One of the goals of the Sustainable Development Programme by the UN is to reduce food loss and wastage by half by the year 2030. Currently, 30% of the food produced globally (an equivalent of 1.3 billion tonnes) is wasted every year. This is despite there being 821 million people around the world going hungry. The growing, transportation, processing, sale and preparation of these 1.3 billion tonnes of food accounts for 9% of the world's total energy consumption, energy that could be redirected or preserved for better future use. There have been brilliant efforts by consumers to compost food waste. Scientists have also found ways to use it to drive the production of bioenergy that can be used to power households, electric trains & cars, and corporate buildings. But still, more needs to be done to minimise food wastage.
Reasons Why Minimising Food Wastage Should Be A Priority
Sustainable food production and consumption should be encouraged because for starters, food wastage increases global warming. It does this in two ways. The production of food that is either wasted or lost leaves behind a carbon footprint of approximately 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and emits about 6.6% of greenhouse gasses according to FAO. Additionally, most food waste is collected as part of municipal solid waste and ends up in landfills; the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. CO2 and greenhouse gases resulting from food waste cause global warming, a problem we are trying so hard to eliminate.
Secondly, food wastage is a misuse of money, labour, land, and water. 28% of the global agricultural area which equals 1.4 billion hectares, is used in the production of food that is wasted. 250km3 of water is used to grow the 1.3 billion tonnes of food wasted. A lot of money is wasted too. The EU alone spends €98 billion on food that ends up being wasted while Canadians lose $ 31 billion annually. Summed up, the total amount of money wasted worldwide according to UNEP is about USD $990 billion. These are resources that could have been redirected into other uses such as providing medical care, energy in rural areas, land for habitation, etc. Having understood the problems caused by food wastage, the next step is learning how you can play your part in minimising it.
Ways To Minimise Food Wastage
Buying only what you need is the cardinal rule of minimising food wastage. Before going out to shop for groceries and foodstuffs or opting for food subscription services that deliver these items to your doorstep, plan out your meals. From there, make a list of the ingredients needed to prepare meals listed in your meal plan. This will help you avoid buying items you will not use which will most likely end up in your trash bin.
Secondly, don't buy too much. Bulk shopping might seem convenient since it minimises the number of times you have to make grocery runs and it is cheaper. Offers like buy 2 get 1 free are enticing right? Well, consumer decisions like these are among the leading causes of food waste according to a study by the University of Arizona. If you want to avoid wasting food, make a list of what you need and stick by it strictly!
Moderation Is Key
Avoid over-serving. The massive portion culture that was once reserved for hotels is slowly but surely getting more common in 21st-century households. Serving too much food leads to wastage as most people throw away any leftover food which is wrong in the first place. If you have leftovers, save them for later. Transfer them into a dry container with a lid and put it in the refrigerator making sure to label the container with the date so you can keep track of how long it has stayed. Still, to be safe, serve little portions. Tiny plates can help with this and in case you won't be satisfied, you can always go for a refill.
Store Food At Ideal Conditions
Food spoilage leads to wastage. You, therefore, need to learn how to increase the shelf life of food items. Unknown to many, this does not necessarily mean refrigeration. Let bananas and avocados ripen on the counter at room temperature. Some foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squashes are best kept in cool, dry places like a pantry. Apples can be kept on the counter for a week or in the fridge for longer provided you keep them separate from other produce as they produce ethylene gas.
Cauliflower and broccoli should be kept separate in drawers in a refrigerator. This is because they perish at a faster rate if exposed to ethylene gas which is produced by most fruits in the refrigerator. Berries, cherries, grapes, and mushrooms should be kept refrigerated in dry covered containers. Do not wash produce before storing, a common mistake many people make. Celery, green beans, lettuce, collards, chard, spinach, and kale should be refrigerated. Also note if you purchase anything pre-peeled or pre-cut, it should be refrigerated.
Even if you do your best to minimise food waste, there will always be stuff to throw away like indelible parts such as eggshells and potato peels. Instead of throwing all this food away, you can opt to compost. This reduces the amount that ends up in landfills and thereby the production of global warming causing greenhouse gases. It concurrently helps to conserve energy that would have been used to incinerate the waste should it have ended up in landfills. Furthermore, compost captures 99.6% of VOCs in polluted air according to the EPA. Compost can also be used in place of synthetic fertilizers thereby reducing pollution associated with chemical fertilizers. It is, however, important to note not all food wastes can be composted. Avoid placing bones, meat, fish, and dairy products in your compost heap.
If you see that you have food that is about to go bad, consider looking for charities, or food banks where you can donate it to avoid wastage. You can easily do this by downloading apps such as Food Cowboy and Ample Harvest that connect truckers, farmers, and wholesalers to charities that collect food. You can also try canning or pickling to increase the shelf life of fruits and root vegetables such as carrots. By minimising food wastage, you will be helping to decrease global warming, avoid the misuse of resources and boost energy efficiency
Author: Cassidy Rimmer
Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash