Science Says: Zero Waste Cooking 101

Gianna Hutton and Julia Strasius

Oct. 16 marks the celebration of United Nations World Food Day, an internationally-recognized day that raises awareness about global hunger and food insecurity. Global hunger and food insecurity are caused by a number of factors, including environmental degradation and the economic toll of COVID-19, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. Globally, about one-third of food produced goes to waste, according to a study published by the journal PLOS One, with 30-40% of food wasted in the U.S., according to the FDA

Why does this matter? 

When food gets wasted, so does the energy taken to produce, package, transport and refrigerate the food. This equates to 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions coming from the food system alone, according to the World Wildlife Fund

Traditionally, once thrown away, food rots in a landfill, during which it produces a greenhouse gas called methane. The EPA reports that methane has 25 times the global warming potential than carbon dioxide. In other words, the release of methane from climate change worsens climate change. However, lifestyle changes can help fix this.  

How can you reduce your food waste?

  • Go shopping at a zero-waste store: In Miami, zero waste stores such as Verde Market and Nutrition Smart provide residents with the ability to opt out of all plastic packaging. Customers bring their own container to fill with products and can buy as much as they please, paying based on weight. 
  • Freeze the foods that are going bad: Freezing different fruits and vegetables helps save food that would have otherwise been thrown away. According to a study done by the National Library of Medicine, freezing food does not significantly alter the nutritional value of produce. 
  • Be food-smart: Use what you have at home! Blogs such as Big Oven, Supercook and MyFridgeFood help people concoct meals using the food available in your fridge. For extra ideas, you may check our favorite recipes below!
  • Educate, educate, educate: Share the importance of reducing food waste with family and friends. The Climate Leadership Information Project at Miami Palmetto Senior High does this through peer to peer presentations at school. 
  • Compost:  Producing food waste remains inevitable, especially in the journey of becoming more eco-conscious! Compost the food waste you produce to create an organic fertilizer, while also not releasing methane emissions. In Miami, Back 2 Earth and the Miami Beach Botanical Garden both provide drop off sites where they handle the composting process, or residents can compost at home

Our Favorite Zero Waste Recipes 

Gianna’s Famous Banana Bread 

This recipe is one of my family’s best that has been passed down over three generations! It is our favorite way to use browning bananas and make them into a delicious treat!


  • 1 cup of sugar 
  • ½ cup of preferred oil 
  • 2 eggs (for a vegan recipe, you can use ⅓ cup more bananas) 
  • 1 cup of overripe brown bananas  
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour 
  • 1  tsp of baking soda
  • ½  tsp of baking powder 
  • ½  tsp of salt 
  • 3 tbsp of milk (for a vegan recipe, you can use plant-based milk) 
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup preferred nuts, chopped


  1. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl 
  2. In a different bowl, mix the oil and sugar on medium for two minutes 
  3. Add in the eggs and banana and mix well until combined
  4. Add your dry ingredients, milk and the nuts 
  5. Put the mixture in your bread mold and put in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes

Fried Rice 

One night after my mom came home from work exhausted, I was searching through my fridge to make dinner and saw we only had old rice, carrots, eggs, mushrooms and onions, so I got innovative and perfected my fried rice recipe. This is one of my favorite low waste meals!


  • 4 tbsp of butter (for vegan recipe, use plant-based butter substitute) 
  • 2 large eggs (exclude for vegan recipe, or try tofu imitated eggs)
  • 1 pinch salt 
  • ½ pinch ground pepper 
  • 4 cups day-old cooked rice 
  • 1 small chopped onion 
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil 
  • Vegetables of choice (whatever you have, examples below) 



  1. Heat large bowl over medium-high heat on the stove
  2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, salt and pepper 
  3. Add in one tablespoon of butter into a skillet, then add in the eggs, cooking them in a soft scramble and removing them once done
  4. Melt one tablespoon of butter. Once melted, add the chopped onion, cooking it translucent or slightly browned
  5. Add the rest of the butter and once melted, add in the rice
  6. Add in soy sauce and toasted sesame oil and stir frequently until it becomes lightly browned. Add in the egg and vegetables and mix

Veggie Ideas 

Glazed Carrots & Mushrooms:


  • 4 carrots, cut into circles
  • 1 pack mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil 
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce 
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic 
  • 1 tsp ginger powder 
  • 1 pinch salt 
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter


  1. Fill a medium-deep skillet with water and heat to a boil. Add your carrots and boil until soft to the fork, moving the carrots semi-frequently.  
  2. Drain the water and bring down the heat to medium or medium-high. Add in the mushrooms, butter and garlic. Once melted, add your other ingredients. 
  3. Cook, moving every so often until they look crispy and grilled. 
  4. Take off heat and add to rice!