Green footprint with various factors to offset your environmental impact

By Carina Olivetti

There are many ways to lower your individual contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. One of the easiest and highly impactful ways is something we make choices about every day. It’s all about food and composting of course! Your buying power at grocery stores and restaurants has a significant impact on your ecological footprint and the planet. As we are making our new year’s resolutions, please consider reducing your food waste and starting an at home compost pile. There are tumblers and vermicomposters for smaller spaces, or you might get together with neighbors and start a communal composting program. If composting onsite is not an option, research if someone in your area offers curbside composting. 


Here are seven ways to start lowering your ecological footprint.

Buy less/waste less

Following a list when shopping for food helps plan your meals and prevents you from buying food you don’t need. There are lots of online resources available to assist you in the process of meal planning and overall food waste reduction. The EPA has a plethora of great tools!

Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska

Eat seasonal foods.

Following the same vein as eating locally, eating seasonal foods reduces the environmental costs of transport and inputs. Don’t forget your freezer and food preservation! Use these methods of storage to eat seasonal foods at other times of the year

Vegetable garden

Buy local foods.

Supporting your local growers is important and helps preserve our local economy. Not only are you encouraging your neighboring farmers to keep up their hard work, but you also reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with food transportation. This is especially true when that food is endemic to your region. Organically grown regional food doesn’t require as many inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and excess water.

Resources to connect consumers to local Nebraskan food

Shop in your stores’ bulk section.

Reducing the amount of packaging that your food comes in reduces the amount of fossil fuels used and their associated emissions. The less plastic production we support, the better! Purchase any variety of reusable containers/bags to take to the store for buying things like veggies, fruits, nuts, flour, sugar, etc. Bulk food sections allow for the consumer to buy as much or as little of that item they choose. Find a store in your area that has a bulk food section. 

Grow your own food.

Gardening gives the grower much more than a smaller ecological footprint! When you grow food at home you know exactly where it comes from and how far it travelled to your stomach. You get to decide on which inputs you will use and what you want to grow. Choose to grow organically and keep an even smaller footprint. Gardening can also boost emotional wellbeing, physical fitness, and interconnectedness with the planet and its inhabitants. Even keeping a container garden of herbs/veg is a fruitful endeavor! Winter is a great time to visualize and plan your next garden.

Consider eating mostly plants.

Commercial livestock production requires lots of land, water, and other inputs. It also contributes to significant greenhouse gas emissions. Proteins are not equal in ecological footprint; concentrated animal feeding operations in beef production tend to have the biggest impact on the planet. Inversely, following a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet contributes less greenhouse gas emissions. Click here to learn about protein production and climate footprint.

Bulk food options in a grocery store
Hierarchy to Reduce Food Waste and Grow Community


Building a compost pile is as easy or hard as you decide it to be. There are many methods out there to choose from and you can literally just make a structureless pile to start. Now that you have decided to reduce your food waste by planning and prep, you will still have materials that can be composted. We normally don’t eat banana peels, orange rinds, or coffee grounds so now they can go to the compost pile instead of the trash. Paper egg cartons, newspaper, garden plant debris and carbon rich leaves are great for composting too. Shred and collect leaves with your mower and stockpile for adding to your compost operation throughout the year.

By composting at home, you will:

• Reduce the volume of material that goes into your trash can. Sometimes this can reduce the amount you spend on monthly garbage hauling fees by decreasing the frequency of your garbage pick-up.

• Produce a free soil-enhancing material. Reducing your need for other outside inputs and costly additives.

• Help to reduce landfill methane emissions by keeping your organic waste out.

Food waste in landfills is a major contributor of methane emissions worldwide.

Fundamentally, it is just a silly way to treat a natural resource. All the nutrients that could go into building new soil are just being buried and wasted. Landfills have a critical purpose, and you cannot compost everything, but we can and need to do better when it comes to refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Click the link for EPA’s Composting at Home resources page.

Join the Nebraska Composting Council or the United States Composting Council to learn more about compost and meet other composters.

Reach out to Carina Olivetti for more information [email protected] 402-436-2384 x 104

Tan logo with green outline that says Nebraska Chapter. A state chapter of the U.S. Composting COuncil.