Canning: Save Money, Save Food, Help the Planet

Jasper Larkins, Zero Waste Humboldt

Every year in the United States, over 100 billion pounds of food go to waste. That is roughly 130 billion meals and over 400 million dollars worth of food! What many people may not know, though, is the impact this has on the environment. When we waste food, we also waste the water it takes to grow and make the food and the energy and labor it takes to package and transport it. In addition, wasted food usually rots in landfills, producing methane and harming the environment. This is where the zero waste practice of canning becomes so essential. 

Canning is a food preservation process that has been practiced for centuries; some of the earliest known canning techniques involved placing the jars in alcohol or sealing them with wax. These techniques, unfortunately, would almost always result in spoiled or moldy food. However, the current process of packing, heating, and sealing is perfect for foods that may be close to expiring or that may not get used anytime soon. 

There are many myths and misconceptions about canning that deter people away from it. One of the most common myths about canning is that the foods will lose their nutrients over time. However, minerals, vitamins, proteins, and fats remain throughout the canning process, and the nutrients are preserved. Another critical misconception has to do with the sterilization of canning jars. It is essential to ensure the jars are clean before canning. The jars do not need to be sterilized when using a pressure canner; however, when using the boiling method, they do need to be. To sterilize the jars, place them right-side-up in a large pot and completely cover them with hot water. Bring the water to a boil, and leave them for 10 minutes. Once the sterilization process is complete, the canning can begin! 

Steps to Canning: 

  1. Place the food into an airtight jar, and remember not to fill it to the brim! Leave about ¼ to ½ an inch of space.
  2. Heat the jars at the specific temperature required for the food being canned. This process kills all the bacteria and microorganisms so that these jars can last for years. Certain foods may require a pressure canner, and others can be heated in boiling water. Oven canning used to be commonplace; however, studies have shown that oven canning does not kill bacteria like boiling and pressure canners. Be sure to do research first! 
  3. Place the jar in a cool and dark space.
  4. Canning is a great way to reduce food waste, save money, and better the environment. It is a sustainable zero waste practice that allows us to do our part in keeping our environment healthy. If you are interested in learning more about food preservation techniques and food safety, the UC Master Food Preserver (MFP) live online training sessions run from Jan-May. For more information, visit 
  5. We have the privilege of being part of Change 4 Change with Eureka Natural Foods from November 12 – 16. Please help us by Rounding up at the register for those days! This is in celebration of County Wide Zero Waste Day, Nov 15.