Curtailing food waste while taking a bite out of climate change 

Many organizations have implemented projects to reduce food waste and divert it from the landfill, check out some of these stories.

4 minute read

Sending less food to landfills equals fewer greenhouse gases 

Welcome to our Earth Month series! Each week for four weeks, we’re introducing inspiring examples of organizations, people and communities that are rising to the challenge when it comes to helping the Columbia Basin become more resilient to climate change and to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. Learn here how many groups have stepped up. 

Plus, check out our contest and help us share the little and not-so-little steps you and your friends are taking to be more climate conscious for a chance to win weekly prizes. Earth Month Giveaways 

Chucking food in the garbage is a waste on many accounts, from wasting the money you may have spent on buying it, to wasting the resources it took to grow it. It also has immense impacts on the climate. As food breaks down in the landfill, it releases huge amounts of methane. This greenhouse gas traps far more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, and therefore is much more potent when it comes to changing our climate. 

There are two main ways to address this situation: prevent food from being wasted in the first place, and divert food waste to keep it out of the landfill.  

While some waste is unavoidable, at home we can take simple steps like buying and cooking only what we need and storing it properly. If possible, we can compost the remains. 

The initiatives of farmers, food producers, food sellers and other food-focused organizations are also vital when it comes to reducing waste. In the Columbia Basin, many organizations have implemented projects, supported by Columbia Basin Trust, to reduce food waste and divert it from the landfill—with the important effect of reducing greenhouse gases.  

Here are a few examples. 

A kitchen eases meal prep 

A wonderful kitchen makes all the difference when it comes to preparing great meals and reducing food waste.  

Since 2018, the Healthy Kimberley Food Recovery Depot has recovered food from local grocery stores, farms, restaurants and backyard gardens, and funnelled it into its free frozen-meal program. It has now installed a commercial kitchen to better process this food and add a fresh-meal program to its frozen-meal service. These items are then distributed to Kimberley residents facing food security challenges. 

And we’re talking about a lot of food. Between its inception and early 2023, the depot recovered over 315,000 pounds. 

With the new kitchen, “We can work more efficiently and explore new opportunities,” says Program Coordinator Shannon Duncan.  

Seniors Helping Seniors is one of the non-profits that helps deliver the meals. “The program has been so impactful and makes a huge difference,” says Coordinator Cathy Korven. “This food is being saved and made into nourishing meals for people that really need it,”—which means it’s satisfying bellies instead of ending up as trash. 

Feeding people while reducing waste 

The Sparwood Food Bank has also taken concrete actions to keep food out of landfills. Since 2019, it has partnered with local grocery stores and restaurants to pick up good-quality, perishable food and distribute it to people in need. Food no longer fit for human consumption is used by local farmers as animal feed or compost. In an exciting new development, they recently purchased a larger and more efficient space. 

Operating 364 days a year, the program serves food bank clients four days a week, seniors two days a week, and local churches one day a week. 

“The Program’s dedication to both the quality and abundance of food has made a difference to the health of those we serve,” says Food Share Director Edie Holland. “Our community members wholeheartedly support our efforts to combat food waste.” 

Overall, projects like this improve access to delicious, quality meals, all while reducing methane. 

Making composting a breeze 

Sometimes, however, food waste is inevitable. It would make us ill to eat, for example, or we can’t compost the remains ourselves. This is addressed by initiatives like the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s (RDCK’s) organic waste diversion project.  

With composting facilities available in the landfills in Creston, Salmo, Grohman Narrows and Ootischenia, and curbside green bins programs started in Creston and Castlegar, the RDCK and it’s partners have reached out to residents to educate them about reducing food waste and to encourage them to participate in these composting opportunities. This community-education component was done with Trust support. 

The goals are broad: to save landfill capacity, to reduce the amount pollution created by landfills, and to prevent methane emissions from landfilled organics. When organics rot in an oxygen poor environment such as a landfill, methane (a potent greenhouse gas) is emitted in large quantities.  

Amy Wilson is the RDCK’s Resource Recovery Manager. “Annually, the compost facilities in Creston and Salmo are expected to divert over 2,000 tonnes of organic waste from entering the landfill, resulting in big wins towards meeting our climate action goals.” 

These composting facilities are designed to produce a high quality, safe compost for growing food and any other soil improvement needs. 

To learn more about how local actions are having Basin impact, visit Climate Change Stories | Basin Stories.

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