rotting food

Curbing Food Waste in Salt Lake City

How to decrease your food carbon footprint

Go Green: Eat less meat

Food production is the source of one-fourth to one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. The most impactful thing you can do to reduce your contribution to these emissions is to alter your diet by decreasing meat intake and focusing more on a plant-based diet. Meats are extremely resource intensive and the largest source of greenhouse gas in agriculture, beef in particular. The cattle industry is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions of any food by far. In addition, raising cattle is the biggest cause of deforestation. Learn more about the environmental impact of beef and how to choose more sustainably and ethically raised meats.

In contrast, CO2 emissions from plant-based foods are anywhere from 10 to 50 times lower than meat products.

Go Green: Buy locally-grown/produced foods

Eating foods that are produced locally have numerous benefits for the environment, economy, and your health.

Shopping local foods reduces your carbon footprint in several ways. It shortens the supply chain and decreases the amount of transportation and emissions required to get from the farm or kitchen to your table. Less stops in the supply chain results in fresher (and better tasting), healthier food with less chance of contamination. And buying foods from local growers and vendors supports the Utah’s economy.

Where to buy food grown or produced in Utah

Wasatch Cooperative Market is planning to open a community-owned grocery store on 900 S and 400 E, formerly Southeast Supermarket. Their shelves will be stocked with local products as well as locally-grown produce. It will be a great option for finding organic, non-GMO foods. Right now you can buy in for $300 to help get this project moving forward; there is even an option to pay only $15 per month instead of the lump sum all at once. Becoming an owner allows you to have a voice in product selection and election of the Board of Directors. You will be eligible for owner-only coupons and other benefits, in addition to receiving annual refunds based on your patronage.

Go Green: Buy food in bulk

Buying in bulk is often cheaper and has the added bonus of no packaging waste. The following are the best options to buy bulk foods in Salt Lake City.

  • Hello Bulk Markets. This environmentally-focused shop offers bulk items like spices and grains, in addition to great foods made by local companies. They also carry other products in bulk such as cleaning and personal care products.
  • Good Earth Markets. This health foods grocery store boasts a robust selection of bulk foods, including grains, nuts, seeds, baking ingredients, coffee, and snacks.
  • Bosch kitchen stores. Besides carrying all the kitchen gadgets you might need and offering a multitude of cooking classes, they also carry bulk grains, beans, baking ingredients, and other foods. There are two locations of these independently-owned cooking supply stores in the Salt Lake area, located in the Cottonwood area and Sandy.
  • Gygi is my favorite place to get bulk sizes of quality baking ingredients. They have any tool you might possibly need for both cooking and baking, and offering really fun and informative cooking classes.
  • Winco is another bulk shopping option for those who don’t live near the other stores. While not a local store, I think this is a good option as the company is employee-owned. Their bulk selection is quite comprehensive (it includes pet food and treats), and my sweet tooth starts ramping up when I walk by the bulk candy.

Go Green: Waste less food

When you picture a landfill or dump, what items do you think of? What do you think is the most prevalent category of waste there? Would it surprise you to know that it is food?

It is estimated that 30-40% of all food produced is thrown away, making it the largest category of waste in landfill, accounting for 25% of all refuse.

Food waste in the United States amounts to 133 billion tons every year. That is enough to fill the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA (which seats around 90,000 people and occupies 10 acres) to the brim EVERY SINGLE DAY.

When food breaks down naturally, it released carbon dioxide. In a landfill, the lack of oxygen lengthens the decomposition process so much that it can take a head of lettuce 25 years to break down. In addition, this anerobic process emits methane instead of carbon dioxide, which can hold up to 25 times more heat, contributing much more to global warming in both intensity and duration. Ammonia is also released which can have negative effects on air quality, such as contributing to Salt Lake City’s winter inversions.

Utah’s contribution to food waste: 600,000 pounds/year, nearly the weight of two Empire State buildings. Yet one in 10 Utah households experience food insecurity and more than 102,000 Utah families do not have the resources to buy enough food.

Refer to the main Food Waste page for an in depth look at the consequences of food waste and numerous strategies to decrease your own food waste.

