• Upcycled Food Association

How to be a Closed Loop Consumer

One of the questions we’re constantly asking ourselves at Closed Loop Cooking is ‘What does it mean to be a conscious consumer?’ We share stories, develop recipes, and offer recommendations centered around the idea that we can exist in a capitalist society that tends to glorify overconsumption while still doing our part to care for the planet. Whether it’s choosing reusable food storage containers over single-use, saving onion skins for soup stock, or purchasing an upcycled product over a conventional one, there are loads of ways to make a positive difference in your day-to-day.

Image Credit: Hawnuh Lee/Closed Loop Cooking

It’s hard to imagine how small choices like this could ever amount to measurable change, especially when it comes to food waste, which occurs at every step of the supply chain and amounts to billions of pounds of food dumped in landfills every year. But when broken down, the data shows that 31 percent of food loss occurs at the retail and consumer levels. We as individuals play a significant role in the quantity of food that is needlessly wasted every day, and we can make the decision to reduce it.

So how do you lower your impact as an individual and conscious consumer? Start at the grocery store. First, make sure you purchase only items you know you will use before they expire so you don’t end up throwing away excess. Make a list ahead of time based on what you usually go through before your next shopping trip, and try to stick to it.

If you’re buying packaged goods, pay attention to labels! Purchasing flour from a sustainability-focused company like Renewal Mill, which upcycles soybean pulp (okara) leftover from tofu production. This not only prevents food waste but also signals to the retailer that sustainability is something their customers value, and encourages them to stock more products and brands that reflect that.

Image Credit: Renewal Mill

There are plenty of easy and delicious strategies for reducing food waste in your own kitchen as well. One is simply organizing your fridge and pantry. Store items in order of what will spoil the soonest front to back. When short shelf-life goods are in sight, you’ll be less likely to forget about a piece of fruit or tub of hummus getting moldy in the corner.

One of our favorite tricks at Closed Loop Cooking is to make use of your veggie scraps! Carrot tops shine as creamy pesto, herb stems are great for chimichurri, and peels, skins, and rinds make for the most flavorful vegetable stock you’ve tried.

Finally, if you do find yourself with leftovers that have gone off or an unsalvageable piece of produce, tossing it in the compost is almost always preferable to the trash. Any food that winds up in a landfill will release methane—a greenhouse gas with over 30 times the heat trapping ability of carbon dioxide, whereas composting prevents methane emissions and also creates a new product that can be used to grow more food. Check out your city or town’s resources for compost pickup, or if you have the space, start a pile in your backyard!

No one is a ‘perfectly’ conscious consumer—there will always be ways we can reduce our ecological footprints, and we certainly shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not doing all of them. But we also shouldn’t let that stop us from making small changes that add up to a big difference!

Check out for more ideas and fun reads on low-impact living. And sign up for our newsletter, CLC weekly, to get a roundup of plant-based, low waste inspiration delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.

Author Bio: Maia Welbel

Maia Welbel is a writer, sustainable food advocate, and yoga teacher based in Chicago. She’s been writing about accessible plant-based, low waste living at Closed Loop Cooking and elsewhere since2017, and she is a member of The Farmlink Project’s Impact Team. Find more of her work at and on Instagram @mwelbel.


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