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!


The Right Way to Recycle: Hard Drives and their Confidential Contents

As many of us at ILACSD know, one of the biggest barriers to getting folks to recycle is a lack of education on what is recyclable and how easy it can be! With seemingly constant changes to the items that can or cannot go into a blue bin, residents are often left feeling a little confused. Today, let’s take a moment to talk about the right way to deal with an electronic waste item that might cause some confusion: hard drives!

Inside every computer is a hard drive containing important, often sensitive information.

As many individuals and businesses understand, hard drives house loads of confidential and sensitive information. While it is very important to recycle or donate our e-waste items like computers, it can be frightening to think of our important, private information ending up in the wrong hands. Luckily, there is an option to help you responsibly recycle your e-waste items and securely destroy your data all at once: hard drive shredding!

Our friends over at Universal Waste Disposal Company offer this data destruction service through their Black Belt Data Destruction program. Black Belt Data Destruction is a mail-in hard drive shredding service developed specifically for small businesses, large corporations, government entities, AND everyday consumers. They offer various pricing options for this recycling service dependent on your personal needs and even offer bulk discounts.

Hard drive shredding destroys your confidential information and allows the scrap metal to be recycled!


How It Works:

When you purchase a Black Belt Data Destruction Kit, your old hard drive can be mailed-in using the provided tamper-proof sealed envelope. Once discretely packaged hard drives arrive, they are destroyed using state-of-the-art shredding technology to cut hard drives into tiny pieces recognized only as scrap metal and circuit board.

To ensure your sensitive data is properly destroyed, each kit comes standard with Certificate of Destruction and an encrypted video recording detailing the process from start to finish. With the Premium HDD Kit, you can even join a private live feed at the time of your choosing to watch as it takes place. The entire process lasts 2-3 minutes.

A Safe and Sustainable Solution

Whether you’re an individual or you run the IT department at a business, it is natural to want a sense of security when it comes to our confidential information. Hard drive shredding services like Black Belt Data Destruction can offer that peace of mind. On top of that, by utilizing this service, scrap metal is able to be recovered and recycled to help cut down on the demand for virgin materials. With the high demand and production of electronics, we are constantly seeing innovative ways to reuse, reduce, and recycle our e-waste. With hard drive shredding, we can responsibly recycle e-waste with confidence that our privacy is being protected!

Coastal Cleanup Day Site Highlight: Volunteers Needed Here!

Can you believe it’s already September? In the ILACSD office, that means we’re in full swing for Coastal Cleanup Day! It seems unreal that it is less than two weeks away. As we amp up for this huge day of action for our environment, we wanted to take some time to show some love to our cleanup sites that are still in need of more volunteers! Volunteers are encouraged to register at a cleanup site in need today at!

Stop inland trash and debris from making it out to the beach this Coastal Cleanup Day!

While the beach locations are a big hit for Coastal Cleanup Day, it is still vitally important to spread out our efforts throughout the county. San Diego County has 11 different watersheds that carry debris out to the coast and ocean. This year, we want to encourage volunteers to explore a newer area also! Stop debris from even reaching the beach where it is more likely to end up in the ocean and affect the wildlife.

With over 100 cleanup and beautification sites throughout San Diego County, Coastal Cleanup Day offers this unique opportunity to explore new areas in your own town! Volunteers can find a new area for hiking or a neighborhood park they never knew about before. Check out some of the sites listed below to find a new site you’d be interested in volunteering at on Coastal Cleanup Day. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite hidden gem in San Diego!

Click any of the sites listed below to take you directly to the registration page for that location. If you have any questions about these sites or Coastal Cleanup Day in general, feel free to reach out to our Community Programs Coordinator, Michelle Freeman.


North County:

Fallbrook – Live Oak Park

Central San Diego:

Alpine Creek before volunteers cleaned it up last year on Coastal Cleanup Day.

Mission Hills Neighborhood Cleanup

Chollas Creek – Chollas Pkwy at Boyce

City Heights – Auburn Creek

City Heights – Cooper Canyon

Hillcrest – South Marston Canyon

Emerald Hills – Emerald Hills Park

Volunteers in the swing of it on last year’s Coastal Cleanup Day at Cooper Canyon!

