Food Waste and the Distributed Office: How does EcoAdapt manage food waste?

A few weeks ago, I came across The Office Waste Challenge initiated by the World Resources Institute and thought it would be an interesting idea to take the general idea of the challenge and look into how EcoAdapt, being a distributed office, approaches waste generated during the work day. In addition to collecting resources, I polled the team to see what we are doing currently and how we can improve. For example, how are we approaching waste when it comes to food and office resources, and what are we doing to prevent the generation of waste in the first place? 

During a weekly team meeting we discussed what we do as a team to reduce our waste daily and in our work-related activities. One event that stood out was EcoAdapt’s National Adaptation Forum (NAF). At NAF 2019, several measures were implemented to reduce waste: only metal and china kitchenware were used in order to minimize the amount of plastic at the Forum; online programs were available to reduce the amount of paper programs needed; and a vegetarian diet was implemented. You can see data collected on these efforts in the NAF “by-the-numbers” report which details the sustainability impacts of the Forum. Vegetarian diets were an important addition to the sustainability and waste minimization efforts of the Forum as a means of reducing the Forum's carbon footprint. Vegetarian diets have been heavily researched as a means of showing how changes in the human diet can impact the environment. Check out these articles to learn more about how plant-based diets and the food industry impact the climate:

Annual Reviews: Climate Change and Food Systems
BioOne: Nitrogen and Food Production: Proteins for Human Diets
PNAS: Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Co-Benefits of Dietary Change
Nature: Options for Keeping the Food System within Environmental Limits
ScienceDaily: For a Lower Climate Footprint, Vegetarian Beats Local
Global Food and Security: The Role of Trade in Greenhouse Gas Footprints of EU Diets

EcoAdapt’s Community Workshops work to minimize food waste by donating uneaten food to food banks and community centers, as well as giving leftovers to participants to take home. In order to learn more about how we approach food waste in our regular work days, I asked the team to respond to the following questions: Do you compost at home?; What would your go-to piece of advice be for minimizing waste while working at home?; Do you have any recipes that use leftovers or reduce food waste?

Do You Compost at Home?
EcoAdapt’s Headquarters on Bainbridge Island, WA has a compost bin and actively works to reduce food waste this way. I was curious how many staff members also compost at home. Over 50% of staff already compost at home and nearly 25% are actively working to incorporate composting into their day-to-day. Great job team!
What would your go-to piece of advice be for minimizing waste while working at home?
  1. Do research about how to properly store your food - this can help items from spoiling quickly and tempting you to waste! 
  2. Get creative and use your leftovers and produce to make new meals the next day! 
  3. Watch out for plastic packaging and clean the unavoidable plastics for re-use or recycling.
  4. Take note of your local resources! Buy in bulk at the local co-op, keep your purchases in-line with produce seasons, and use the “perimeter method” of shopping at the grocery store. 
  5. Meal plan! By planning your meals you can reduce extra or quick purchases throughout the week that may contribute to your total waste. 
Do you have any recipes that use leftovers or reduce food waste?
  1. Grate too-big zucchini, squeeze out the water, and freeze for winter zucchini bread or zucchini chocolate chip cookies.
  2. Freeze overripe bananas to use in banana bread or smoothies. Save bruised pears or apples to cut up and steam for pear/applesauce.
  3. Quiche! This is a great catch all for almost any type of vegetable combinations. 
  4. Make vegetable broth from kitchen scraps! Pop the scraps in the freezer until you have enough to use.  
A few team members took the challenge to examine food waste even further by making a pledge for the week. Some pledges included:
  1. Intentionally tracking how much food is being thrown away versus composted at home
  2. Purposely buying “ugly” fruits and vegetables that others may not purchase 
  3. Researching what materials are collected for recycling in their city and improving how they sort their waste 
  4. Trying to keep things close! Eat at home when you can and use your own containers and mugs to take away food from restaurants. 
In order to keep the team thinking about our food waste impacts, I gathered some helpful resources regarding composting and recycling efforts in our home-hubs throughout the country. Please, comment, email, or connect with us on social media with any resources of your own!

Bainbridge Island and Seattle, WA
Sustainable Bainbridge
Kitsap County: Garbage, Recycling and Compost Services
Bainbridge Disposal
Tilth Alliance
Seattle Public Utilities: Backyard Composting
King County: Organic Material Resources



Pictures retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/photos/garbage-can-waste-waste-bins-1423840/; https://pixabay.com/photos/compost-fruit-and-vegetable-waste-709020/