Photo by FOODISM360 on Unsplash

 
 
Introduction:

Accidentally wasting a small amount of food is an experience which many will find universally relatable. You know those times when you left something in the fridge or pantry for just a tad too long. And whether it resulted in a floppy carrot, sprouted potato or an unpleasant surprise, the end result of not utilising that food tends to be the same: the bin.

Excluding the odd time where you may have left an embarrassing amount of food to this unfortunate fate, the experience tends to result in a comparably minimal amount of waste guilt. I mean, it’s not as bad as throwing out plastic right? This will decompose! Unfortunately, the true scale of the food we forget about and throw away is bigger than immediately seems.

Now, wait, before you let that creeping guilt takeover, this could be an easy way to make a real impact on your environmental footprint!

“an estimated one-third of all food is lost or wasted worldwide as it moves from where it is produced to where it is eaten.”

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

The Scale:

A 2019 study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that as much as 1/3 of all food grown annually for human consumption goes to waste. That loosely equates to more than 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste a year.  Alone, this phenomenon is a monumental contribution to waste. These studies highlight how food waste contributes to landfill, methane emissions from decomposing at landfills and perpetuates human misfortune. This is the waste we generally focus on when considering food wastage. What isn’t often considered is the heightening of waste generated prior to you obtaining the food.

For every banana, carrot or potato which ends up uneaten, there is a waste footprint required to produce it:

  • a water footprint used to grow the produce
  • an emission cost from farming, storage and transportation
  • likely runoff from pesticides and fertilisers

When food goes to waste instead of serving the purpose it was meant for, all of these factors become a part of the waste footprint.

 

 

What you can do:

Thinking about a problem like this on a global scale is daunting. When scaling back down to the individual level, however, this becomes an issue more manageable. When thinking of the food in your fridge, we find many small material efforts which can play a large part in combatting the issue:

🧾 Writing & sticking to a list when shopping
    – Avoiding impulse buying of perishable products

🥕 Learning how to correctly store perishables
   – Turns out, just putting it in the fridge isn’t enough.

🚯 Understanding when food truly becomes unedible
  – There’s a big difference between a floppy carrot and mouldy carrot

It is easy to feel disconnected from an issue like this, surely it is not you who is the serious culprit? Surely supermarkets throw out so much more food than I ever could. Unfortunately, the Word Wildlife Foundation highlights that more food is wasted at home and in restaurants than anywhere else along the supply chain.

I acknowledge that as with all issues like this, these changes are easier said than put into action. I propose then, here is an opportunity to make a serious change to your environmental footprint with a comparably small amount of effort. No one ever wants to waste food, and together we can make sure we dont.

 

 

 

Relevant Sources:

http://www.fao.org/3/a-i2697e.pdf

http://www.fao.org/climate-change/our-work/areas-of-work/food-loss-and-waste/en/

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/196402/icode/

https://wwf.panda.org/our_work/our_focus/food_practice/food_loss_and_waste/

https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/5/9/15594598/food-waste-dumbest-environmental