As a sustainable design writer, one question I get asked a lot is do I actually practice what I preach? The answer for the most part is yes: I recycle, I rarely buy stuff (and when I do, it’s usually secondhand), I sit in the sweltering heat instead of turning on my AC and I probably only drive five times a year. But there is one thing I do that probably negates a big chunk of all of my other eco efforts – I waste food like a mofo.
I don’t know when these horrible habits of mine began but I have identified some of the causes. First off, for some reason I can’t go to the grocery store without stocking up like Armageddon is near. I don’t feel that it’s acceptable to leave the store with just one type of cheese (you need the sliced kind for sammiches and the block kind for snacking), and anything that looks tasty in any way is going to end up in my cart whether it’s going to be physically possible for me to eat it all before it rots or not. And it’s not like I’m cooking for a large family. There are usually only two people eating and sometimes just one. So yeah, at the end of the week, there’s a lot of expired food that just gets tossed. For shame! If you read Inhabitat, you probably know that food waste is a huge problem, contributing to climate change and filling up our landfills, but it’s also just bad form and a huge waste of money. Cheese isn’t cheap, you know.
So after I spent a few days guilt-tripping myself worse than my own mother would about this situation, I decided to do something about it. But what? Well, certainly I could control myself a bit more at the market, but I also felt that the design of my fridge was part of the problem (blaming others is fun). Yes, the fridge is roomy and even has configurable shelves and nicely labeled compartments, but if you think about it, it actually has too many levels and food storage areas. So I’d have cheese in the cheese drawer, milk on the righthand middle shelf, veggies in their drawers and other perishable items scattered all over the place. Now I know that this is the way we’ve been taught that it should be – a place for everything and everything in its place – but that was before our lives got so crazy that we needed to hire virtual assistants in Asia to tweet things for us from our personal Twitter accounts. When I’m busy writing a story and it’s lunch time, I sprint over to the fridge and just grab whatever’s right in the middle. I don’t have time to look in multiple compartments for items that are sometimes hidden behind or under other items and I’m sure you don’t either.
Anyways, sorry for this extremely long-winded intro, but the point I’m getting at is that I decided to modify my behavior by essentially forcing myself to consume the things in my fridge that were in danger of going bad by gathering them in a central location that visually tells me to eat them – a fridge triage box. I’m (for the most part) not dumb, but I know that without this behavior-modifying “system” – it’s really just a shoe box with a sign on it – I wouldn’t be able to cut down my food waste as much as I have.