Written by Caroline Haywood, Four Green Steps
Friday, 23 November 2012 15:30
Eliminating Food Waste
The amount of food that is thrown away or wasted is staggering. According to the Suzuki Foundation, close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted! Over 30% of fruits and vegetables in North America don't even make it onto store shelves because they're not pretty enough for picky consumers. In the USA, more than 33 million tons of food ended up in landfills in 2010. This is especially staggering when you consider that no food at all needs to end up in landfill – it should be consumed or composted and reused to grow other food sources. Wasting food has real environmental consequences. As food decomposes in landfills, it releases a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Producing food is also very hard on the agricultural environment; fertilisers and pesticides are frequently used to ensure that as much food is grown per acre as possible. Food waste also has economic consequences. Think of the money and resources that go into producing a loaf of bread, as well as the money we spend on purchasing food. If we were to be more sustainable with our food purchasing and consumption, this money and environment degradation could be spared.
Here are some tips to help you reduce your food waste:
- Reduce the amount of food you waste by reducing the amount of food you buy. Plan your meals around the food already in your refrigerator, rather than going out to the grocery store to buy more. Think "what do we have to eat", rather than "what do we want to eat".
- Plan your menu for the week and buy food in quantities specifically for it. This will ensure that you don't buy surplus food that will spoil. Take a look in your fridge or pantry before you head to the grocery store, just to check whether you really do need another tub of yoghurt or more onions.
- Use your leftovers – bring them to work or pack them as school lunches to eat the next day. You can also make a completely different meal with certain leftovers. Turn a chilli dish into pasta bolognaise sauce or use up extra vegetables in a minestrone-type soup. There are lots of websites that have recipes for whatever food and ingredients you have leftover and in your house. I particularly like "Love Food, Hate Waste".
- Be smart about expiration dates, as ‘best before' dates often refer to the date after which the nutritional content of the product is no longer reliable. It doesn't mean, however, that it's inedible. Use your senses – smell, look and even taste a bit of the product to check if it's still OK.
- Consider preserving or canning surplus fruits and vegetables – it's not as hard as you think!
- Remember that the freezer is your friend! It's common to require a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme for a meal, but to be forced to buy an entire package. Herbs, bread and meat can all be frozen. A great tip is to bundle items such as meat and herbs into smaller portions based on what you and your family can actually consume at any one time, and to freeze some of these portions for later use.
- Take fresh produce out of plastic bags, as airtight containers suffocate fresh fruit and vegetables, causing them to go bad more quickly.
- Composting food waste has many environmental benefits such as improving soil health and structure and reducing the need for supplemental water, fertilizers, and pesticides. It also means that all of your edible scraps are being recycled, not placed into landfill.
Image courtesy of Toronto Public Library on Flickr
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