Food Waste

Food Waste

The FDA estimates that Americans waste between 30% and 40% of their food. Most of this wasted food ends up in landfills, where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.  At the same time, 1 in 8 Americans struggle to put food on the table. These jarring statistics have spurred many of us into action to try and combat food waste. But where do you start? We know it can feel overwhelming, but here are some tips for lowering food waste in your home, business, or place of work.

  • Plan it out. Whether you are feeding countless patrons in a restaurant, hosting a business gathering, or feeding your family, thinking ahead is key. Determine how much food you will need before you do the purchasing. This leads to less food perishing. 
    • Calculating this can be hard! Consider using a simple portion planner if you are having trouble. There are many variations available online. Love Food Hate Waste has a great one
    • Additionally, Save the Food has a Guest-imator that was designed for planning holiday meals this upcoming season! 
  • Get familiar with your food and where it should live. Different areas of your fridge are designed to have different temperatures and levels of humidity in order to store your food in the ideal climate to prolong freshness. Some perishables such as fruit actually last longer outside of the fridge. Getting to know the best way to store your food ensures it stays fresh as long as possible. Check our resources like Food Revolution Network’s guide on How to Store Produce
  • What about those confusing labels? “Best by”, “Sell By”, “Enjoy by”– there are so many different date labels it could make your head spin. Oftentimes, these dates have nothing to do with science! This means that you may be tossing perfectly safe food. 
  • Break your habits. Many of us have learned food habits. Perhaps that means not eating the crust of PB&Js, or the skin of fruits. Challenge yourself to make small changes to use more of your food and waste less. Maybe learn some new recipes and shake up the way you prepare food! Try something crazy like this recipe for banana peel bacon
  • If You Can’t Reduce Wasted Food, Divert It From Landfills. If you are hosting a large gathering or company event and end up with too much food, consider donating it to the local food bank or homeless shelter in your area. You can also compost food scraps rather than throw them away.
  • For the office. If you want to take a deep dive into what can be done in the office and to assist with behavior change, take a look at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Food Waste Toolkit for the Office.

In addition to stopping food waste in your home or business, you can also support and participate in food recovery efforts. Diverting food waste from landfills is crucial to preventing greenhouse gas emissions. Up and down the state, countless organizations are doing their part to mitigate the impacts of food waste while redistributing quality food to those who need it. Did you know that 1 in 8 Americans can be categorized as food insecure? This means that over 12% of Americans have inconsistent access to food and are not always certain where their next meal will come from. Check out organizations like Feeding America, the Food Recovery Network, and many more that all play an important role in diverting food to those who need it. 

You can also combat the environmental impacts of food waste by supporting local governments in their efforts to implement curbside composting in new areas, and continue to grow the programs and improve implementation where it already exists. 

Happy holidays! 

Fall Efficiency Tips

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The leaves are changing colors and pumpkin spice season is in full swing. We all know about spring cleaning, but many of us get lost in the fall frenzy and forget to take steps to ensure our homes and businesses are operating as efficiently as possible. Window and door drafts or poorly functioning heating systems can not only make you uncomfortable and cold, but the costs of heating an inefficient building can really add up! Our fall efficiency tips will help you get ready for cold weather and save money all winter long.

For Businesses/Residences

  • Service your HVAC units. Fall is the perfect time to make sure your heating system is operating properly. Replace your air filters to limit allergens like dust, and make sure that your unit is working as efficiently as possible. If you need to repair or upgrade your HVAC system, it’s best to get it out of the way before it’s an emergency and too cold outside for comfort.
  • Check your window seals and weather stripping on doors.  That chilly air can find all kinds of ways into your home. Before it gets too cold, check your windows and doors for gaps and open areas that could let heat out. Use weather-stripping and caulk, see a DIY guide here.
  • Manage your thermostat. During the summer months, we recommend setting your thermostat at 78 degrees so your system doesn’t have to work too hard to bring the temperature down. As we move into fall, we recommend reflecting the same idea with your heat by keeping your thermostat set at 68 degrees (or lower). Consider getting a smart thermostat to make setting temperatures and scheduling easier. Check with your local jurisdiction to see if there are any programs available to get a rebate or discounted option!
  • Let the sun heat up your rooms. Use curtains to your advantage. During the day, opening the curtains to let in sunlight from south-facing windows will help warm the room without using any extra energy. In the afternoon, close the curtains to hold in heat and keep the chill-out.
  • Reverse ceiling fans. We think of ceiling fans as a tool to cool us down, but they can also work to keep us warm. When you set the direction of the fan to turn clockwise, it pushes the warm air that has risen to the ceiling back down into the room. It also helps to redistribute air so the air coming out of the vents reaches all parts of the room rather than having warmer and cooler pockets of air in different areas.

