Baskets of fresh produce on a fridge shelf.

Keeping a sustainable kitchen

What does it mean to eat sustainably? The answer varies depending on who you ask, and there’s always something that individuals, organizations, and industries—including agriculture!—are doing to be kinder to our one and only Earth.

One way to make a more planet-friendly kitchen is by reducing waste of the foods you love. This list, courtesy of Midwest Dairy, is for anyone who has ever conducted a little mold experiment in the fridge.


Love it, list it

  • Check your fridge, freezer, and pantry before going to the grocery store so you don’t end up buying duplicates of items that will spoil before you can use them.

  • Use a list when grocery shopping so that you’re buying everything you need at once, cutting down on multiple trips to the store. 

  • Use an insulated grocery bag to keep cold foods cold when traveling from the store to home.

  • Shop in-season foods when you can; these foods have travelled smaller distances and you’ll also support local growers in your community! 

  • In addition to making a list, meal planning can help you utilize ingredients that can be used for multiple meals.


Friendly fridge

  • Use “best-by” or “use-by” dates as a cue to incorporate those foods into a meal or recipe sooner than later. There is more on those dates in the next section! 

  • Have an “eat first” bin in your fridge and pantry for foods that need to get eaten soon before they are no longer safe to consume. Apps and websites like myfridgefood.com allow you to enter the ingredients you have on hand and find relevant recipes. 

  • Freeze excess leftovers for future meals. Lasagna, soups, and stews are just a few examples of foods that freeze well. If you have fruit or vegetables that are not exactly fresh but are still edible, you can freeze them to use in smoothies! 

  • Don’t store milk or butter in the door of the refrigerator, as there’s more exposure to warm air when the door is opened. Keep milk towards the back of the fridge, where it’s coldest.

  • Store cheese in its own drawer; it absorbs other flavors easily!


What’s in a label? 

  • Don’t throw out food just because it’s reached the “best-by” or “use-by” date. These dates are an indicator of peak quality, not safety. 

  • As long as milk is stored properly, it will maintain freshness about a week post-date.

  • Yogurt is generally still good to eat about 10 days past date.

  • Hard cheeses can last up to 6 months past date.

  • Soft cheese (such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta cheese) with mold should be thrown away. Hard cheeses like Colby, cheddar, parmesan and swiss, you can cut away the moldy part and eat the rest of the cheese. Cut off at least 1 inch around and below the moldy spot.

There are so many ways that we can all contribute to a lower global carbon footprint. At a recent Coffee with a Curator event, our Science Museum Members learned about how farmers are implementing sustainability measures to increase efficiency on their farms. You can enjoy that video here, and learn more about becoming a Member—and all its benefits, including events like Coffee with a Curator—at smm.org/membership

Have a planet-friendly kitchen hack? Share your voice through video, images, audio, or a combination, and you’ll receive a discount to the Explore Store. Plus, your unique perspective could inspire someone else to see climate science (or their role in fighting climate change) in a whole new way. Visit smm.org/community-voices/action to share your eco-secrets.