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Sustainability

Why You Should Eat More Leftovers

The Year of Leftovers

Butcher's Ragù with Fusilli Photo © Con Poulos

It makes me absolutely crazy when I hear how much good food regularly gets tossed out. A 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that America discards up to 40 percent of its food, or about 20 pounds per person per month; the study notes that it's basically "Farm to Fork to Landfill." If you crunch the numbers, a family of four might easily chuck more than $1,500 worth of food per year.

My motto this year is "Don't Throw That Out." Several smart chefs and food professionals are way ahead of me. Check out what they're doing.

Daily Table; Dorchester, MA
This grocery store, which is scheduled to open in early 2014, will offer at low prices food that's past its sell-by date and produce that's cosmetically blemished. The project, from a former Trader Joe's president, Doug Rauch, will also sell prepared foods made with excess ingredients from other grocery stores. At Direct Table, gallons of milk will go for as low as $1, and loaves of whole-grain bread for between 50 and 75 cents. Rauch argues that expired food can be perfectly safe: "I've been in the grocery industry since the early '70s—most products didn't have a sell-by date back then. In the old days, you'd smell the milk; it smelled good or smelled bad. Virtually all of the known food-related deaths in America have been caused by food that was in code."

French Fries for Fuel
The Bronx-based company Tri-State Biodiesel converted used cooking oil from french fries cooked during events at MetLife Stadium—presumably at Giants and Jets home games—into heating oil to warm tents outside the stadium during Super Bowl XLVIII. They worked for a year to recycle enough oil to prepare for the event. So if you were eating french fries during Taylor Swift's Red concert last summer at MetLife Stadium, you've done your part.

Brewery Byproducts Become Bread
In Colorado, chef Steven Redzikowski incorporates spent grain from the local Avery Brewery into his bread flour at both Acorn in Denver and Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder. In Washington, DC, chef Kyle Bailey is using spent grain from the new Bluejacket Brewery for flour for pastas used in dishes such as the mac and cheese, and dinner rolls at the brewery's restaurant The Arsenal.

Food Waste Is Electric
In England, Grundon Waste Management has recently submitted an application to the Gloucestershire County Council to build a food waste recycling facility at Wingmoor Farm, which would recycle more than 37,000 tons of food waste each year into methane to be burned to generate electricity. The amount of energy could potentially generate enough power to supply 4,000 local homes.

Compost Cooking
Last fall, a San Francisco Chronicle food writer, Tara Duggan, published a new cookbook, Root-to-Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable. Her husband calls it "compost cookery," focusing on employing underutilized parts of fruits and vegetables. She recommends using apple peels and cores to infuse bourbon, drying lemon peels to zest into salad dressings, chopping carrot tops as a parsley substitute and tossing peppery radish leaves into salads.

Related: Inside America's Most Sustainable Supermarket
Eco-Friendly Seafood Choices
Chefs Make Change

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