Preventing Food Waste in an Instagram Foodie Culture

Open your Instagram account and click on the explore page, it won’t take too long for most of us to find images of vibrant, crunchy, creamy, steamy, buttered, drizzled, crystalized, smoky, aged, boiled, briny, cheesy, absolutely delightful images of what is on their plate! These days, foodie culture dominates social feeds. The farm to table movement is bigger than ever. We have never been so in tune and in love with what we are eating until now.

Documenting meals for online followers is a normal habit for foodies.

So with that, let’s imagine you just spent all afternoon preparing a pie for dinner guests. You’re are so pleased with the steaming, flaky pie that sits on the counter in front of you. It’s so aromatic and intense that you can recognize each type of fruit in the medley that is making your senses come alive! You cut it into 10 slices, making sure each one is piled high with perfectly candied pastry dough. You are almost ready to serve it to your guests, but before you even unveil it at the dinner table, before you even leave the kitchen, you scrape 4 pieces of pie directly into the garbage. It hits the trash can with a miserable thud, the amber colored gelatin is sliding down the plastic bag and the slices look more like your cat’s food than a guest-worthy dessert. While this might seem like an insane thing to do, it is a realistic picture of the amount of food being wasted in our society.

Sorry, what was I talking about? I am only thinking about pie now…

In the United States, 40% of food goes uneaten. The average Californian throws away 24 pounds of food a month. How can it be that in a time when we are so infatuated with our food, that we are wasting so much? Food waste occurs at many levels – at the farm, at the store, in our fridges, and off our plates. Farmers who grow produce that is considered too ugly, too small, too large, too uneven, or a little colorless are pushed out of the marketplace due to the retailer’s demand for consistency. Food is also lost in transportation. Food spoils in the store and in our refrigerators, but it’s not just food we are discarding without a second thought. We are squandering all of the resources that go into the production and distribution of food! Nationally, 80% of our water, 10% of our energy, and 40% of our land is utilized to grow our food. Despite all of the resources we put into the production of food, it is the leading material in our landfills! In the Miramar Landfill, 40% of the total waste is organic material that could have been mulched, composted, fed to animals, or in some cases, fed to people.

Realizing all of your food doesn’t have to be picture perfect is an easy way to prevent food from going to waste.

Our food systems are not perfect, but together each and every one of us can take a stand against food waste. Even small adjustments to our behavior can create impactful change! Here are a few simple suggestions to help you get started or continue your food waste prevention:

Shop Smart

  • Be prepared: create a shopping list with menus in mind to avoid impulse buys
  • Set a time frame: this gives you less time to buy things not on your prepared list
  • Know what you need: keep stock of what you have at home, note items as they run out to help create your shopping list
  • Be realistic: if you live alone or only need one carrot for a recipe, don’t buy a whole bag
  • Bulk is better: buying in bulk requires a little forethought and planning but is definitely worth it
  • Cut your costs: if you crunch the numbers, bulk purchases typically cost less per unit

Sensible Storage to Slow Spoiling

  • Practice first in, first out habits: move older products to the front of the fridge and stock unopened newer items in the back
  • Monitor what you throw away: throwing away half a loaf every week? Start freezing it.
  • Dates, not deadlines: know that expiration, best by, sell by, and use by dates, are not an exact science but merely manufacture suggestions
  • Leave a little room: don’t overcrowd your fridge, the air needs to circulate
  • Figure out your fridge’s compartments: your fridge has a crisper for a reason and the fridge door is warmer than the shelves
  • If you don’t know, ask: utilize the Alexa Save the Food skill to ask where and how you should store your items while unpacking groceries (like storing your asparagus cilantro, celery, carrots in water to make them last longer)

Creative Cooking

  • Use it up nights: designate one evening a week to focus on using up open items in your fridge
  • No tops or stems left behind: use every part of the produce you can – broccoli stems, beet tops, carrot tops, leave the skin on cucumbers, blend your smoothie with strawberry leaves on
  • Wilted doesn’t have to mean wasted: use your food up, wilted veggies can go into a stir-fry or soup, bruised fruit can be added to a smoothie or applesauce, old cheese rinds can make soups, juice pulp can be utilized numerous ways (bread, guacamole, power bites bars)

Serving, Snacking, and Sensing Satiation

  • Avoid over ordering: if you’re often ordering too much food, try splitting a meal with a friend or ordering smaller portions when out
  • Know your limit: don’t feel guilty if you don’t clean your plate as long as you save and store whatever is remaining
  • Leftovers tonight means lunch tomorrow: take your leftovers home or save anything you cooked but couldn’t finish (don’t forget your reusable containers for leftovers)
  • Smaller plate, smaller portions: we often over serve ourselves because the plate has room – a smaller plate can help you decrease the amount you dish up

Now go enjoy your food and extend its shelf life!


