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fighting food waste with pesto

Every year on April 22nd people around the world celebrate Earth Day. What started as a single day, to raise awareness of global environmental issues, on college campuses, has now turned into an entire month-long emphasis on the planet, sustainability and how you can make the world a better place.

From bringing your own grocery bags, to responsibly recycling, to composting, there are hundreds and hundreds of ways to live a more sustainable life, reduce your own personal waste and keep things out of landfills. When we talk about waste we often think of plastic, glass, aluminum (non-compostable materials), but do you know what accounts for almost 25% of municipal solid waste? Food. Each year over 76 billion pounds of discarded food is sent to landfills, where it rots and produces methane gas. Methane gas is the second-most common greenhouse gas, which means, throwing out your food directly contributes to climate change. Not to mention, when your food is wasted, the fertilizer, water, packaging, labor and transportation needed to grow the food, process, package, and deliver it to you are also wasted.

The statistics can feel overwhelming, and it’s easy to get down about all the havoc us humans have wreaked on Mother Earth, but, if you’re willing to adopt a new tip or two you can be a part of the solution and help reduce food waste. 

1. Plan ahead. Make a list. Buy only what you need.

Ok, so this is three tips in one, but they all go hand in hand. Planning your meals ahead of time and making a list of what you’ll need to make them will keep you focused at the grocery store, buying only what you need and reducing impulse purchases or overbuying, which leads to waste. 

2. Stay organized

In the restaurant we call it “FIFO” (First In, First Out). In other words store items that are more delicate or soon to expire towards the front of your fridge and those with longer shelf lives towards to back. Another restaurant tip; get yourself a roll of masking tape and a sharpie and label and date leftovers in clear containers so that you can easily see what’s inside, making it more likely to get used. 

3. Use the whole food

Grate your broccoli stems for use in a slaw or stir fry. Collect onion peels, butts of carrots and celery, winter squash skin and herb stems throughout the week in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer, at the end of the week use all those scraps to make a flavorful homemade veggie broth. Roast veggies like carrots, eggplant, beets and potatoes with the skin on, in addition to reducing waste, it’s where you’ll find a lot of the nutrients. Rinse and roast the seeds from your winter squash for a crunchy salad topper. Juice the cores of apples and pineapple and stems of hearty greens like kale or chard for a nutrient rich juice… you get the idea. Before throwing out that “scrap” consider another use for it. 

Kale + (Any) Herb Stem Pesto 

Pesto is a great way to use up otherwise discarded parts of kale and herbs. A quick blanch of kale stems before zipping them up in the food processor will soften the stalks and keep your pesto a beautiful bright green. The stems of most herbs are tender enough to incorporate into pesto too. There’s no reason not to use all parts of the basil (leaf and stem) or parsley when making a blended sauce or dressing. Don’t have pistachios? Use pine nuts or almonds or pumpkin seeds. Pesto is versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with what you already have. Yay for delicious green things that also reduce food waste. 

1 cup kale stems and leaves, chopped

1 cup herbs stems and leaves (parsley, basil, mint or any combination) 

1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

1/3 cup unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted 

1/2 cup olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

Sea Salt 

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Blanch kale stems and leaves in boiling, lightly salted water to soften slightly, about 1 minute. Remove kale from boiling water and immediately immerse in ice water. (This will shock the leaves to stop the cooking process and help retain their vivid green color.) Remove the kale from the water and squeeze it dry. 

2. Add kale stems and leaves, herbs, cheese and pistachios and lemon zest to a food processor and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

3. With the food processor still running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until smooth and incorporated.

4. Immediately serve over cooked pasta. 

*Also delicious stirred into grains, freshly cooked white beans. Excellent topper for soups, eggs, avocado toast…

*pesto can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid for up to a week.