Six Actions You Can Take to Reduce Food Waste
According to Lovefoodhatewaste, if we all stopped wasting bread at home in the UK for a year, it could have the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions as planting 5.3 million trees.
We hate waste here at Traidcraft, especially when it comes to food. That's why we've teamed up with our friends at First Tunnels for their expert advice on what we can all do to reduce food waste - over to them...
It is difficult to motivate people to take the problem of food waste seriously. We live in a time of abundance, and the shelves of shops are overflowing with goods. Therefore, it is challenging for the average consumer to get too worked up, even when discarded food represents 1.3 billion tonnes of material to enter global landfills every year. There are mountains of rotting food products, yet we still have plenty to go around.
What problems does food waste create?
Before we suggest actions to reduce food waste, we will explore why you want to take them.
First, growing enough food to feed our wasteful ways is depleting the global supply of freshwater. Hydrating plants and trees and providing drinking water for animals bred for food increase the need for water companies to dip into groundwater reserves and streams. By doing so, water companies acknowledge they are damaging local ecosystems and environmental cycles.
The environmental impact is more than this. The need to grow more food means more land is stripped of its natural vegetation. One of the biggest reasons for the destruction of the rainforest is the need for somewhere to graze the cattle to support our fast-food chains. Also, the rotting food creates methane gases that become trapped in the atmosphere and add to global warming (as does the methane created by the cattle as they pass gas.)
It is also poor economics. One of the countries reported having the highest level of food waste in Nigeria, and Nigeria is also singled out as the world's poverty capital. While the two ideas are not directly linked, they prove that we need to be more careful with our resources. It also feels ethically wrong that so much food should be wasted where there are people who go hungry for want of nourishment.
What can you do?
So, what are the actionable steps you can take to reduce your food waste? One of those issues can only be resolved when every individual commits to taking responsibility and changing habits. Consumers create the supply and demand that industry feeds to reduce the burden on our planet.
- Stop throwing food away
First, address the problem in your home. What food waste do you create, and how can you prevent anything from getting thrown away? More careful planning of your meals can help, and reducing portion size on each plate can help significantly over time. These actions will make everybody conscious of throwing food away, and it is a change in attitude that matters more.
- Grow your own
Living sustainably means growing your food. If you have a garden, you can grow vegetables, fruit and herbs, and you might even have enough space for chickens and other livestock. Your choice to grow your food will reduce your trips to the shops, and it will improve the nutrient content of the meals you serve. You need only pick the amount you need for a meal and wait to harvest the rest. This means that you are less likely to waste your produce.
There is no need to send food waste to landfills. Decomposed food can become excellent fertilizer for your garden once decomposed. Set up a compost bin and learn about the need for brown and green layers to help with the decomposition. You can then use these materials to aid in the growth of your own food. You should also consider products with compostable packaging.
- Buy local and buy wonky
Going to farmer's markets and buying straight from the grower is a great way to reduce the wastage in supermarkets and large shops. Your local farm shop will be much more mindful of the use of their stock, and any waste is often recycled back into the farm.
Also, buying food that looks less than perfect shows commitment to preventing unneeded waste. For a long time now, perfectly edible produce has been thrown away because it looks ugly. Be the person that rebels against this strange idea and realize that it all looks the same when cooked on your plate or digesting in your stomach. The good news is that this ugly food is often cheaper too!
- Create less and make use of the rest
The simple truth of combatting food waste is that we need to create less of it – and where we create waste, we need to find a useful means of disposing of it. It might be that your leftovers from Sunday dinner could be a lovely lunch on Monday. The local food bank might well welcome those tins that have been in the cupboard for a while. Composting is a great way to recycle waste into food for plants naturally.
There is no excuse for such arrogant excess, and it is time for us all to take some responsibility.
Author Bio: Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing high-quality polytunnels to amateur gardeners and commercial growers across the UK.