"Orange is the New Black" actress Alysia Reiner is learning a lot about sustainability from her daughter, Liv, but Reiner's move towards a greener lifestyle actually began way before Liv was born.
Reiner was in elementary school when she first learned about Earth Day and why it's so important to protect the planet. She decided then and there to make her daily habits more environmentally-friendly.
From then on, that eco-consciousness was always a part of her life. And, ever since becoming a mom, she’s been an advocate for healthy and sustainable living.
"When I was getting ready to be pregnant, I became more conscious of every iota that was going into my body," Reiner explains.
This meant making better choices about what she was eating.
All photos via Upworthy/SaveTheFood.
"When you have a small human, you become more excited about eating a rainbow," Reiner says in reference to eating a wider spectrum of natural, healthy foods.
But she wasn’t just thinking more about her eating habits, she also became super conscious of the food she was throwing away.
Believe it or not, food waste is the single largest contributor to landfills in the United States today. And it’s not just taking up space there — when food decomposes it releases methane gas, a form of climate pollution that is up to 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
But the damage wasted food enacts on the environment is only part of why it’s an unfortunate habit. When we throw away food, we’re literally throwing away money — 218 billion dollars-worth to be exact in the US alone.
Once Reiner learned all these harrowing statistics about food waste, she jumped into action.
She and her family joined their local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group, which helps connect them with the local farmers in their community. She helped re-launch a green program at her daughter's school with another interested parent, and as a result, all the classrooms at her school have also started composting. In fact, according to Reiner, the school's decreased their waste output by 95%.
She also started doing "fridge raids" in her own home, where she turns leftovers and food that would otherwise be thrown away into delicious meals. Now, Reiner is starting to raid her friends’ refrigerators, starting with Melissa Rivers.
As you can see, with just a little direction, even the less cooking-inclined, like Melissa Rivers, can make something awesome out of food they’d otherwise just toss into the trash. Almost rotten tomatoes and herbs can become a delicious gazpacho, and that frozen pizza you forgot about can look like new with a little basil, parmesan and cooking spray.
“For someone like me who’s always ordering in or taking out — you’ve given it all a new life,” exclaims Rivers.
It’s no surprise that Save the Food — a campaign designed to help people learn how not to waste food — partnered with Reiner to turn her fridge raids into video PSAs/tutorials that teach just that.
Together, they’re spreading awareness about food waste and providing resources to help people make food waste-limiting practices a staple of home life.
Of course, Reiner implements the same food waste-limiting practices she teaches in her own home, and gets her husband and daughter involved, too.
For example, they’ve all gotten really good at incorporating almost every part of the foods they buy. In fact, her family regularly tries to figure out what meals they can create using only what's on hand. They also compost every day, and bring leftovers to their local church when they have them.
"When there are so many people on a daily basis who are food insecure, it feels disrespectful for me to then waste food," Reiner explains. "I've always been really aware of that. "
Ultimately, it’s about showing her daughter Liv how easy it is to make food-saving, and environmentalism, a part of her everyday. While they’re habits that everyone should develop, if parents encourage their kids early on, they’ll be more likely to stick with them into adulthood.
Reiner's advice for parents who want to get their families into food saving? Make it a game.
Turn dinner-making into a "Chopped"-esque competition where the goal is to make use of everything, even the scraps. Or get the whole family involved in volunteering at a food bank or other place that helps feed the food insecure. Whatever you do, if you can show your kids that sustainability can be fun and easy, you're winning on so many levels.
"It’s my deepest hope that our next generation understands that climate change is a real thing," says Reiner about the impact of wasted food. "We all have to do what we can."