Not-so-fun fact: about 40% of food in the United States is wasted. Wasted food is the biggest contributor to US landfills and, if you’re anything like us, thinking of that makes you sick in a worst-than-spoiled-food way. But, as dire as these numbers are, there are a few small changes you can make to reduce food waste in your office. On World Environment Day, we thought we’d share a few of them with you.

Did you know a clean fridge can keep your food fresh for longer?

Well, it can! If you haven’t done so recently, clean out your office fridge. Remove food that’s been there for too long, take out spoiled food, and wipe it down from top to bottom. Not sure where to start? Try this handy guide for cleaning your fridge, pain-free.

Keep in mind that you should give your employees a few day’s notice, so they can remove or mark any food they do want to keep in the fridge. If your office doesn’t do this already, make it a requirement that all food in the fridge include the employee’s name and date. Say goodbye, spoiled food!

While you’re at it, check that your fridge is set to the right temperature, and that the door seals are intact. Believe it or not, your food will actually stay fresh longer if you set your fridge to 37 °F. The seal on your refrigerator door also keeps all of the nice, cold air in, which reduced temperature fluctuations. Those fluctuations lead to spoiling, to make sure it’s all tightly sealed.

Learn where to store your food – properly

Did you know you should store tomatoes on the counter, not in the fridge? How about the fact that maple syrup and soy sauce should be in the refrigerator, not the pantry? Or even that you can ripen an avocado by placing it in a brown paper bag with a banana?

Taking the time to learn where to properly store your food – whether that’s the fridge, in a fridge drawer for extra freshness, or at room temperature – will ensure your food stays fresh for as long as possible. If you aren’t sure where to start, check jars and bottles for a REFRIGERATE AFTER OPENING tag, or try Googling it!

Donate your leftovers to people in need

If your company participates in an office meal program, check to make sure they donate the leftovers, instead of simply throwing them away. No one has yet to figure out the perfect portioning strategy (though our mad scientists are hard at work!), and donating your food is a great way of giving back to your community. 

Through Chewse to Give, Chewse donates leftover meals to those who need it most. We’ve partnered with Copia to donate our leftovers to local nonprofits in each community we work in, and to date, we’ve donated 11,500 meals. Learn more about Chewse to Give, and how you can participate, here

If your office doesn’t have a meal program, you can still help those in need by donating your excess food through a meal donation service like Copia. Copia can help you reduce food waste, give back to your community, and receive company benefits like tax deductions and press releases about the people you’ll be helping in your community. 

On a personal level, you can also try donating your time at a local food bank. Food banks often need volunteers to collect and process donated food so they can get them out to families in need as quickly as possible. Fresh food is everyone’s favorite, so look into donating your time (or go big and sign up the whole office for a day of volunteering!).

Compost, compost, compost

If any of your food does make it past that expiry date, make sure you’re throwing it in the compost bin instead of the trash. Learn how to set up a composting station at your workplace if you don’t already have one, then try hosting a small course to teach your employees what should – and shouldn’t – go in the bin.

As a matter of fact, food isn’t the only thing you can compost. Many delivery services now offer compostable plates, utensils, and even cups – items made out of corn byproduct or bamboo. Look into finding delivery services that work with compostables in your area, or, if your office serves disposable materials, try making the switch!

Or, if you can’t compost, recycle

Even if you aren’t throwing away food (which, by the way, is a great start, go you!), you’re likely throwing away food containers that you could be recycling instead. It’s been well documented that plastic takes, well, forever to break down in a landfill, whereas recycling facilities can reuse them and turn those lunchtime containers into new water bottles, recycled shoes, or even graduation gowns!

If your office doesn’t already have one, set up a recycling bin, and get crackin. Just make sure you follow food recycling guidelines, which basically mean you should rinse your containers with water before putting them in the recycling bin.

Avoid trays if you can

Many office cafeterias offer trays which, while really convenient when it comes to carrying your plate and dessert and cup and utensils… isn’t so great for food waste. Studies have shown that people are significantly more likely to over-serve themselves if they’re using a tray, and removing trays actually improved portion control.

If your office has a cafeteria with trays, go trayless (or, better yet, convince the whole office to go trayless). Not only will you reduce food waste on a daily basis, but you’ll also get really good at juggling your plate – how’s that for a resume boost?

Take leftovers home

We’ve all done it – you buy lunch somewhere, bring it back to the office, eat most of it, then say “I’m not that hungry anymore, I’ll just put the rest in the fridge.” While this is a totally normal chain of events, it’s actually better to take your leftovers home, rather than putting them in your work fridge. Unless you’re storing a full meal you plan on eating tomorrow, you’re much more likely to forget your leftovers in the office fridge than you would be if you took them home. Why? People are more likely to snack, create a combination meal from various leftovers, or eat leftovers on the weekends, than they would be if the leftovers were sitting in the office fridge.

And besides, everyone loves cold pizza, right?