Vermicomposting: Tips from First Timers

When it comes to going zero waste, composting often seems to be one the most intimidating step to take. Yes, composting definitely requires more time up front compared to swapping out single-use items for reusable options, but the process is not nearly as time consuming or scary as you might imagine. To help ease any fears that might still have you feeling hesitant, some of the ILACSD team is giving you a look into their own experiences with composting for the first time!

Emily showing Lauren and Moriah how to make their own vermicomposting bin!

But let’s get started with a review of some basics when it comes to composting. Composting is the process of converting food scraps and yard waste into compost, an organic, nutrient-rich alternative to fertilizer in your garden or your potted plants. According to the Center for Sustainable Energy’s Equinox Project, organic waste makes up one-third of the waste in San Diego’s landfills. By composting, we can divert organic waste from landfills where it can release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

In the I Love A Clean San Diego office, we have multiple team members who collect food waste to be brought back to their composting bins. This past June, Moriah and Lauren made their own vermicomposting bins and began their composting journeys! With a few simple tools, we enjoyed time in the sun making the bins and learning all the details of vermicomposting!

Both Moriah and Lauren have been using their vermicomposting bins about a month now. With that experience under their belt, we checked back in to see how the process has been going. Lauren explained, “I have to say it’s intimidating to have another thing to take care of in my household, but the simplicity and beauty of this natural process are what astonishes me the most, day after day.” Moriah shared how having Emily – our Education Manager and composting expert – in our office as a resource impacted her experience:

“Having Emily as a resource has been super helpful. She has even responded to Snapchats I’ve sent to her of the bin to let me know if it looks like it is healthy and thriving. Emily’s help and the resources in our office have led to a pretty healthy bin. The worms are breeding and eating everything much quicker than I expected!”

Worms for the vermicomposting bins!

With a flourishing, healthy bin, Moriah has been able to show off her composting skills with her friends and family. By passing along her knowledge and story, she is creating a community she can be a resource for when it comes to vermicomposting.

“Whenever I have people over, I get to be the “worm girl,” showing off the bin and talking about how easy it has been to set up. They are always amazed that it doesn’t smell, that it’s small, and by all the things the worms eat. When we hosted a 4th of July party, people had fun (I think) digging in the bin to give the worms their watermelon rinds. Friends have even given me their rotten vegetables to put in the bin, saving those from going to the landfill.”

Composting does not have to be the unbeatable zero waste giant some imagine it to be. Finding your community, ask questions, and just taking the first step is really all it takes! So why wait? Start your own composting journey today!

Zero Waste 101

What is zero waste? First, let’s define what zero waste is to better understand how it affects you and what it means for our communities.

Zero waste is the process of eliminating reusable or repairable materials from ending up in the landfill. Zero waste encourages manufacturers, municipalities, and consumers to evaluate current consumption patterns and minimize single-use items. In order to divert materials from the landfill we must share the responsibility of producing and consuming sustainable products while limiting our use of disposable items.

Zero Waste Alternatives

Now that we know what zero waste means, let’s explore why this practice impacts San Diegans. Currently, the Miramar Landfill is composed of reusable substances; yes that is right REUSABLE substances. The top 3 reusable substances in our landfill are:

Organics (food scraps, yard waste) 39%

Construction and Demolition (building materials) 25%

Paper 17%

When we choose to send these items to the landfill, large amounts of methane gas are released which pose serious public and environmental health concerns. On the positive side,  all of this can either be recycled, reused or composted, which means, we can do something about it! ZW blog landfill

In response to the amount of reusable materials in the landfill (or should we say landFULL) the City of San Diego adopted a zero waste plan to focus on reusing rather than disposing items. Currently, the City of San Diego diversion rate has been consistent around 67%. Here is an outline of upcoming benchmarks for the city’s waste diversion plan:

  • 75%  by 2020
  • 90%  2035
  • 100% diversion rate by 2040.

