems to think the words ‘create jobs ‘ grant him the ability to forgo any fact-checking. He’s said he supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it would create 28,000 jobs , but it turns out the controversial project would generate a mere 35 full-time, permanent jobs. Trump’s mysterious 28,000 number doesn’t originate in TransCanada’s government application or the State Department’s years-long study of the pipeline, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Instead, they say the pipeline would create 35 full-time, permanent jobs, and maybe 15 temporary contractor positions. Back in 2014 the State Department provided that 35-job figure in their 11-page report. The pipeline would also create 3,900 “person years of employment.” Related: Trump signs executive actions to reinstate Keystone and Dakota Access Pipeline Let’s dig into that “person years of employment” figure. According to the NRDC, that number means there’s enough pipeline construction work for 3,900 people to work full-time for one year. But since the pipeline could take two years, the NRDC said “a more realistic way to view this number is 1,950 full-time construction jobs lasting for the two year timeline of the project’s construction.” Those jobs could benefit thousands of people, but the figure isn’t even close to 28,000 jobs. The 35 full-time positions would work in TransCanada’s Nebraska office and monitor day to day operations for the pipeline. The reasons against the pipeline that led to President Barack Obama’s rejection still hold true today. According to NRDC, “It’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen, a climate-wrecking project with no place in today’s energy mix, and it’s not in America’s national interest.” They said the pipeline will benefit Canadian oil companies far more than the American economy. If Trump actually wants to create jobs instead of just blathering about it, he should take a closer look at renewable energy – the growing industry could add not 28,000, but millions of jobs . Via Natural Resources Defense Council Images via Wikimedia Commons and NRDC pix on Flickr

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The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs

See Just How Much Food You — Yes, You — Are Wasting

December 9, 2016 by  
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In 2012, we received some dismal news about food waste. A staggering 40 percent of food is wasted from farm to fork, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Suddenly, we were all running to our fridges to make soups from…

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See Just How Much Food You — Yes, You — Are Wasting

Food Rescue Program Fights Food Waste Intelligently

June 10, 2016 by  
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A few years ago, a report was released stating that 40% of food is wasted from farm to fork. This stunning news from the National Resource Defense Council has helped raise awareness of the global food waste crisis, with its many environmental and…

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Food Rescue Program Fights Food Waste Intelligently

9 Ways To Stuff Food Waste This Thanksgiving

November 26, 2015 by  
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Did you know that almost 40% of food is wasted from farm to fork, according to the National Resource Defense Council? This takes a big environmental toll, as agriculture uses 50% of U.S. land and consumes 80% of the freshwater consumed, while 1 in…

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9 Ways To Stuff Food Waste This Thanksgiving

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