For Residences

  • Assess your fireplace. Your fireplace is a large, but sometimes not obvious, pathway for air to escape. The damper should stay closed unless a fire is burning so that warm air from your heating system doesn’t escape through the chimney. Check the seal to make sure the damper is as snug as possible. Tempered glass doors and an air exchange system that blows warm air back into the room will also help keep the heat where you want it – inside your home.
  • Do your holiday baking when it gets chilly! The house usually heats up a couple of degrees when you have the oven going, so make use of that. If you’re using electric appliances, try to avoid peak hours (typically 4-9 pm).

Fire Resilience for Businesses

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Let’s face it, fires are scary. The California wildfires have devastated entire towns in California, and climate change will cause these events to occur more frequently with more intensity. It is now more important than ever to cultivate our community’s fire resiliency and adaptations. We all receive a lot of guidance about how to prepare for wildfires as homeowners, but have you ever considered how your business should prepare? Here are some tips for businesses to become more fire resilient and help their community adapt: 

Make sure your business is proactive and prepared for a fire on-site. 

  • Don’t forget the basics! Make it an action item to routinely check fire alarms and fire extinguishers. Consider replacing old safety equipment and investing in smart technologies (as needed).
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest fire safety guidelines and have a plan. If you are an employer, make sure all employees are made aware of what to do in the event of a fire and how to safely utilize your equipment in their onboarding process. It can be hard to figure out where to start, but you can find many helpful resources online that can break it down in a digestible way. For instance, check out this resource “Recommended Fire Safety Training Procedures for Employers in 2020” here for some inspiration on how to be more prepared. 
  • Did you know that many office/retail fires are caused by the same sources as home fires? Click here to see more information from the U.S. Fire Administration regarding workplace fire safety.
  • Keep your employees and patrons healthy. Fires in our communities create pollution both outdoors and indoors. We normally recommend servicing your heating and A/C at least twice per year, but consider checking and changing air filters more frequently if the season brings a lot of smoke to the region. This will also save you money!

Prepare your business for a wildfire.

  • Create defensible space. Keep vegetation far from your building. Select landscaping materials that are drought-friendly and less vulnerable to wildfires. Not only does this increase fire safety, but it also helps you save money and water!
  • Use non-flammable materials for signage, roofs, and decks if possible.
  • Screen vents with non-combustible metal mesh.
  • Sign up to receive public safety alerts and access emergency checklists and other resources from your local CalFire and your local utility company. Sign-up for CALFIRE alerts.

Go above and beyond!

  • Become (or support) a “1% for the Planet” business. Visit to see a list of businesses and how to join. These businesses are fighting to combat climate change, which is a catalyst for worsening wildfires. They even have a specific list of nonprofits directly working with wildfires here
  • Participate in team-building while adapting. Remember–you can donate more than your dollar! You can also give in the form of staff time. Participating in climate adaption volunteering is a great way to give back to the community while providing your team with a bonding experience.


Learn more about how your business can help combat climate change and worsening wildfires by becoming a Certified Green Business.

Businesses Can Help Drought

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As California businesses pull themselves back together following the statewide shutdowns, it is important to come back stronger than ever and be proactive in addressing our problems. One struggle that hasn’t gone away is the drought. Leaky infrastructure at your business such as faucets, toilets, and irrigation not only waste water, but wastes your hard earned money with increased water bills. Fortunately, there are many simple things your business can do to help conserve California’s precious water. We’ve compiled a list of water conservation tips to help you conserve water and help your business operate more efficiently.

Be leak-free

Be leak-free! According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a leaky faucet dripping at a drip per second wastes 3,000+ gallons per year! Leaks in fixtures like toilets, showers, or sprinkler systems can be water vampires – wasting water and money! Learn more through this handy infographic.

