There are many ways to practice the first R of Reduce!

Reduce is the first, and most important, of the 4Rs because preventing waste before it happens has the biggest impact.  Growing and producing our food requires vast amounts of resources such as water (80% of all fresh water goes to our agricultural system)*, energy, and fuel for transportation.  Efficient uses of these resources reduce waste at its source.


In the U.S. we waste approximately 40% of all of our food while 90% of what’s good and unwanted is mostly thrown away in the garbage (and sometimes it is composted).*  And while compost is better than garbage, preventing the food from being composted has a much bigger environmental and social impact.  In addition to environmental impacts, wasting food is bad for our community because we still have 50 million food-insecure people in the United States.*  One in 6 adults and 1 in 3 children are food-insecure in Alameda County, which means they face the threat of hunger on an ongoing basis.**  

How and where you store your food can have a big impact on its useful life.  Reusable packaging such as glass containers (like those in the image above) with lids and seals can preserve freshness longer.  Also consider storing your produce in the best place for long life.  For more helpful information on storage tips and strategies, please visit

In the U.S., the only grocery item that has a federal mandate to have an expiration date is baby formula. For all other products, the date you see on the item is really just a guide for peak freshness for stores to use when displaying the item. Some items can last days or even weeks past the date stamped on them.  So use your senses (look for significant discoloration, mold, and give food the “sniff test”) and don’t unnecessarily throw it out on the date on the package. For more information on “expiration” dates, click here.

If you don’t buy the browning bananas, slightly bruised apples, and lightly wrinkled tomatoes, who will?  Produce with a little bit of wear on it is still perfectly nutritious and may actually have more flavor since it’s had a chance to fully ripen. So please consider saving the “unloved” produce, otherwise it’s more often than not going to be wasted.  

Little things, like reminding yourself that you have items in the refrigerator that are nearing the end of their useful life can be very helpful.  Print out CVSan’s Eat Me First signs for placement in your refrigerator.  You can download the PDF with three signs on one sheet here.

You can also check out the helpful website and app Foodfully which automatically imports grocery store purchases made through Amazon Fresh, Instacart and retail rewards programs. Foodfully sends you notifications to prompt you to eat your food before it goes bad!

We have a significant opportunity to prevent food waste as studies have shown that households waste 25% of what we take home.  Wasting 25% is like dropping one of every four bags of groceries on the way home from the store and never picking it up.  Click here for some great resources on menu planning and other resources to help you get that 4th bag back!  And don’t forget to shop your refrigerator before you go to the store and make sure you need everything on your shopping list. 

You can also find out more about where we waste food and why with the ground-breaking report from Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill.


For more on preventing food waste, please visit the following helpful websites:

Food: Too Good To Waste


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.)


*Dana Gunders-Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill.

**Alameda County Community Food Bank 2013 Annual Report


Practice first R of Reduce by Stopping Junk Mail!

For comprehensive resources on reducing junk mail, spam email, telemarketer calls and more, please visit the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition (BayROC) website.