East County:

Lemon Grove Park

Lemon Grove – Chollas Creek

Encanto Park

Alpine Creek

El Cajon – Fresh Farm

Last year, Howard Lane Park got an upgrade with new paint! Keep the park in tip top shape at Coastal Cleanup Day this year!

South County:

Chula Vista – Sweetwater River

Otay Valley Regional Park – Saturn Staging Area

Tijuana River Valley – Smuggler’s Gulch

San Ysidro – Howard Lane Park

Otay Mesa – Dennery Canyon

San Ysidro – San Ysidro Blvd

Give Smuggler’s Gulch some much-needed love this Coastal Cleanup Day!

Coastal Cleanup Day Site Highlight: Paradise Creek

This year’s Coastal Cleanup Day is set for Saturday, September 16th from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM. One local wetland has benefitted from the work of a dedicated group of volunteers for the last 25 years, and it is once again set to be a site for the annual volunteer effort.

Paradise Creek Educational Park is a public park in the Old Town neighborhood of National City that was designed to increase environmental stewardship and to provide a place of respite in the busy city. Paradise Creek has flowed out to San Diego Bay as part of the Sweetwater River watershed for thousands of years. In 1999, the non-profit organization, Paradise Creek Educational Park Inc., formed to carry out the mission of advocating for and preserving the salt marsh wetlands. Since that year, a group of community members, teachers, students, families, and others have been holding Creek Day cleanups on the last Saturday of every month. 

On this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day, the park will hold a small celebration of the recent completion of work carried out by the City of National City. Come out and take a walk through the new entry way of native plants at 1815 Hoover Avenue in National City. Also, there is a new schoolyard garden that can be visited. Check out the Paradise Creek Facebook page for more information. 

There is still time to register to volunteer at the Paradise Creek site on Coastal Cleanup Day. Head over to to sign up at Paradise Creek or one of the other 100+ cleanup sites in San Diego County for Coastal Cleanup Day and be a part of this international day of action!


Zero Waste Parenting: Back to School

As anyone with kids knows, parenthood isn’t always easy. Add in the decision of leading a zero waste lifestyle and it can seem next to impossible. However, being a zero waste parent is not as far-fetched as it might seem. We’ve tackled a few zero waste parenting ideas in the past. And yes, it can take a bit more effort at first, but the small steps you take now will set your children up for a brighter and cleaner future! With that in mind, let’s get into our next zero waste parenting adventure and head back to school!

Go green with your Back to School routine!

Back to School season instantly conjures up ideas of supply lists and packing school lunches. Those ideas are usually accompanied by images of wasteful wrapping, plastic cutlery and sandwich bags, and a graveyard of old school supplies buried in some closet. With a few quick swaps on your supply list and ditching those single use items, greening up your Back to School routine can be much simpler than you would ever imagine.

Reduce, Reuse, or Repair:

When reviewing your new classroom needs for your kids, our first suggestion when it comes to zero waste habits is to reduce, reuse, or repair first. Is that lunch box from last year still in good condition? Can the scissors from years past be utilized again? If supplies from previous years are still usable, you should definitely reuse them! Make your supplies stand the test of time by opting for more classic designs. If you have simple prints and colors for lunchboxes and backpacks, there is less need to replace them year after year. If you have some broken items previous, try to repair them before you replace!

While you may not be able to utilize last year’s supplies every time, there is still the option to invest in reusable supplies going forward. This is especially important when it comes to school lunches. With a few extra minutes a day, you can make every school lunch much more sustainable. Swapping any single use item is a simple rule of thumb – switch from plastic sandwich bags to beeswax wraps or reusable snack bags, opt for a reusable utensil option over plastic cutlery, and ditch your single use plastic water bottles and grab a refillable alternative!

Invest in reusable lunch time alternatives! Don’t forget your reusable lunch bag!

