Seattle Public Utilities Mami Hara, General Manager/CEO

Prevent Food Waste

40% of food in the United States goes uneaten

Much of that waste happens in our own homes, where we throw away leftovers or forget about food in the back of the fridge. That wasted food has big impacts on our environment, our community, and our wallets. But there’s good news! Small changes at home make big differences. Let’s love our food, not waste it.

What you can do

There are a lot of ways you can reduce your food waste at home. Try our Tips to Waste Less Food to see what works for you. We’ve also created the following resources to help:

Food date labeling

While no one wants to eat food that’s no longer safe to eat, we also don’t want to throw out perfectly edible food before its time. The USDA Food Product Dating Fact Sheet explains what date labels really mean for food safety. Here's a quick reference guide:

  • Sell By: Recommends to the store when to sell the food by, so it still has a shelf life when you take it home. You can still eat food after the sell by date.
  • Best Before/Best By: Means that the food will be at its best flavor or quality before that date. It does not mean that the food is no longer safe to eat.
  • Use By: Means that the food may start to lose quality after that date. It does not mean that the food is no longer safe to eat. Infant formula is the only exception—it should not be used after the “Use By” date.


Wondering how to make those leftovers delicious the second time around, or how to use up an abundance of fruits and vegetables from your garden? Try these great web sites for some tasty ideas:

  • BigOven will find you recipes based on the ingredients you enter in the search box.
  • King County has some great recipes for leftovers developed by PCC Natural Markets.

Why wasting food matters

When we throw away food that could have been eaten, we don’t realize just how much we’re really wasting. All that waste adds up in a big way.

  • We throw away $160 billion worth of food a year in the U.S. By reducing food waste, a family of four could save as much as $1500 a year!
  • 1 in 8 households in the U.S. don’t have enough to eat. By buying more food than we need, we’re using up valuable resources. This causes food prices to rise, hurting low-income families the most.
  • We waste 25% of all the freshwater used in the U.S. to grow food that is never eaten.
  • Wasted food is responsible for more than 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If wasted food were its own country, it would cause more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country except for China and the U.S.
  • As much as 5% of all energy used in the U.S. goes to grow food that is wasted.
  • If all the wasted food in the world was grown on one farm, that farm would be larger than Canada. Rain forests and grasslands are being destroyed to keep up with the demand for land to grow more food.
  • Across the world, the food sector is responsible for about half of the organic water pollutants that contaminate our ground water, lakes, rivers, and streams

Additional Resources

Check out these websites for more information, tools, and videos to help you reduce your food waste at home.

  • The Natural Resources Defense Council teamed up with the Ad Council to launch the national Save the Food campaign.
  • The EPA is partnering with cities across the country to implement the Food: Too Good to Waste campaign.
  • King County's Food: Too Good to Waste campaign has created some great tools and videos available on their website.


    For more information about SPU’s Love Food, Stop Waste program, contact Veronica Fincher at (206) 233-2534 or