How to help the environment and reduce food waste with apples
March 08, 2019
We’ve all heard the old saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Apples are loaded with pectin – a type of soluble fibre – and packed with flavonoids that help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, asthma and Type-2 diabetes.
But did you know that apples aren’t just good for us, they’re good for the environment too?
Removing CO2 from the atmosphere
Trees act as an air cleaner, taking carbon dioxide out of the air and producing fresh oxygen for us to breathe. Fruit trees are particularly valuable, as they grow well in both rural and urban or suburban settings. One acre of apple orchard will extract about 15 tons (or 15,000 kilograms) of carbon dioxide from the air each year – the equivalent of approximately 59,000 km / 36,675 miles driven by an average passenger vehicle (https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator) - while producing about six tons of oxygen.
Reducing food’s carbon footprint
In Ontario, homegrown apples are usually available into the spring, making it possible to buy local even outside of the traditional apple harvest season. This is possible because of cool storage technology, which you can read about here (http://onapples.com/blog/apples-farmers-and-tech-a-look-at-technologies-used-in-apple-growing.php) – but what’s really important here is that by choosing locally grown apple varieties, we can help reduce the carbon footprint of food.
Apples from Chile, for example, will travel an average of more than 8,000 km to Ontario, whereas local fruit comes from one of the province’s apple growing regions along the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay – at most a few hundred kilometers from orchard to consumer.
Managing soil erosion and storm water runoff
When there’s a lot of rain, apple trees help absorb the excess water. This means less water runoff to carry nutrients and soil into local streams, rivers and lakes, where it will contribute to water quality problems. Grass growing between orchard rows also helps keep soil in place and improves the ability of the land to absorb water.
Fighting food waste
More than 30% of Canada’s food is wasted, according to studies completed by Value Chain Management International of Oakville, Ontario. Apples, however, lend themselves well to so many uses that not much need to be thrown out!
- Apples that don’t meet the top market specifications are sold for processing, ending up in sauces, pie and pastry filling, juice, or even dried apple snacks.
- Craft cider is a growing segment in Ontario, and craft cideries are in need of apples to make their beverages.
- Some smaller sized fruit go into school snack programs since they’re ideally sized for kids.
- Some retail chains have started selling fruit that isn’t 100% perfect, marketing them at a discount compared with regular.
- Even apples that are rejected right at the tree have a purpose – they are left on the ground in the orchard where they become organic matter for the trees.
Tips to reduce food waste at home
Consumers have a role to play in reducing food waste in the home as well. Here are a few things you can do to keep food out of the garbage:
- Plan ahead so that you’re only buying the ingredients you need, especially perishables like produce.
- Store your fruits and vegetables properly. To keep apples crunchy, for example, store them in perforated plastic bags in your refrigerator crisper. Cold, humid storage ensures that apples maintain their crispness, juicy texture and full flavour.
- Consider keeping the peel on the apple and eating it – it’s a really healthy part of the fruit that’s packed with fiber.
- Dispose of produce scraps and spoiled pieces in the composter so they can be re-used as fertilizer
- Consider freezer-friendly meal ideas and big batch recipes to use up ingredients instead of throwing them out.
- Track your leftovers in the fridge so they’re eaten in a timely fashion.