With the holidays fast approaching, friends and families are making plans to get together and celebrate. An important part of most festivities is food; whether you're serving up a traditional turkey or a vegan feast, what you do after the meal is consumed is just as important as what is prepared.

I recently read that in the U.S., about 40 percent of food is tossed in the garbage. Whether it's your child's uneaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich at school,or those now-brown Brussels sprouts that were forgotten in the back of the fridge, they all help to contribute to climate change when they go into the trash. Yes -- climate change.

When food is put in the garbage and taken to the landfill, it is buried and quickly decomposes in a biologic process known as anaerobic decomposition. What this really means is that tiny microorganisms, living without air, eat the food. During this natural process methane gas is produced and released into the air. Methane is about 23 times more potent that the carbon dioxide that vehicles emit.

Of course, the best way to help reduce landfill methane emissions is by not putting food in the trash. If you live in Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda or Walnut Creek and have a green waste collection cart in which you can put your food scraps with your yard trimmings, they will be composted. Some of you may be already participating in the program, but for those that aren't, here's how it works. Collect any type of food scraps: egg shells, bread, meat and fish, fruits and veggies, even bones. (Please do not include plastics, tissue, or Styrofoam).

For a full list of do's and don'ts visit http://www.wastediversion.org/app_pages/view/251.

Empty your food scraps into your green waste cart on your scheduled collection day. Make sure to cover food scraps with yard waste in your cart to avoid pests and odors. If you don't have any yard debris, consider putting your scraps into a paper grocery sack before placing in your cart.

To keep your indoor food scrap collection container clean, line it with paper towels, newspaper or a paper lunch sack. If you opt to buy biodegradable plastic bags for liners, please make sure that have the "BPI/US Composting Council" seal of approval on the package. If you don't have a suitable collection container, you can call Valley Waste Management at 925-935-8900 and they will deliver one at no cost on your next service day. Finally, you can freeze food scraps before emptying them into your cart.

Those banana peels and turkey bones can be turned into nutrient-rich compost. This program is an easy and convenient way for you to do your part to cut down on the amount of food going to the landfill and associated environmental issues.

If you have a question, comment or idea about current or future solid waste programs, please email them to lois@wastediversion.org.