The plan’s primary focus is on organics diversion. There are several resources available to help you reduce food waste through planning and composting. Learn more at by reading about some of our past food waste blogs and!

Even I Love A Clean San Diego’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database is getting a zero waste makeover! Stay tuned for the redesign release of this summer! The new database will include a easy to use search bar that will help you find convenient ways to divert waste from the landfill!

What’s that Smell? Ani’s Compost Journey

Several members of the ILACSD team compost food scraps at home. While our previous compost blogs have focused on vermicompost, composting organic material with the help of worms, it is isn’t the only option for those with limited space. Ani, our Recycling Programs Manager, recently added a small, easy to turn, worm-free compost bin to her home to make the most of her food scraps. Read on to learn more about her compost journey and one of the trials she faced early on – smelly compost.  

MILACSD holiday party 2015 (41)y journey with compost started about a year ago when my boyfriend and I decided that we wanted to invest in a compost bin for our food scraps. The first step was determining what type of bin I needed that would best suit my schedule and needs. It is important to note that every compost pile and bin is different, for example, I chose to purchase a compost tumbler to limit the time it takes to manually turn the contents in the pile with a shovel. This might not be the case in every household though. My compost bin instantly mixes when I spin it, which is convenient for me and needless to say that it takes less than a minute to turn.

Compost Pile
An look inside Ani’s compost bin showcasing a healthy balance of greens and browns.

When I started collecting food scraps for the bin, I found myself with an overly stinky compost pile. I had missed an important component of composting practices…keeping the ratio of nitrogen to carbon just right. This balance between nitrogen and carbon is key to having a successful compost pile. Carbon-rich materials like leaves, mulch, wood chips and nut shells are referred to as “browns” and nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps are referred to as “greens.” I was so excited to have a place to store my food scraps, or my “greens,” that I neglected my “browns” contribution to the compost bin. To offset the smell, I placed shredded newspaper in the pile as my “browns” because of the lack of “browns” in my backyard.

Composting is definitely a work of art with an environmental twist. Maintaining that balance between “greens” and “browns” is a small component of it and this was just one issue that required some research on my part. It’s safe to say that my experience with composting has been an interesting and informative one.

Compost Bin
Here’s an example of what Ani’s bin looks like – compact and easy to turn.

Remember that every compost pile is different and may require several changes to the formula before it starts to look (and smell) like its processing your organic materials correctly.

Stay tuned for my follow-up blog where I will share my best practices for pest control!

If you’re looking for more composting resources, check out our one-stop recycling database,!



The 7 Habits of Highly Eco-Friendly People

Emily M.It’s easy to get bogged down by the flood of information about eco-friendly practices and what you should be doing, or not doing, to protect the environment. Our Environmental Educator, Emily put together her top 7 habits that keep her passion for environment alive and well. Read on if you’re looking to rejuvenate your love for the environment and remind yourself why we do what we do.

