According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), roughly 30% of the food produced annually is wasted. The habit of wasting food has numerous global consequences. Firstly, by saving even one-quarter of it would feed at least 870 million people. Considering how there are over 820 million hungry people globally, the food that is wasted is enough to feed each one of them. Next, the waste from industrialized countries, such as the US and those in Europe equals roughly US$680 billion, while the waste in developing countries amounts to US$310 billion. This highlights how the resources used to produce the food (ie land, water, petrol, fertilizers, etc) are wasted as well. Another consequence of food waste is how most of the food is sent to landfills, which contributes to environmental damage. As the food decomposes in landfills, they produce methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is roughly thirty times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Ultimately, drastic changes in climate will affect how future foods are produced.
Food waste has a wide-ranging impact on the environment. Image Source: http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/
Since food waste takes place at many levels of the food supply chain, there are countless ways to address it. For instance, near the beginning of the chain, waste can originate from poor management or harvesting techniques, and storage facilities and transportation. Examples of potential solutions could be to invest in farming techniques to help harvest more efficiently or invest in road infrastructure to help transportation vehicles travel more safely and reduce damage of goods. Further along the supply chain, food waste often accumulates from consumers. The way consumers purchase food can have a large influence on the industry, which means there are many choices that can be made by each individual to reduce food waste. Keep reading to learn how you can make a positive impact on the industry and the environment by limiting your food waste!
A breakdown of food loss and waste in different regions, and where in the supply chain they occur. Image source: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/
Tip 1: Savvy Shopping
The first step in reducing your food waste is being conscious of what you buy. The goal is to not buy too much, which often happens through impulse purchases. Eat before going to the market, so your hunger does not influence what you buy, and bring a shopping list to help you stay on track!
Fruits and vegetables are the most wasted food items. Image source: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/infographics/fruit/en/
Tip 2: Embrace the Ugly
Many fruits and vegetables earn their value by being “perfect” which means any that are “deformed” are thrown away. Not only would they taste the same as usual but putting them in the trash is a waste of the resources that went into producing them. Try talking to your local farmers and grocers to see if you can buy “ugly” produce from them at a discount!
Produce is often thrown away if they do not meet the standards for appearance, despite how they still taste the same. Image source: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/ugly-vegetable-food-waste-fruit-vegetable-a8825311.html
Tip 3: Smart Storage
The best way to keep food fresh and make it last as long as possible is to use your refrigerator and freezer. If you buy a large amount of vegetables, try freezing them so they can last longer. For leafy greens, try gently wrapping them in a paper towel to absorb their moisture and make them last longer.
Eat produce as soon as possible. Freezing food is a good option if there is too much and the expiration is approaching.
Tip 4: Save Those Scraps
Scraps like vegetable peels and meat bones can be saved to make stocks from them. If you do not have enough, save them in a container in the freezer to be used when you are ready. Additionally, coffee grounds and eggshells can also be saved and used to fertilize your plants.
Eggshells can be crushed and added to plant or garden soil to add extra nutrients to them.
Tip 5: A Second Purpose
Canning, pickling, freezing, and even drying your food are great ways to give them a new life. Try pickling your vegetables, making fruit preserves to spread on your bread, and freezing your fruits to make cold and refreshing smoothies!
Jars of pickled vegetables. Image Source: FAO Technical Manual on Small-Scale Processing of Fruits and Vegetables
Tip 6: Moderation is Key
In many cultures, providing a lot of food is a sign of generosity, but this often leads to wasting more food than necessary. If cooking for a large group of people, avoid cooking too much, and remember that you can always send guests home with leftovers. In addition, pay attention to portion sizes to prevent overeating, since obesity is as much a form of malnutrition as being undernourished.
Improving consumer food practices can help decrease the amount of food wasted each year. Image Source:
Improving consumer food practices can help decrease the amount of food wasted each year. Image Source: http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/
Tip 7: Leftovers for Lunch
There is no need to throw away your leftover meals! Save them for meals in the following days, such as the next day’s lunch or dinner, and commit to eating them. This will also help you save money by not having to buy a meal, and it will save you time from cooking again, too!
Rather than throwing away the leftovers of meals, they can be refrigerated or frozen to be eaten for future meals.
Tip 8: Donate, Donate, Donate, or Swap Your Food!
One of the most impactful ways to reduce food waste is to donate your surplus food to food banks! Not only will you avoid wasting food, you will also be helping to feed those in need, such as people living in shelters, elderly homes, and orphanages. Another option is to ask your friends and family if they would want your food instead and see if you can use any of the food they do not want.
Food banks help redistribute food from many sources to feed different populations of hungry people, such as elders, the
homeless, and children in orphanages. Image Source: The Global Foodbanking Network, 2018.
Scarlett Cheung - Foodbank VietNam