We’re excited to see an influx of new devices designed to eliminate food waste. From student design projects to crowd-funded food savers to apps that help manage expiration dates, there are all sorts of high tech options on the horizon that hold promise for food waste crusaders. Read on for a round-up of food waste innovations, plus some common sense tips to help you reduce food waste today!
1. Keep ethylene in check.
Tired of that sinking feeling when you reach in the fruit bowl for the last tomato, only to find it’s molded on the bottom? Designer Jagjit Chodha has designed a fruit bowl that prevents food waste by sensing ethylene levels. (Increasing ethylene levels indicate that fruit is starting to go bad.) The bowl lights up to alert you when levels increase, which means that your fruit is about to get moldy and you should eat it soon. Choda designed and showcased the bowl as part of the Made In Brunel Show at London’s Brunel University. The fruit bowl is not yet in production, but you can help slow the ripening of your produce by storing ethylene-producing items separate from ethylene-sensitive items. Here’s a handy list.
2. Vacuum-seal your food.
Vacuum sealing your food may seem like a cumbersome step, but it can help your food last up to five times longer than other storage methods. VacuVita is a new vacuum-sealing system that has been running a strong crowd-funding campaign on IndieGoGo. Though there have been other vacuum-sealing products on the market for years, like FoodSaver and TightVac products, VacuVita’s sleek design and sustainable objective seem to have hit a nerve with the public. (With only a few days left of their campaign earlier this week, the brand had raised over $200,000, well over their $75,000 goal.) VacuVita uses small, reusable containers instead of plastic bags that feature a futuristic led light and soft bleep sound to let you know the food was successfully vacuum sealed. The brand offers a variety of colors and sizes, though they are not in full production yet.
3. Try a food-waste app.
Fridge Pal is an app designed, in simplest terms, to help you keep track of what is in your refrigerator. Remember the chives you found in a puddle at the back of your fridge last week? The sip of rotten milk you took as a child? The two bottles of red wine vinegar you now own because you forgot you already had red wine vinegar? Fridge Pal is designed to stop that from happening. You simply scan the bar codes of your groceries or add items manually. According to PureWow’s coverage of the app, “Fridge Pal will then add those items to a virtual fridge, freezer or pantry so you can see at a glance what you have in the house.” The expiration date of each item is displayed right next to it, and the app even sends you reminders when an item is about to expire. The app also provides recipes based on what you already have and helps you to create your shopping list. It even reminds you if you have left the grocery store without one of the items on your list.
4. Or make a low-tech list.
It’s not going to personally remind you that you forgot the asparagus as you’re walking out of the grocery store, but a chalkboard or marker board mounted on the fridge can be a cheap, simple way of keeping track of what you have in there. Keep a list of the fresh produce, meat and dairy in order of when it was purchased (or write the expiration date next to it). This way, you can just look at the list to see what needs to be used up without ransacking the fridge every time you need to make dinner or a grocery list. Once something is used up, just erase it!
5. Bookmark this website.
The Still Tasty website is a great resource for looking up nearly any food you can think of to find out the best way to store it and how long it will last before spoiling. The site has all sorts of helpful information—did you know milk should be stored in the main area of the fridge, not the door, and it can be frozen?—but its stand-out feature allows you to type in any food to receive a full run down on how to make that food last as long as possible, if you can freeze it, when it expires, etc. Still Tasty also has an app with similar features to Fridge Pal.
All of these items are part of a trend encouraging us to eliminate food waste. Have vacuum-sealed containers been around for a while? Yes. Have some families been keeping close track of what’s in their refrigerator? Sure. But, a focus on our nation’s food waste problem is encouraging more people to curb their food waste and bringing in new inventors and start-ups looking to build upon what our grandmothers always told us: Don’t waste your food. Sustainable America has set a goal to cut our nation’s food waste in half by 2035, and we’re working with several organizations to accomplish zero food-waste goals, including the 2013 SXSW Eco conference and Stamford, Connecticut’s Alive@Five outdoor summer concert series. Look for our compost bins at Alive@Five concerts this summer! We’re just getting started!