Lunch isn’t the only time you can find sustainable alternatives! Check out the Everlast Rocket Book, a smart notebook that allows you to catalog your notes online. Once you use the notebook, you’re able to upload your notes, effortlessly clean off the book, and reuse the same notebook over and over!

Repurpose, Donate, or Recycle:

When you’ve exhausted your ability to reduce your single use items, repair broken supplies, and reuse anything you can, our next zero waste step on the list is to repurpose, donate, or recycle. Thrift stores are always a great option for Back to School shopping. There is also ample opportunity to donate and recycle your kids’ old supplies. One of the best parts of going zero waste is finding all of the organizations that are trying to make it as easy as possible. Crayola runs a Colorcycle program collecting and recycling old Crayola markers. Old binders of any brand can be donated to Office Depot for a recycling program they’re running in partnership with TerraCycle. You can also save $2 on a new binder when you donate an old one!

Follow these 4 steps from Crayola’s website to be an Eco-Cool School!

There are plenty of ways to go green even during the Back to School madness. With a little extra time, this whole zero parenting thing isn’t really all that difficultwell, no more difficult than parenting in general.


Become a Zero Waste Family (Without Pulling Your Hair Out)

The idea of zero waste can seem overwhelming to many, and sometimes just convincing family and kids to pitch in can be enough to stop the most eager zero-waster in their tracks. We’re here to offer some tips and suggestions for getting the whole family on board for practicing (and enjoying) a zero waste life!

Grocery Shopping for the Family:

The key to embracing a zero waste lifestyle at home is as simple as preferring reusable items to disposables. The best place to start is at the store. Grocery stores are full of food that comes prepackaged in disposable wrappers and containers. Most of this packaging, including plastic produce and grocery bags, are considered “soft plastics” and cannot be recycled with other materials. By shopping in bulk and using reusable bags and jars, you are preventing this waste from entering your home in the first place. When you’re done shopping, try making a dish from scratch from the foods you bought and packing lunches for school and work with reusable containers and utensils.

Avoid disposable prepackaged foods. Pack your kid’s lunch with reusable items instead!

Toys, Clothes, and Everything Else that Ends Up on the Floor:

On the topic of shopping, a big culprit of waste can be compulsive buys- things we want in the moment but get minimal use out of before tossing them. This could be anything from clothing to toys to food. To prevent this, buy only what you need or know you are going to use. Yes, this includes all the toys and games your kids probably ask for. It may be tough at first, but encourage your kids to value and take care of what they have (this is a tough one, but we believe in you). When you do need something, use second-hand stores as your first stop to look. Similarly, instead of throwing away good items you no longer need or want, consider giving them a new life through donation.

Buy your toys second hand. When you’re done with them, donate them instead of tossing them!

Cleaning Up that Neverending Mess:

Anyone with children (and without) knows that messes are bound to happen, but they don’t have to set you back on your zero waste journey. To clean up spills or wash surfaces, opt for reusable cloths and DIY cleaning products instead of paper towels and store-bought chemical cleaners. Most DIY household cleaners only require a few ingredients, and chances are you already have most of them lying around! For example, an effective all-purpose cleaner can be made with white vinegar, baking soda, water, and essential oils.

Fill the Calendar with Zero Waste Family Fun:

It’s important to note that zero waste doesn’t have to be all about the stuff you have; it can also be about the things you do! A great way to get the whole family engaged is to have fun doing activities that let you spend time together without creating trash. Some options include visiting a park or beach, checking some books or movies out from the library, exploring a museum or aquarium, riding bikes, crafting using upcycled materials, and, of course, participating in an ILACSD cleanup! San Diego has an endless supply of places to explore, and by living zero waste you and your family can enjoy them while knowing that you are doing your part in keeping them clean and beautiful!

Participate in zero waste activities as a family. Join ILACSD for a cleanup and enjoy the outdoors while improving it!

Don’t forget, zero waste is a journey. You don’t get kicked out of the club if you slip up or struggle. With a family, this journey does take a little more effort, but your efforts will pay off for your kids. By following even a few of these tips, you’re helping leave the world much better off for your children (and eventually their children) to enjoy!


This article was authored by our Education Specialist, Alaine!