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No Food Left Behind

Reduce Waste, Then Compost

Americans waste food , on average about 238 pounds of food every year (one-fifth of the food they buy), costing them $1800 per year. In the US, food loss and waste account for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, 14% of all freshwater use, and 24% of landfilled waste. Reduce food waste and save money with smart shopping, meal planning, and food storage. Donate edible food you can’t eat, and compost food scraps to help your food waste come full cycle as natural fertilizer to grow your garden.

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Compost bin in a community garden

Get Started

To prevent food waste, plan ahead, prep and store, share food, and compostProduce and leftovers are the most frequently wasted types of foods, usually because they spoil before we get around to eating them. On average, Americans waste 21% of the food they buy. That’s like buying five bags of groceries and leaving one behind at check-out.


Leave no food behind with these tips and resources. We’ve made storing and composting leftover food easy.

Step 1

Shop, Chop, and Store

Cost: Free

Overbuying, over-preparing, and improper storage lead to spoiled food that has to be thrown out. What’s more, an estimated 80% of Americans toss edible food prematurely because of confusion over product date labels.


Plan to Shop Smart

  • Grocery shopping with a list saves money and time, and helps you resist impulse buys. In general, buy only what you expect to eat in a week, considering any meals you plan to eat out. Peruse your fridge and pantry first so you don’t buy items you already have, and plan meals that use these items.
  • There’s an app for that! Apps can help you plan meals and quantities, make grocery lists, compare prices, or keep track of your home food inventory. Meal Planner apps can take the stress out of deciding what to cook with what you have—enter the main ingredients you have on hand and voila, a tasty recipe! There are even recipes for what to make with food slightly past its prime, like food scraps, over-ripe bananas, or stale bread.
  • Don’t shun “ugly” fruits or vegetables that may have physical imperfections but are safe to eat. They’re often available at a discount (check out Misfits Market). “Ugly” produce often gets passed over, contributing to our food waste problem.


Prep and Store Like a Pro

  • When you get home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and store your fresh food items for snacks and easy cooking. Use this interactive storage guide to keep food fresh for as long as possible.
  • Store food in airtight reusable glass or metal containers, not single-use plastic. If you just can’t give up your disposable ziptops and cling wrap, try these certified home compostable plant-based plastic wraps and resealable bags.
  • Designate a space in your fridge for foods that you think will be going bad within a few days, to remind you to eat those first. Package, date, and freeze leftovers you don’t think you’ll eat quickly.
  • Make sure your fridge is set at 40° F or below to keep foods safe. The temperature of your freezer should be 0° F.
  • Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing ingredients, sauces, and even entire meals in advance. This will keep fresh food from spoiling because you are too tired or busy to cook.


Learn what product date labels really mean

There are a wide variety of phrases used on labels to describe quality dates, and they don’t mean what you think they do. Even if the date passes during home storage, the food should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly (i.e., refrigerated or sealed) up until the time spoilage becomes obvious. If there is no mold, pests, off odors, off colors, or off textures, the product is safe to consume.

  • “Best if Used By/Before” indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
  • “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula.
  • “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Step 2

Care and Share

Cost: Free

locally grown vegetables

Where to Donate:

  • Search by address for the closest food drop-off locations.
  • makes it easy for businesses with excess food to share it with those in need by matching what’s available to what’s needed.
  • OLIO is an app that connects neighbors with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.

Step 3

Compost to Complete the Cycle

Cost: $0-100

Dumping food waste into landfills just doesn’t make sense. Trapped under layers of garbage, rotting organic matter not only releases methane (a potent greenhouse gas), but it also becomes unavailable where it’s needed most – back in the soil. Composting is a slam-dunk for you and the environment. It keeps food waste out of landfills and saves you money by providing free, organic soil for your garden. Did you know that the single largest material in our everyday trash is food?


Composting Basics

Following a few simple steps, you can keep a home compost pile that is odorless, pest-free, and makes “black gold,” like magic!