  1. Remember your reusable bags. I know this is a Herculean task, but today is the day! As I tell myself frequently, “I can do hard things.” Channel your inner squirrel and stash bags everywhere – in your glove box, your purse, your top hat, your trunk, the stroller, the passenger’s side seat back pocket. Or, better yet, just get this song stuck in your head. I promise you’ll never forget again.Lincoln
  2. Set a new goal. Like any good relationship, you need to spice things up every now and again to keep your interest piqued. Go out for a nice dinner – and bring a reusable container for your leftovers. Or take a long walk on the beach – and collect any debris you find. For more ideas, check out this blog, which follows a woman’s adventures in zero waste.
  3. Keep a worm bin under your kitchen sink. Check out Amanda’s blog post about how to get started. You’ll reduce the organic waste you produce, have a bounty of natural fertilizer, and be a shoe-in for the Most Unique Pet award in the office superlative contest. Best of all, you can finally use those creative worm names you’ve been saving up on – Worm Gretzky, The Notorious D.I.G., and Dirts Bentley, for all you country lovers.Composting blog pic 2 (worms)
  4. Make it fun. Hold a household competition to see who can concoct the most creative way to conserve water. Litter your friends’ Facebook walls with environmental memes. Keep an eco-themed joke in your back pocket. (If you ever visit our office, I will gladly share one with you.) Enlist the help of Ryan Gosling. Humor yourself with creative green hashtags. My personal favorite: #brodoyoueventhriftMr T
  5. Share your passion. Fact: Most people don’t enjoy being lectured about how their habits are destroying our planet. Most people are, however, inclined to care about an issue when it’s important to someone they care about. Invite a friend to join you at a cleanup. Use your reusable produce bags with confidence, and be prepared to answer questions from friends and curious on-lookers. For my birthday, my sister-in-law gave me a purse made from recycled water bottles. She sought this out because she knows the three Rs are important to me. You may be surprised by how your actions and lifestyle encourage those around you.
  6. Pick up litter wherever you go. Earthshattering, I know, but the benefits of picking up litter are far-reaching. When you pick up someone else’s trash, you’re more likely to be responsible with your own trash. Other people notice when you choose to pick up the wrapper that 37 other people previously walked past. On more than one occasion, I’ve been thanked by a stranger who saw me remove a piece of litter. Removing litter inland helps reduce the amount that ends up in the ocean – and our animals. Besides, litter is still a major pollutant we find worldwide, which means every little bit helps.
  7. Kid PresidentRemember why you started caring in the first place. Even for the most devoted of us, aiming for a zero waste lifestyle can easily become overwhelming. However, history has proven that small, consistent actions lead to great results. You started recycling/biking to work/buying in bulk/living green because something made you care. Remind yourself of that initial spark. For me, it’s remembering my experiences working with children outdoors, and seeing how a connection to nature helps them feel confident, make new friends, and find peace during the tumults of growing up. So tape a Rachel Carson quote to your mirror. Cover your fridge with magnets of the sea creatures you’re devoted to. Head out to where you can truly see the stars and be reminded that yes, this earth is beautiful and absolutely worth working for. And remember, you’re doing a great job; keep up the good work!
Environmental Educator, Emily, teaching campers about the wonders of the outdoors, nature, and how to protect it.

No yard, no problem! Composting in small spaces.

amanda-2-photoshopToday’s blog comes from our Hotline Manager, Amanda! Earlier this year, she wanted to increase her composting knowledge, much like our Education Manager and Master Composter-in training, Erika. After taking a series of classes, Amanda wanted to share these two new methods that are great for small spaces. Read on to learn the basics of two innovative composting methods; perhaps you’ll find one that works for you! 

Many of you already know about traditional backyard composting, but there are other options out there to help you recycle your organics at home. Today, I’ll cover some basics on two composting methods you may not have heard of yet: vermicomposting and bokashi.

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Erika keeps her vermicompost under her desk and just as it should, it doesn’t smell!

Vermicomposting is a method of composting where organic material is broken down through the use of worms, red wigglers and red tigers being the best types of worms for this method. Vermicomposting is a great option for apartment and condo dwellers or those that do not have yard waste available. It can be done on a small scale (even under your kitchen sink!). Mostly food scraps are added to the vermicompost bin, as opposed to traditional composting where large amounts of carbon rich yard waste is needed. Vermicompost bins are available for purchase, and some residents may even be able to purchase subsidized bins – click here to see if you qualify! Or if you are feeling handy and you want to build your own vermicompost bin, check out some basic instructions from the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.

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Practice makes perfect! At this station, kids learned how to sort out compostable vs. non-compostable items.

I Love A Clean San Diego has also integrated our newly acquired composting knowledge into some of our education offerings as well! Recently, we partnered with the City of Chula Vista & the Chula Vista Recreation Department to augment their youth after-school program, Empower Hour.  ILACSD educators lead  several hands-on activities during May & June to cover topics such as waste diversion, recycling and composting.  During the composting activities, the kids learned how to sort recyclables from compostable materials, and even got their hands dirty during the compost bin and worm discovery activities. If you’re interested in learning more about our education presentations, please contact our Education Manager, Erika at!

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Here’s ILACSD’s Program Assistant, Joseph leading the worm exploration station!

