Often people wish to help the environment but aren’t sure how and where to start. Taking a close look at home like the food you buy and waste can be a great starting point if you are wondering how to have an impact on your daily life. One of the easiest means to benefit the planet and climate is to reduce the amount of food we send to the waste stream. Around 1.4 billion tons of food is wasted every year globally with the United States leading the parade with nearly 40 million tonnes of food wasted every year. This is around 30-40% of the entire US food supply equating to around 219 pounds per person. You can compare this to each person in America wasting more than 650 average-sized apples a year which find their way into landfills.
In 2016 the UN announced its efforts to reduce food wastage to half levels by 2030. The organization added that despite 800 million people being undernourished, one-third of the global production is wasted worldwide. If you are planning on walking towards a greener environment, then you have come to the right place as today we are going to discuss the various benefits of reducing food wastage and how you can do the same:
Why is it important to reduce food waste?
If you adjust your shopping habits and buy only how much you will consume, then this shall result in financial savings. An average American household spends between 1500-2000 dollars on food that ends up in the trash can. The less food that finds its way to your compost or trash bin means more money in your bank account. You just need to spend some time learning about why food is wasted and make changes accordingly to have a big impact on your finances and the environment as a whole. Proper planning and teaching our children to value food can help diminish food waste.
Tossing spoiled food here and there might not seem like a big deal but it adds up over time and gets multiplied when everyone does it. A 2016 waste study revealed that food is the most commonly found material in our trash. Thus, you can shrink the amount of food that is going to a landfill or incinerator by wasting less food. On a household level, this will mean fewer trash bags. Low-income countries around the globe are struggling with food loss and this is most common in farming communities during peak harvest. You can make a meaningful social impact by donating unconsumed food items to communities that don’t have food security. A 2013 paper revealed that between 30-50% of food produced on the planet is lost before reaching a human stomach. Reducing food wastage will help feed globally everyone suffering from malnutrition and improve food security,
Growing and transporting food creates greenhouse gases ranging from the distant farm fields where the crops are grown to the landfills where the rotting food ends up after being wasted. Running the vehicles for transportation and processing equipment require fossil fuels as you carry the food to distribution centers, grocery store, and even your house. Carbon dioxide is emitted by vehicles and the landfills give off methane which is an even stronger greenhouse gas. Wasted food produces around 11% of methane emissions in the U.S. which is a significant contributor to climate change. A report was published in 2021 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealing that cutting down all wasted food to half can reduce Co2 emissions equivalent to shutting down 23 coal-fired power plants. Preventing one tonne of food waste from ending up in a landfill can prevent around 5 tonnes of Co2 from being emitted. We can reduce the unnecessary burden on the climate by growing the food we will use and not extra that is wasted. If you start throwing away lesser resources, then this will help reduce your carbon footprint. Food systems use up enormous resources like water, energy, and labor which ultimately end up in landfill if we throw away food. Thus, if you use 10 gallons of water to produce a bushel of tomatoes and finally throw them away, then you waste 10 gallons of water and your time and effort.
How can we reduce food waste?
Now that you have understood the various benefits of reducing food wastage, you might be wondering how exactly can you contribute towards lowering food wastage. There is much to be done and you can participate fully in this process. Winning the battle against food wastage requires a combined effort of all responsible individuals coupled with the tips listed below:
- Before heading out to the supermarket, check your fridge, cupboards, and other food storage. You might have unused food packets but make sure to learn their ‘best before date’ and ‘use by date.’ While ‘best before date,’ indicates the peak quality or freshness of the product, ‘use by date,’ refers to the last date for consuming the food.
- Growing your food is a brilliant green investment. Gardening beginners can start with veggies and herbs. For minimising the impact on the environment, you can buy locally-grown food. You develop a special connection with growing your food and this helps you savor it more. Food grown in your garden won’t require any transportation and will stay fresh longer. Doing this will help reduce your carbon footprint as the transportation process burns a lot of fossil fuels and contributes to air pollution.
- Composting kitchen scraps is another great way of reducing food wastage. This reduces household waste and also lessens the costs associated with rubbish collection. While composting might initially seem like a daunting proposition, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Just make sure not to put any dairy products or meat scraps in the compost bin as otherwise it will lead to a very smelly pile and attract pests. Compost is rich in nutrients that can boost the growth of your herbs and veggie plants.
- Channel your creativity with leftover food by trying out various leftover recipes. However, you need to make sure that the leftover is in good condition. Otherwise, it is better to throw them in the compost bin.
- Controlling the amount of food you prepare or put on your plate is one of the best ways of reducing food waste. You can start by measuring the amount of rice or pasta you normally have and gradually increase the portions rather than cooking a lot of food at once.
Food waste is a terrifying and alarming issue faced globally. But on the brighter side, it can be overcome easily by taking small steps starting with how you deal with excess food at home. Spreading the word and being aware can save our common home- mother earth before it’s too late.