Sustainability. It’s a buzzword you’ve probably heard a lot in the last couple of years. With climate change on the rise, people and governments are focusing their efforts on preventing more harm to the environment.

Cutting down on food waste may seem like a small contribution, but it’s actually one of the most important – and easiest – ways to reduce our carbon footprints. Global food waste generates around 8% of the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s almost the same as global road transport.

Here in Canada, we’re no exception to the ecological crisis faced around the world. Every year Canadians produce up to $31 billion in food waste, 47% of which happens in the home.  Thankfully, as awareness of this issue grows, so does our commitment to finding a solution. Right now, around 79% of Canadians are taking steps to reduce their household food waste and, with leaders like Lindsay Coulter of David Suzuki’s Queen of Green helping spearhead the cultural shift, there are tons of resources for Canadians to learn how to live sustainably.

Small adjustments to the way you shop, store and consume your foods can make all the difference. Here are 6 simple tips on how you can reduce your food waste and your carbon footprint:

Keep track of your waste. Like most things in life, measurement is a great tool for success. For one whole week, write down every single food item you throw away, including packaging. Keeping track of all of the things you go through not only makes you more conscious of what’s being thrown away, but also how many things produce trash.

First in, first out. Have you ever had food go bad in the back of the fridge? One of the best ways to reduce waste and overconsumption is to set a rule to use your oldest food and ingredients first. When you buy new food, push it to the back and pull the older foods forward to ensure they won’t go to waste.

Buy from bulk stores. Packaging is a big part of the problem when it comes to food waste. Buying from bulk stores not only reduces this extra garbage, but it’s a great way to save money (especially on spices) and consume the exact amount you need. Store your foods in glass jars – it’s eco-friendly and looks great! An added bonus of buying from bulk stores is that a lot of the foods are organic, so it’s a win-win.

Make a menu, and stick to it. We all know how easy it is to get off track in the grocery store when we don’t use a list. Planning your meals in advance and going in with a game plan is the best way to avoid buying things you don’t need and won’t use. If you plan more than a week in advance, divide your grocery list so that you don’t buy perishable items like produce until a few days before they will get used. Fruits and vegetables lose nutrients the longer they are stored, so buying them fresh for use is always a good idea.

Store produce properly. There are a ton of hacks for storing your produce to make it last longer. For example, don’t store your fruits and vegetables in plastic bags as it speeds up the decaying process. Avoid washing your produce until you’re ready to use it, as moisture causes mould. It’s also important to note that certain produce lets off a gas that stimulates ripening. There is also a method behind which fruits and vegetables can be stored together that you can use to help keep them fresher, longer.

Be realistic. Just like fitness, sustainability is a lifestyle change that takes time and practice. Being realistic about what changes you can commit to is key in establishing habits that will be maintained long-term. Don’t go out and buy a ton of glass jars if you know you won’t make the 20-minute drive to the nearest bulk store or buy a week’s worth of food if you know you eat out 3 times a week. Set goals that are realistic for you and continue to make small changes over time.