Reducing food waste is something that should concern us all, as it contributes in no small way to both global food insecurity and global carbon emissions. Fortunately, it’s something we can all do our part to address.
By Ellie Peach
Decreasing our Carbon Footprint by Reducing Food waste
COP26 is over, but that doesn’t mean we can pretend the world’s environmental issues don’t exist for another year. We understand that it can feel like your individual actions don’t make a difference when massive corporations worldwide don’t seem to be doing their bit. However, it really is the small choices each and every one of us makes that can have positive knock-on effects worldwide. Ultimately, we can’t stop caring just because others don’t.
Remember, COP26 is still pushing the Paris agreement’s maximum temperature rise limit of 1.5 degrees celsius. They are also trying to get more people on board with becoming carbon neutral, so it will eventually be too late if we don’t act now.
Read on to find out more on how to reduce your food waste and minimise emissions as much as possible!
How food waste affects our carbon footprint
Food makes up the most significant amount of the waste we throw away every day, 6.7 million tonnes ending up in landfills or incinerated. When put in landfills, products rot, releasing methane due to a process caused by lack of oxygen – anaerobic digestion. If the food waste is incinerated, this also contributes to further co2e emissions, which is, of course, equally as harmful. These emissions contribute to our carbon footprint as we are the ones responsible for the food we buy and how we dispose of them.
How to Help: 5 Tips to Reduce your Food Waste
Planning your food shop and sticking to your list
Food waste has increased exponentially since the second world war. According to Eco-watch, it is ‘set to increase by 33% within ten years’. The amount we throw away now is linked with our increased overconsumption of products that actually, we probably don’t need. For example, an issue most familiar with the average person is setting off for a food shop and getting carried away by new products, deals or feeling hungry in the moment and deciding to go a bit overboard. This becomes a problem when this amount of food cannot be consumed in time for the products’ use-by date. The result is tonnes and tonnes of food being thrown away every day.
An excellent way to avoid food waste, even before it comes into the house, is by writing a well thought out shopping list. Perhaps you could make a meal plan a week in advance, including any perishable goods, so you know everything you buy, you can finish.
This stricter shopping list is crucial to ensure that you won’t waste any products. As a bonus, you will almost always have a reduced food bill at the end of the month as haphazard food shopping can work out very expensive.
Storing food correctly
Everything we buy to consume has an ideal place and temperature to be stored at so that it lasts for the optimal amount of time. A simple way to help you remember these perfect conditions is by noting all the food you regularly buy (and the unusual ones that have a really short lifespan) and where they should be stored.
Eventually, it will become second nature, but by keeping a note, you will always have a cheat sheet just in case. Fruits and vegetables can go bad very quickly. For example, cut avocados last longer in an airtight container in the fridge as it can increase lifespan by 2-3 days. Raw meat products should also be sealed in Tupperware on the bottom shelf, not only to improve the shelf life but also for food hygiene reasons. Another thing to remember when storing food is the time you expect to eat it. If it’s not for a while, why not freeze it to ensure it won’t go off before it’s time to eat.
Some quick dos and don’ts of food storage;
Do: store onions and potatoes in dark spaces, keep eggs in the fridge, put lemon juice on a cut avocado to make it last longer.
Do not: store bananas in the fridge or near other fruit (they will go brown, and they cause other fruit to ripen too quickly), keep bread in the refrigerator (it will go stale quicker)
Cooking no more than is needed
This is just as important as it prevents leftovers. Leftovers can be a pain as you then have to interrupt any meal planning you have made to ensure you finish that food. There is also a much higher chance of food wastage as we often forget what we have, which can lead to us throwing it away.
Eating out and takeaways
One of the simple pleasures in life is simply staying in and watching a film with a takeaway. Similarly, going out for a meal once in a while is a great way to spend quality time with someone and support a local business at the same time. All I would say is that you should try and limit the number of times you do these things where you are able (this will also reduce your carbon footprint caused by travelling)!
The point of being sustainable is not about cutting everything you love out of your life in the hope it saves the environment. It is simply not manageable this way – you have to treat yourself from time to time. The point of sustainability is about being conscious of your decisions impacting the environment. For instance, taking the rest of your meal home with you, so you can eat it another time after a meal out. Or reusing those little plastic containers you get when you order a takeaway.
The Role of Composting in Reducing Food waste
Strategic shopping can save you from throwing away a lot of food, but what about leftover food from your plate or even fruit and vegetable peels? A great way to minimise the waste you throw away is by purchasing a composter or digester. It uses different processes (depending on the bin you buy) to break down the food into compost that you can actually use.
A technique most commonly seen in small-scale composters is heating to create an environment great for cultures to thrive on, increasing the breakdown rate of food matter (Hot bins). Or, there is vermicomposting, which uses worms that survive by eating through the waste. ‘Maze worm farm composter is an excellent example for someone living in a smaller place. The breakdown process can take a while, depending on the type of bin you buy. However, they are always a better alternative than throwing them in your regular waste bin.
Composting can guarantee 2 things:
1. You are not contributing to harmful CO2e released from the incineration process, and
2. Your general waste bin will probably never smell again!
If you live in a smaller space or cannot afford a composter, then you can always find your community compost. These are becoming more and more common, particularly in urban areas where people are less likely to have extensive gardens to use their compost. All you do is drop off your food waste, and you’re one step closer to your reduced carbon footprint!
Final Thoughts on Reducing Food Waste
If you try and incorporate these tips into your day to day life, you are sure to reduce your emissions. At first, it may seem daunting to take these leaps, such as buying a composter. Similarly, meal planning can seem like a challenge if you’re not used to it, but it just takes time to get into your routine. Try things out slowly to see what makes the most sense for you. You don’t need to go entirely out of the way. Often these tiny changes can be just as beneficial for you (in terms of money-saving!) as it is for the environment.
About the Author
Ellie is an aspiring journalist with a great interest in the environment and climate change, as well as the importance of mental wellbeing. She’s currently working as a sustainability consultant, but her passion has always been writing. In her free time, she loves to read or go swimming. Connect with Ellie.