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Encinitas is one of the county's first cities to take a public step towards preparing for Assembly Bill 1826, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in September 2014 and goes into effect April 1, 2016, requiring businesses to recycle their organic waste — lawn clippings, food waste and other similar waste — rather than sending it to landfills. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
The city of Oceanside is busy working on establishing a zero waste, sustainable food system in North County that encourages residents and businesses to reduce their food waste and recycle leftovers. File photo
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Oceanside pursues zero waste, sustainable food measures

OCEANSIDE — Many residents are already in the habit of recycling and reducing plastics, glass and other materials, but what about recycling food?

The city of Oceanside is busy working on establishing a zero waste, sustainable food system in North County that encourages residents and businesses to reduce their food waste and recycle leftovers.  

“A sustainable food system looks at every aspect of food through production, distribution, consumption and recycling,” said Colleen Foster, the city’s environmental officer.

According to Foster, who oversees the city’s solid waste and recycling as well as its sustainability team, a sustainable food system has multiple benefits that help the city achieve its zero waste and climate action goals.

Oceanside is hosting its 10th annual Earth Festival on April 27. This year’s festival will focus on reducing food waste. Photo courtesy of the City of Oceanside

Zero waste aims to send nothing to landfills, which Foster said contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The idea behind zero waste is to reduce what is needed, reuse as much as possible, recycle whatever little bit is left and compost food waste that can’t be salvaged.

To promote zero waste and other sustainable practices, the city uses its Green Oceanside campaign to educate residents, businesses and visitors “to be better stewards of the earth and to implement programs that protect and conserve natural resources.”

The city has boosted its promotion of sustainable practices in honor of Earth Month, which is celebrated throughout April. On April 27, the city will host its 10th annual Earth Festival, meant for all North County residents rather than just those living in Oceanside.  

At the festival, more than 100 vendors will be demonstrating composting, recycling and other sustainable practices both residents and businesses can adopt to help the city achieve those zero waste goals.

Several other events are taking place throughout the month leading up to Earth Festival.  Mayor Peter Weiss has also challenged residents to conserve water throughout April.  

Foster said this year’s festival is driven by zero waste policy with a focus on food waste.

“We can reduce our environmental impact through the way we eat,” Foster said.

Foster is working on implementing a program that would reduce the amount of food waste going to the landfill from restaurants and grocery stores.

For example, Foster said her team analyzed the waste from 10 restaurants in the city to see what was going to waste. She spoke with a chef at one of the restaurants about how customers aren’t finishing fries and suggested reducing the amount they put on a plate. 

Reduction is a huge part of going zero waste while recycling is the last resort. Composting is a process by which organic matter is thrown together and broken down over time, which turns the material into fertilizer for gardens.

Oceanside doesn’t have a citywide composting program, but that’s something being considered with businesses as the first step before moving on to residents.

In the meantime, the city encourages residents to do-it-yourself compost at home and will feature vendors at the Earth Festival that will provide demonstrations.

Buying produce locally or even growing your own produce at home also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions created from transporting produce from out the region, according to Foster.

Another way to reduce food waste is to take any extra edible produce or goods and give them to food insecure residents.

Many residents in Oceanside, including Foster, have at least one or two citrus trees in their yards that produce far more fruit than one household can eat before the produce goes to waste.

The city has teamed up with ProduceGood, a local nonprofit organization that provides free picks to residents as well as larger-scale citrus tree groves to take excess produce and redistribute it to local shelters, schools and other feeding programs.

On May 11, residents can pick their own trees and drop off the excess produce with the city or they can sign up for a free pick from ProduceGood. Any fruit with broken skin would be taken to the O’side Kitchen Collaborative, which would turn the fruit into jellies and jams.

The O’side Kitchen Collaborative will be operating in the city’s new Green Oceanside kitchen, which Foster said is set to open in June in the El Corazon Senior Center.

The kitchen will provide culinary arts training programs for families or those working in the food industry that will teach sustainable food practices.

A booth will be set up at Earth Festival with information on the green kitchen.

This year’s Earth Festival kicks off on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Downtown Oceanside.