Are we the most wasteful generation on the planet when it comes to food?
We are undoubtedly an extremely wasteful society these days – and nowhere is this more obvious that with food waste. The counter to this is the growing concerns about our global ability to feed the world as our population heads towards 9 billion in the next 50 years.
When we toss our leftovers into the bin, they go the same way as any other rubbish: to landfill. Once there, they don’t properly decompose because landfill is an oxygen-free environment. Instead, the food scraps ferment, producing methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
At every step, from the farm gate to the dinner table, food is wasted. Farmers discard imperfect fruit and vegetables, supermarkets order too much, restaurants over cater and individuals shop too enthusiastically and suffer from ‘eyes too big for their tummies’.
And with more than a third of our eco-footprint attributable to our food choices, this waste makes a monumental difference to our planet. A British study reported that for every tonne of food waste avoided, a quantity of greenhouse gases equivalent to 4.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide is saved.
Why have we become so wasteful? Is it because food is now relatively cheap? Or is it because we’re such a high turnover generation, not used to making every resource count?
Some people are enterprising enough to capitalise on this mountain of unused food. Dumpster divers, or ‘freegans’ raid supermarket skips to find dented cans, ageing yoghurt, even chocolate bars still in their wrappers.
Although not everyone has the time or inclination to be rummaging about in supermarket skips, the freegans are preventing waste from ending up in destination landfill – and they’re getting a free lunch at the same time.
But it’s easy to stop wasting food at home. A bit of thought before a trip to the shops can help you avoid bringing home stuff you don’t need. And a bit of creativity in the kitchen will help you find ways to use up your leftovers.
As well as saving money, it could easily shrink your eco-footprint by up to 10 per cent. We just need to think about what we do a bit more. Some tips to stop so much food waste at home:
- Plan meals a bit better
- Learn how to use leftovers
- Shop for the right quantities
- Don’t get sucked in by bulk bargains if you really can’t use it – or share it around if you do.
- Try composting at home rather than putting scraps in the bin – other options are keeping some chooks – of course you get eggs that way as well and worm farms.
Of course this means you can save money and probably improve your health by not eating too much.