Food waste alone contributes to 3.6 gigatonnes of CO2 annually. Compared to carbon emissions of entire countries, CO2 emissions from food waste is just behind CO2 emissions from China and the United States. 

CO2 emissions are a leading cause of climate change and global warming. Luckily, we all can help combat CO2 emissions — with our plates.

Here are four tips to reduce your amount of food waste.

1. Be aware of portion sizing

If you are preparing your own meal, be aware of portions and how much you plan on eating. By planning how much you will make in relation to how much you will eat, you can prevent throwing out excess food.

Whether eating out or making a meal in the dorms, leftovers should be your best friend. Not only do leftovers eliminate another meal you will have to make or buy, but it prevents unnecessarily throwing out food that could be consumed at a later time. If you have leftovers that can’t be eaten in a timely manner, try freezing portions of the meal if possible.

2. Freeze foods when possible

We have all been there. We get excited at the grocery store and buy too many bananas, or we are super hungry so we make a meal too large to consume and what do we do with all this leftover pasta sauce? Freezing is a great option for certain foods as it preserves them for longer to be used at a later time.

Sometimes, by freezing leftover foods they can be used for different purposes. Whenever I find a bunch of bananas getting brown faster than I can eat them, I will freeze them for later so they can be used in smoothies. Freezing foods is a great way to prolong its shelf-life.

Mini fridges in dorms are limited in their freezer space, so  be conscious of how much you can actually store and use frozen foods as frequently as possible. Sometimes, it isn't possible to freeze every leftover food item, but that's okay. Just freeze every time it is possible.

3. Compost food

If you can stand the odor of essentially rotting foods, a composting system is a great way to reuse your unneeded food scraps. Composting may seem complicated, but it requires just a few steps and some regular maintenance.

To begin composting, start with any sort of container that allows air to flow in and out freely. You can buy containers that are meant for composting, but it's easy enough to use stuff that may be lying around the house or make one yourself.

Once you have a container, start by combining a mixture of brown and green plant matter. Brown plant matter would be dried leaves or shredded newspaper, while green plant matter would be scraps of fresh produce accumulated while cooking. It is possible to compost animal products like meat and dairy, but I would suggest to not do this as it could potentially attract pests that you may not want to deal with.

The compost should be mixed and rotated regularly so the plant material decomposes evenly. It should be moist but not wet. Many different types of activators can be used to aid in the process, but the type of activator used is usually just preference. In the end, you will have nutrient-rich soil that can be used for your yard or plants rather than rotting away in a landfill. Before starting a compost pile, do lots of research to fully understand how you can utilize your space and situation to make a compost system that works with your lifestyle.

For living in the dorms, many companies create small compost containers that can be kept inside and reduce odor. These are perfect for a small dorm room as they can be stored easily and are usually just the right size to accommodate the needs of a college student. For research, there are lots of online resources, but a good start would be here.

4. Plant food scraps

This is not always possible, but certain food scrap can be replanted to grow more produce. Avocado pits can grow into small trees, garlic can be grown from the root scraps of used garlic and the base of celery can be planted to grow more celery. Many fruit and vegetable parts are thrown into landfills instead of being regrown.

Regrowing plants not only reduces the amount of food scraps thrown away, but also produces more food in the future that can save money in the long run. For dorm life, this can be more challenging as there is limited space, but it is possible to maintain small, potted plants and grow plants like garlic, green onions and herbs.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of food in landfills, so the trick is finding the options that fit best with your lifestyle. Not all these options are realistic for everyone, but adopting even one of these actions can help make a difference.