Go Green: Donate excess food

Where to donate food in Salt Lake City

  • Donate to the Utah Food Bank or other food pantries. Don’t forget about the pantries at high schools. The Utah Food Bank accepts cans up to one year past sell-by or best-buy date.
  • If you have a home garden, there are many options for donating excess produce.
  • For those with fruit trees in your yard, enlist the volunteers at Green Urban Lunchbox to come pick excess fruit to donate to those in need. This organization operates from Draper to Bountiful. Last year they collected 35,000 pounds of fruit from home trees that would have gone unpicked and otherwise rotted on the ground.
Prepared foods
  • Donate food to, or volunteer for, a food rescue program. In SLC, we have Waste Less Solutions. This amazing organization’s mission is twofold: decreasing food waste in Salt Lake City and feeding those in need. They arrange for excess food that might otherwise be disposed of to be picked up by volunteer “rescuers” and taken to non-profits and other organizations that can use it. They pick up and distribute excess food after every Jazz home game, and you can contact them if you have excess food from a party, wedding, business luncheon, or any other event.
  • Salt Lake Community Mutual Aid operates several free community fridges, or “freedges”, in Salt Lake where anyone can place excess food for others experiencing food insecurity to take what they need. Really anything is acceptable, except expired food— even homemade meals; they just as that you include the date it was made and a list of ingredients for allergies. In the summer, frozen bottles of water and Otter Pops are a nice treat to help those without shelter to stay cool. Locations:

Go Green: Compost food scraps

Composting is a great option for returning some foods to the earth and keeping them out of the landfill. When composted, food scraps produce CO2 as they breakdown, and add nutrients back into the soil. In the anaerobic environment of the landfill, decomposing foods produce methane, which holds 25 times more heat in the atmosphere. The most important thing is, of course, to do what you can to eliminate food waste in the first place.

Learn about what items can go in your compost here.

Compost at home

Compost indoors with a countertop composter like Lomi or vermicomposting with worms.

If you want to learn how to compost on your own, check out my composting page. Or if you’d rather learn in a class format, we have awesome local resources.

  • USU is a fantastic resource and offers classes on various home and garden topics.
  • Wasatch Community Gardens is another great option. Check their class catalog.
  • Red Butte Garden also offers many classes, check their calendar.

Salt Lake City Green Waste curbside collection

Did you know that you can also add certain types of food scraps along with leaves and lawn clippings in your brown yard waste can? Salt Lake City lists tea bags & coffee grounds, fruits & vegetables, and eggshells as acceptable food wastes to place in your green waste cans. Additional acceptable items not listed on their website, but confirmed with a SLC rep, are hair & fur, nutshells, bread, plain grains and pastas (should not be coated with dairy), and crustacean shells.

This green waste is taken to the Salt Lake Valley landfill and added to a compost only area. The compost that results from city collection is certified by the U.S. Composting Council and can be purchased for a great price.

Spoil to Soil is a service available in Park City that collects kitchen scraps and picks them up from your house to be composted.

Salt Lake City’s anerobic food digester

Wasatch Resource Recovery is our local anaerobic food digester, located in North Salt Lake. This process differs from composting in that you are not limited to plant-based food scraps. Items that you cannot add to a home compost pile like meat, bones, dairy, fats/oils, and cooked foods can processed. You can essentially scrape your plate into their collection.

Wasatch Resource Recovery’s biodigester currently processes 500 tons of food waste per day from the public, restaurants, grocery stores, brewers and distilleries, among others.

The digestion process results in biosolids, which is essentially compost, that is given to a local farmer; and methane gas, pumped directly into Dominion Energy’s gas pipeline.

Read about my visit to Wasatch Waste Recovery here.

How to biodigest food waste in Salt Lake City

You can drop off your food waste at the Wasatch Resource Recovery facility for free, or there are a few drop-offs in SLC. The downtown Hello Bulk location and the Woodbine Food Hall have food waste cans that the public can use. Spoil to Soil is an organization based in Park City that collects and composts food waste.

Tip: Eliminate odors by freezing food waste until you are ready to drop it off.

Some neighborhoods now have access to the new Salt Lake City curbside food waste collection program, which is also diverted to Wasatch Resource Recovery. Check here to see if you live in the boundaries. If you don’t, fill out the form to express your interest, and hopefully the program will continue to expand. It recently became available in my neighborhood and I am super excited about it!

If you are interested in having food waste picked up from your business or school, you can sign up here.

Volunteer at Salt Lake City food organizations

  • Utah Food Bank or other food pantries
  • Waste Less Solutions – be a food rescue volunteer or simply ask your favorite restaurants, grocery stores, and other food vendors what they do with their food waste. Spreading the word is where they need the most help.
  • Green Urban Lunchbox – help pick or preserve fruit, garden on the community farm, or assist with senior farm stands. Volunteers get to take home a portion of the fruit they help pick. Family friendly or group volunteering activity.
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