5 apps that fight food waste

Get good grub before it goes bad


When you see the data on food waste (the fact that if it were a country, it would be the third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world; the harsh reality that in the U.S. most of the problem happens in our own homes), an empowering thing can happen. You’ll start to see all the small day-to-day ways that addressing this planet-warming problem can happen in your own kitchen: Yesterday’s carrot butts become today’s veggie stock, and Saturday night’s leftover french fries become Sunday morning’s eggy potatoes.

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But even if you optimize your fridge and pantry, there’s still a lot of waste on the table—in this case at places like restaurants, grocery stores, and even your neighbor’s garden. These five apps act like matchmaking services for food that might otherwise get a one-way ticket to the dump. 

For rescuing dinner and dessert: Too Good To Go

Prepared foods and baked goods make up about 23% of all tossed grub, according to ReFED, a nonprofit focused on food waste solutions. A good chunk of that comes from restaurants and grocery stores. Too Good To Go lets you buy steeply discounted grab bags of food that shops might otherwise trash. A $10 one from Whole Foods, for example, might include $30 worth of hot-bar leftovers like spicy red pepper salmon and five-cheese flatbread. Most of the bags are true surprises, so they may not be a great choice for folks with allergies or dietary restrictions. But if you don’t mind the unexpected, you can get a fresh and tasty deal. In the eight years it’s been in operation, Too Good To Go says it’s saved more than 300 million meals, which is equivalent to 893,000 tons of CO2, or the emissions of driving nearly 193,000 cars for a year.

For finding your extras a home: Olio

Think of Olio like you would Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can sell, give away, lend, or share almost anything, although the app’s emphasis is on reducing food waste. Individuals can offer up extras of any cooked, raw, opened, or unopened food to their neighbors—for a fee or for free-ninety-nine. Businesses can list leftover food too, and you can even volunteer to pick up food and redistribute it throughout your community. Olio says its 7.7 million users and 111,000 food-redistributing volunteers have helped avoid 186,000 tons of CO2 emissions, which is equal to the annual energy use of more than 22,000 homes.

For composting when you can’t compost: ShareWaste

This app doesn’t save edible vittles so much as food scraps—which is also crucial considering that each year 11 million tons of bits and bobs from home cooking, like avocado pits or bell pepper tops, go to waste. When all that excess sits in a landfill, it creates 90% more greenhouse gases than it would if it were to become compost. But not everyone has a yard or access to a community food-scrap pickup, so ShareWaste connects local composters with people who want to donate their scrap, leftover, and unused fruits, veggies, bread, yard trimmings, and even cooked meat and cheeses for composting, raising worm farms, and feeding chickens. The app will surface composters near you, and you can message them directly to set up a time to deliver your detritus. If you’re a composter, you can sign up to use your neighbors’ trash to enrich your own garden.

For snagging soon-to-expire groceries: Flashfood

Flashfood is like Too Good To Go, but specifically for grocery stores—and with no surprises. Largely because of meaningless expiration dates and overstocking, supermarkets throw 30% of their goods in the bin. So, the app partners with chains such as Meijer, Martin’s, Family Fare, Loblaws, and Stop & Shop to offer produce, meats, and more that would otherwise be thrown away at up to 50% off their original price. The app will show you what food is available each day, and you can order for same-day pickup. So far, Flashfood estimates that it’s saved more than 100 million pounds of edibles from the landfill and saved shoppers $247 million. It’s up and running in more than 2,000 stores across Canada and the U.S.—though they’re mostly clustered on the East Coast with some shops out on the West Coast.

For sharing what your garden (over)grows: Fresh Food Connect

If you have a home garden with a tendency to runneth over, you might want to consider downloading Fresh Food Connect. This app matches you with a nonprofit in your area that will pick up your extras and distribute them to local community members facing food insecurity. The app also provides gardening tips and advice on what produce their partners look for the most, with tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, and carrots topping the list. Fresh Food Connect’s more than 30,000 active gardeners have so far shared 215,000 pounds of produce with 60 nonprofits in 20 states, with especially large hubs in Denver and San Diego. 

[Editor’s note: We realize these apps aren’t available everywhere, but they’re always expanding. If you’d like them to come to your area, reach out the company and let them know you want in on the world-saving action!]