If you can't tell, the weather is getting warmer, the bumble bees are out, and summer is on its way! This means that you'll have more opportunities to spend time outside and embrace the brightness of the summer season. As someone looking to decrease their waste footprint, I think summertime provides unique opportunities to consider how we can live more sustainable lifestyles. Many of these opportunities and projects carry little cost and provide immense social & environmental benefit. Here are some simple ways you can reduce your food-print this summer! 

Build a Compost Bin & Turn Your Spoils into Soils

It might be surprising to learn that nearly 40% of the food in America is wasted! Although this statistic is considered to account for on-farm (e.g., pest outbreaks, disease, etc.) and off-farm (e.g., food lost during transportation, unsold food at grocery stores, etc.), it does recognize that the majority of food wasted is at the consumer level. Either people buy more food than they need or it goes bad before they are able to cook it. 

One of the most valuable ways to challenge food waste is to find an alternative way to "recycle" it. Instead of throwing your food scraps into a trash bin (which will then be sent to a landfill where it will decompose and emit climate-change-inducing methane gas), consider finding a way to compost it. You can learn how to build a DIY compost bin for less than $5 here

Become a CSA Member 

CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture." It's a farm program where people can buy "shares" in a farm's yield for the season. You can learn more about CSA programs in this Spoon article

Purchase Local When Possible 

I was lucky enough to grow up down the street from a family-owned farm stand and greenhouse. Not only did they supply the seedlings and the supplies needed to start our own garden, but they also sold a variety of fresh fruits and veggies from their fields. It might be difficult for people to commit to only buying local foods (because who doesn't love avocados and bananas), so committing 10-20% of your total budget to local food is a more feasible option for many. Although many people opt to purchase local via farmers' markets, I recommend taking a deeper dive into farms that offer direct-to-consumer sales; they might not have the capital needed to compete with other vendors at farmers markets. 

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Sam Jesner

Eat Meat Less Frequently 

If this one isn't obvious already! Whole, plant-based foods are cheaper and less environmentally destructive than meat. And just because you choose to eat plant-based doesn't mean you have to skip out on the barbecue fun! Try making these black bean burgers with homemade vegan burger sauce! 

Learn How to Garden

It can't get more local than your own backyard! Gardening will teach you patience, diligence, and where your food really comes from! If you don't have the space to garden within the confines of your yard, you can look into community gardening plots available in your area. Many of these spaces are free for the public to use, and some organizations will even provide shared tools for you to use. 

Some of my favorite things to grow include peppers, carrots, onions, potatoes, and broccoli. Even if you can't grow everything you need, any supplement to your diet is a healthy and sustainable effort.

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Alex Frank

Celebrate Food with Family and Friends

Rarely do we ever get the opportunity to step back and appreciate what nature provides us. Summer is one of my favorite times during the year because I get to enjoy time with my family and friends- often around a dinner table. Although with social distancing your next barbecue might look a little different, we still have the opportunity to express gratitude for one another and the food on our plates.