  • Know your Greens and Browns. To properly digest, your compost pile needs to be fed a mixture of nitrogen rich Greens and carbon rich Browns—generally kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and plain paper. Find out: Can I Compost This?
  • Collect your kitchen scraps and take them out to the compost pile every few days or store them in the freezer or fridge until you’re ready to toss them on the pile. Certified home compostable food scrap bags help keep things tidy. Pro-Tip: Most plastics labeled compostable are not suitable for home composting. Look for the AS 5810 or TUV Austria OK HOME Compost Certification.
  • Water your pile to keep it moist as a wrung-out sponge but not soggy.
  • Give your pile fresh air by turning the soil every week or so.


How To Get Started

Three different types of food composting bins


Next Level Strategies

Composting with worms, or Vermicomposting, rapidly breaks down food waste into a super-charged organic compost. One pound of worms can turn 65 pounds of garbage into garden compost in 100 days. A great option for apartment/condo dwellers.

Get Involved

Support the Composting Movement

  • Get involved with Sunshine Community Compost to help increase local composting, resource recovery, and zero waste efforts by volunteering, donating, or sponsoring their initiatives. Consider leading by serving on the Board of Directors.
  • Lead your neighborhood to reduce food waste and promote sustainable practices with composting in your community. Consider cost-sharing among neighbors and/or leverage with a City of Sarasota Neighborhood Grant to get started.

Take a Class, Volunteer, Attend an Event, Speak Up

Find out what’s happening and join in with our comprehensive community events listing.

Look for these classes

  • The Issue of Food Waste
  • Making Savvy Decisions at the Grocery Store
  • Recycle Right: Composting
  • Composting Basics
  • Let’s Make Some Black Gold
  • Vermicomposting

Get Involved

Resources and More


Want to Talk to Someone?

Discounts & Incentives


Why can’t I just throw old food and food scraps into the trash?

Food waste is a huge problem, globally and locally. About one-third of the U.S. food supply is wasted every year. About half the water used to produce our food also goes to waste since agriculture is the largest human use of water.

 Disposing of food means using more land for landfills and garbage-burning plants that produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions – not to mention the wasted contributions of human care and energy as well as the emissions generated by growing, harvesting, storing and shipping the food you just tossed in the trash. And wasting food adds insult to injury for hungry families in our community. Bottom line – food waste is a huge waste all around. By composting your old food and food scraps instead of trashing them in the landfill, you take ownership for that waste, instead of disproportionately passing that burden to others in your community or onto future generations.  

Learn How to Compost

How can I waste less food at home?

Buying only the amount of food you can eat is the first step. Do some basic meal planning a week at a time, then make a list of what you’ll need. Make sure to peruse your pantry and refrigerator before shopping to see what you already have. Prep food when you get home by slicing, chopping or dicing so it’s ready to cook or eat. You can even divide it into portions for snacks and lunches. Store food properly to keep it fresher longer, and freeze items you won’t eat quickly. Use leftovers for lunches, soups or casseroles.

Learn What Product Date Labels Really Mean

How can I waste less food when eating out?

Most of us have experienced the “eyes bigger than our stomachs” syndrome when dining out. After all, it’s a treat to eat food we don’t have to prepare, especially when everything on the menu looks yummy. Follow these tips to make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew:

  • Ask your server about portion sizes to determine how much to order.
  • Ask for smaller portions of menu items or a takeaway container for leftovers – better yet, bring a takeaway tote from home to reduce use of plastic bags and containers.
  • Swap sides. If a dish contains something you don’t like, ask if you can swap it out for something else.
  • Share large portions with your dinner companions.
  • Don’t be in a rush to order more. It takes 15-20 minutes after eating to start feeling full.
  • If you didn’t like something on your plate, give your feedback to the restaurant so they can improve the dish and avoid future waste.

More Tips to Reduce Food Waste

How do I start composting?

