Reduce Food Waste at Home

Americans grossly underestimate how much food they waste. Although it may not seem like a big deal, the leftover food and kitchen scraps thrown away contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 76% of people believe that they throw away less food than the average American.1

Most of our food waste ends up in landfills, where it generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is up to 36 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.2

However, national and local municipalities have begun increasing services, such as composting, across the country to make reducing food waste and diverting food from landfills easier. According to a report by the U.S. PIRG, in the last 5 years alone, the number of communities offering composting programs has grown by 65%.3

Key Benefits

Set an Example

Properly preparing meals and consuming only what you need reduces food waste and sets a wonderful example for children. The average American consumer is already aware that wasting food is bad and is taking the steps necessary to reduce food waste. Now is an opportunity to set a wonderful example for future generations.

Financial Savings

Reducing food waste also saves money! The less food you waste, the less frequently you need to buy groceries. Among American adults, 80% report that “saving money” is an important motivation for reducing food waste.4

Positive Environmental Impact

Food wasted in the U.S. is estimated to be around 400 pounds per person, per year! The U.S. PIRG has shown that composting could help reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills and incinerators in the US by at least 30%.5 Reducing the amount of food wasted and furthering composting programs can have a positive impact on our greenhouse gas emissions.

Tips & Ideas

Reduce plate size

Reports show that we typically don’t even notice when portions are significantly smaller. Start by reducing the size of your plate, and you’ll not only reduce your food intake, but also the amount of leftovers destined for the trash bin!

Advance meal planning and prepping

Planning ahead and shopping only for the ingredients you need for family meals can significantly help reduce the amount of food waste and save you money. Food prep and meal planning shouldn’t feel intimidating either. Start small, and aim for just three days each week or two meals every day.


Food scraps, which contribute up to 28% of what we throw away, should be composted instead.6 Whether you live in a small apartment or a house with a large yard, composting can be done anywhere and is easier than it may seem. Contact your local municipality to see if composting is available in your city or town. If not, you can learn how to start your own composting bin by visiting the EPA’s guide to composting at home.

Understand food labels

While 91% of Americans pay attention to food expiration date labels, over half are unaware that date labels are not federally regulated, leading to inflated levels of trust placed in label guidance.7 Food products are typically safe to consume past the date on the label. Evaluate the quality of the food prior to consuming or discarding. Sites like StillTasty offer helpful advice on food shelf life.

Learn more, download the PDF

  1. Berkenkamp, J., Hoover, D. and Mugica, Y. 2017. Food Matters: What Food We Waste And How We Can Expand The Amount Of Food We Rescue. URL
  2. International Panel on Climate Change, Fifth Assessment Report (2013,) Table 8.7. Methane packs 36 times the heat-trapping punch of carbon dioxide, pound-for-pound, over the course of a century after it is released. However, over a shorter period of 20 years, non-fossil methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
  3. Streeter, V. and Platt, B. 2017. Residential Food Waste Collection Access in The U.S. BioCycle, 58 (11).
  4. Neff, R. A., Spiker, M. L., and Truant, P. L. 2015. Wasted Food: U.S. Consumers’ Reported Awareness, Attitudes, and Behaviors. PloS one, 10(6), e0127881.
  5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2015 Fact Sheet, July 2018.
  6. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Composting At Home. URL
  7. Neff, R. A., Spiker, M. L., and Truant, P. L. 2015. Wasted Food: U.S. Consumers’ Reported Awareness, Attitudes, and Behaviors. PloS one, 10(6), e0127881.