Switch to low flow

Switch to low flow. Reduce the gallons used at your business by installing high efficiency toilets (e.g., those flusing at 1.0 gallons per flush or dual flush), showerheads flowing at 1.5 gallons per minute (GPM) or less, and low-flow faucet aerators (.5 GPM for handwashing and 1.5 GPM for kitchens). These changes are easy and cost-efficient, you may have already completed a water tune-up during your Green Business certification and if you haven’t, contact your coordinator.

Drought tolerant

Incorporate drought-resilient landscaping. If you have landscaping, go as drought-resistant and native plant-heavy as possible. Check out CalRecycle’s site here for more information! Use drip irrigation instead of spray sprinklers. Water during the coolest hours of the day. You can go above and beyond and install smart sensors that take into account weather conditions and moisture levels for any irrigation needs. Learn about xeriscaping here.

Water Saving

Are you utilizing your local resources? Contact your local water utility and ask what rebates are available. Many jurisdictions have rebates available for water conservation upgrades such as installing low-flow toilets and removing turf!

Finally, remember that the energy-water nexus is a big deal! In fact, around 12 percent of California’s total energy use is related to water. Energy Upgrade CA has some energy saving tips to implement in your business and home at

Want to go beyond the tips above? Support organizations fighting against California’s drought. The Water Education Foundation has a great compilation of options.

Make sure your business is doing everything it can to fight the drought by getting certified as a Green Business.

Foodware: Cultivating New Habits

There are many environmental issues that people can avoid–they can drive an electric car to avoid fossil fuels on their commute, or electrify their homes to move away from natural gas. However, avoiding food and its associated complexities is more difficult. Our lives are centered around our eating habits, and we are all deeply connected to our food. This rings especially true in the context of the global pandemic when many of us turned to the comfort of takeout meals as a simple joy during dark times. In turn, the use of disposable food ware items, most of which are not recyclable or compostable, are on the rise. It’s not easy to forget about food, but it is all too easy to look past the impacts of our habits as consumers and businesses.


Disposable foodware and single-use plastics have been around for decades. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 increased the consumption of single-use plastics, including disposable food service ware. This creates a problem for our waterways, public health, and landfills which are already bursting with more waste than they can handle.

So what can you do? 

Utilizing reusable foodware is always the first line of defense against take-out-related waste. Here’s some good news: properly sanitized reusables are oftentimes safer than single-use items, which are rarely properly sanitized. In instances where using disposables is absolutely necessary, there are some guidelines to help you choose the option with the smallest environmental impact.  

As a business, the best option for take-out containers is natural fiber-based, compostable items. These are typically made of fibers such as paper, sugarcane, and bamboo. You may not be able to find fiber-based alternatives for all items. San Mateo County’s “Foodware Aware” website has a great list of alternative products. Check with your distributor for more options.

If your jurisdiction has curbside compost collection, getting certified compostable products, like those certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), is important. There is a dual benefit to BPI-certified fiber-based items, not only are they guaranteed to break down in an industrial compost facility, they are also guaranteed to be free of fluorinated chemicals, sometimes called “forever chemicals.” These include polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS).

The proper sorting of compostable foodware is crucial. When these products end up in an anaerobic setting like a landfill, their degradation contributes to methane emissions.

If you own a business that utilizes disposable to-go ware, consider making the switch even if your jurisdiction does not currently require it. Cities and counties across the state are accepting the need for this long-overdue change. If the headache of the transition is holding you back, there are amazing organizations that can help. For example, ReThink Disposable helps prevent 21 million disposable packaging items from entering waste streams annually (over 260,000 pounds!). Some businesses may even qualify for rebates to assist with the overhead cost of purchasing reusable service ware (up to $300). Click here to learn more about the requirements of the rebate program. 

Businesses: Are you interested in learning more about the potential outcomes of your business or organization making such transitions? Take a look at the case studies for the San Carlos Youth Center and Manila Eatery in Colma, California. They can help you better understand the costs, annual waste reduction, savings, and more! If you’d like assistance in the journey, consider getting certified as a Green Business and ask your coordinator how you can reduce your plastic footprint. Learn more here.

Consumers: Your habits and actions make a difference! When dining out/getting to-go, try to bring your own reusables with you.  Support local government ordinances that initiate these changes. Vote with your dollars and support local restaurants providing safe and environmentally conscious options. Every bit counts.