Here are 7 tips to maintaining your vermicompost bin:
1. Worms don’t have lungs, they breathe thru their skin. Fats and oil will coat their skin and they can no longer breathe, so avoid putting fatty or oily foods in your vermicompost bin.
2. Worms don’t like motion, vibration or extreme heat/cold.
3. Your bin should never smell, an odor would likely mean you are over feeding your worms.
4. If you are adding watery food, add some paper as well.
5. Moldy food is ok to add, the bacteria actually helps give the worms a head start on digesting the food.
7. Food scraps are best in smaller pieces.

Are you ready to start composting? Find local resources, such as bins, worms and classes near you at!

Bokashi is another composting method where you can pickle your food waste and thus store for later use in your traditional compost pile. What makes it unique is, unlike traditional composting, dairy, meat and bones can be used with this method. An inoculant, a combination of anaerobic microbes, is used to pickle the food waste and are available for sale online or you can also find online tutorials. Once you get your inoculated grain/paper and a 5gal bucket (or larger!) you are ready to go.

Simply add your food waste to the bucket and some inoculated gain/paper as you go along. After you bucket is full, it will take ten days to two weeks for your pickled food scraps are ready to be added to your traditional compost bin. As you are adding to your bokashi bin, place a plate on top to keep pests away. If you see white mold it is ok, only be concerned if you see green ,red or brown mold. Bokashi workshops are offered by Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, but keep an eye out for them on because they fill up fast! 

A Rind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Erika-teamToday’s blog comes from our Education Manager, Erika. Earlier this year, Erika took it upon herself to find new ways to reduce the amount of waste she creates each day – she signed up for a composting course! Now that she is on her way to becoming a Master Composter, she wants to share what she has learned in hopes of inspiring you to take a composting course near you! Read on to learn more about how food waste impacts our landfills and how you can become a skilled composter as well! 

A rind is a terrible thing to waste, so do something! Join the Master Composters!

Here at I Love A Clean San Diego, many of my coworkers and I feel strongly about waste reduction. In the past few years, I have seen my own transition from using some disposable items in my life. An example being bringing my stainless steel pint glass to the Adventure Run last week, so that I wouldn’t have to use a disposable plastic cup for that IPA at the end of the race. While I have been able to carry my bamboo cutlery and stainless steel straw around, I noticed that I was still creating quite a bit of waste – food waste. In San Diego, we lead the country in per capita waste, with disposing about 1.3 million pounds in 2012. Of that trash, a 2012-2013 study showed that food represented the most prevalent material composed in our landfill, accounting for 15% of the total waste stream. In residential waste, that percentage increased to 18%. After learning these startling statistics, I realized there is so much more that I can do with regard to waste reduction. So, with waste in my mind, I signed up for a Master Composting class.composting blog - 1 SMW chart - composting blog 2

Hands on learning is always best!
Hands on learning is always best!

Last October, my friend, @girlforaccleanworld, and I joined with a dozen other composting inquirists, skeptics, novices, and enthusiasts to begin our composting journey to potential Mastery. At first, I was quite anxious. I previously had a horrific experience with a vermicompost, resulting in [read quickly] maggots and other vermin. Needless to say, I was apprehensive but determined to further reduce my waste through composting. The great thing about the course is that there is such a great variety in reasons why people compost – from professional development, to reducing waste, to ameliorating compost gone wrong, to education – there were people from all walks of life.
Another great thing about the course is its hands on approach. On the first day, we were already getting our hands dirty, layering greens (food scrapes, grass clippings, etc.) and browns (cardboard, paper, other wood products). Each week, we measured the temperature and moisture of the bin, turned it, and looked for grubs – ok, that might have just been me. I was captivated by how clean everything was and how quickly different items could degrade. While I learned a lot in the class, the take home for me was:
• Anything and everything (natural) will eventually turn to compost, it just is a matter of time.
• You can be active or passive, it will still turn to compost
• Compost does not smell – if it smells, give it a turn, it needs to breath
• Composting doesn’t need a ton of space, especially vermicomposting


Since completion, I have been working toward 30 hours community composting service to become an official Master. I have become more conscious of my grocery shopping, as to not buy more than I need, and have been able to help people out with their composting woes. I would highly recommend the class to anyone. For more information visit There is also a 5 week long composting workshop available through the Solana Center that starts on April 11th. For additional information please click here.

Let’s work together to minimize our food waste! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for helpful tips and tricks about how to reduce waste in your life!

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Photo Credit: @girlforaccleanworld. Thanks for allowing us to use these great photos!