There are a couple different ways to get started with composting. If you live in an apartment or condo without a lot of outdoor space for a compost bin, your best bet would be to join a community composting program offered by groups like Sunshine Community Compost. They provide all of the training and supplies and they also manage the compost pile for you. All you have to do is collect your food scraps at home and drop them off at one of their compost stations. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to take home fully processed compost to enrich the soil of your patio plants! If there is no compost station near you, you can also work with the organization to get a compost station started at your building. If you are looking to start a compost bin or pile in your own yard, there are several discounted starter kits and “composting 101” classes to help you learn what you can compost and how to maintain your compost pile in a way that is odorless, pest-free, and makes “black gold”!

Start Composting

Won’t composting attract rats and other unsavory creatures?

A well-managed compost pile should not attract rats. Only plant-based matter should be composted – never meat or meat products that produce odors that would attract rats. Don’t put cooking fats or oil, dairy products, cat litter (clean or used) or dog poop in your compost either

Using an enclosed compost bin with a lid or a rotating barrel on an elevated frame helps to prevent rats, raccoons and other animals from getting to compost.

Compost is created by natural decomposition of organic matter by bacteria, fungi, and various other small critters. Don’t panic if you see slugs, millipedes, sowbugs, beetles, or worms in your compost pile. Those are critical on-the-job workers chewing and grinding your food and yard waste into fertile soil for your garden.

Learn How to Compost

What steps can I take to make my business operations more sustainable and earn Green Certification?

Here are 10 steps you can take to improve the sustainability of your business:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Install programmable thermostats, Energy STAR appliances, and LED lighting throughout your facility and set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 15% within the next year. Consider investing in solar panels to generate renewable energy onsite.
  2. Water Conservation: Upgrade to low-flow faucets and toilets in your bathrooms, install drought-resistant landscaping, and aim to reduce water usage by 20% within the next six months. Implement a rainwater harvesting system to collect water for landscaping purposes.
  3. Waste Reduction and Recycling: Introduce a composting program for organic waste generated in your break rooms and cafeteria, with a goal to divert 50% of organic waste from landfills within the next year. Switch to using recycled paper products and provide reusable water bottles and utensils to employees. Set up a comprehensive recycling program for paper, plastic, glass, and other materials.
  4. Sustainable Procurement: Source office supplies from suppliers that offer eco-friendly options such as recycled paper and non-toxic ink cartridges. Aim to have 50% of your office supplies sourced from sustainable vendors within the next six months.
  5. Green Cleaning Practices: Switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products that are certified by organizations like Green Seal or EcoLogo. Set a goal to eliminate the use of chemical cleaners containing harmful substances within the next three months.
  6. Transportation: Offer incentives such as subsidies for public transportation passes or bike-to-work programs. Install bike racks and designated carpool parking spaces to encourage alternative commuting methods.
  7. Employee Engagement: Launch a sustainability awareness campaign among your staff, offering incentives for eco-friendly behaviors such as carpooling or using reusable containers for lunches. Organize monthly sustainability workshops or lunch-and-learn sessions to educate employees on green practices.
  8. Community Engagement: Partner with local environmental organizations or schools to participate in community clean-up events or tree planting initiatives. Sponsor a local sustainability fair or workshop to engage with the broader community and raise awareness about environmental issues.
  9. Continuous Improvement: Establish a sustainability committee within your organization to regularly assess and improve your green initiatives. Set quarterly goals to track progress and identify areas for further enhancement.
  10. Certification Process: Review the Sarasota County Green Business Partner certification requirements and create a checklist to ensure compliance with all criteria. Set a target to complete the certification process and become officially recognized as a green business partner within the next six months.

By setting specific goals and implementing targeted initiatives, you can make meaningful strides towards sustainability while working towards becoming a Sarasota County Green Business Partner.

Learn more and get certified

Ask the Expert

Submit your food-related question to local experts. If selected, they will answer and feature your question on our FAQ. Not all questions will be answered.

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