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Here are 12 easy-to-follow tips that you can bring into your own kitchen. 

Alison Spiegel
April 18, 2018

With Earth Day upon us, we've been shining a light on leaders in the food world who are pushing the envelope when it comes to sustainability. They're fighting food waste and showing the world that eco-friendly practices aren't just good for the planet, but for a restaurant or home cook's bottom line, too. There's Christina Lecki, the buzzy chef at Brooklyn's Reynard, who uses a 24-hour cooking cycle — slow-cooking food in her oven as it cools overnight — to maximize the energy produced in her kitchen. There's social entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe, whose company, Goodr, works with establishments like Atlanta's Ponce City Market to reduce food waste. And then, of course, there's José Andres (always José), who just opened a sustainable seafood restaurant in the Bahamas, where the signature dish will be lionfish, an invasive species. 

Here in the Food & Wine Test Kitchen, our very own test kitchen manager Kelsey Youngman and culinary director Justin Chapple have built eco-friendly practices into their routines, too. Whether they're composting food scraps or using metal or glass straws (they were doing it before it became all the rage!), their methods are totally accessible and easy to do. So take a page from their book and bring some of their habits into your own kitchen this year. You, and the planet, will be glad you did. 

1. They compost all leftover food scraps, bones and peels.

If you don't have your own compost bin, take your scraps to the greenmarket. And if you (like this editor) don't have space in your tiny kitchen to hold food scraps, or are worried that they'll start to smell, store them in a bag in your freezer until you're ready to bring them to the compost bin.

2. They use compostable plates for group tastings, and wash and reuse compostable utensils.

It's worth the investment and there are a lot of great options out there, from basic to more elegant

3. They buy seasonally available foods in small quantities instead of buying in bulk and throwing out leftovers.

All this takes is a little planning before hitting the supermarket. Don't go without a list, and jot down quantities so that you don't buy too much. If buying in bulk is the most economical route for you...see the next tip.

4. They freeze leftovers for future use.

Not sure if you can freeze something? Check out this list of seven foods you didn't know you could freeze (Spoiler alert: eggs are on there.)

5. They freeze bones, carcasses and even veggie peels to make stocks.

Using food scraps for stock doesn't just cut down on waste, either. It's better for your bottom line and makes better-tasting broth, too.

6. They use leftover citrus peels and herb stems to infuse white vinegar for an all-purpose cleaner. 

Youngman swears by this homemade, natural cleaner, which isn't just good for the environment, but smells great, too.

7. They use metal or glass straws.

In the U.K., everyone from McDonald's to Wagamama is hopping on this trend, but Youngman's been doing this for years.

8. They recycle and compost instead of throwing out whenever possible.

It's one small step that has a huge impact. If it seems like too much effort, then you don't have the right set up. Buy a proper bin for composting and recycling once, make it easy on yourself forever. 

9. They do a weekly fridge and freezer clean out and give scrap groceries to coworkers to avoid throwing things out.

It's a good day when we get the remnants of recipe testing, but you can do the same in your own kitchen. If you're heading out of town, for example, check in with your friends or neighbors to see if you can give anything away.

10. They drink out of glasses and use pitchers for drinking water instead of plastic cups or bottles.

When you're at the office or going to a coffee shop, bring your own mug or cup. If you're anything like us, you drink a lot of coffee, and those paper cups add up.

11. They make they're own dressings and sauces to avoid packaging.

A bonus here? Homemade stocks taste better than the store-bought stuff.

12. They bring their own bags to the grocery store.

It sounds like a no-brainer at this point, but it's easy to forget. Keep a few totes by your front door, so you see them before you're heading to the store.