Food & Cooking

An introduction to zero-waste cooking | Food and Cooking

Food waste in the United States has wide-reaching negative ramifications—on climate, health, and food security.

Countering this wasteful apex is a burgeoning global zero waste movement. The United States Environmental Protection Agency takes on zero waste by regulating product design—the quintessential tip of the iceberg. Products that conserve natural resources, preserve value, and minimize environmental impacts create a positive trickle-down effect. The Zero Waste International Alliance has embraced a global approach seeking to infuse responsible disposal practices with an eye for proper land management and environmental safety.

Yet, this philosophy isn’t a modern concept, but harkens to the original Indigenous caretakers of the earth. In 1519, the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlán was the largest in the Americas, home to 200,000 Aztec people, with an incredibly advanced zero waste system. This was especially true when it came to food. Tenochtitlán recycled nutrients by reintroducing food scraps and human waste as fertilizer that nurtured crops, which produced food for the city.

The simple idea of recycling food scraps is a basic principle and perfect starting point for those looking to introduce zero waste habits. Food scraps—think carrot tops, potato skins, animal bones, squash seeds, fruit peels, cheese rinds, herb stems, and even coffee grounds—are easily transformed into meals and tasty snacks with the right recipe. Even perishable food gone bad can be tossed into a compost bin to create rich fertilizer.

Pela compiled a list of ways to reduce cooking waste in the kitchen, which can help reduce food spoilage, minimize packaging waste, boost environmental health, create nutrient-dense meals, and save money.