According to a recent report, Canadians waste a lot of food. The statistics for food waste are very surprising. Looking at the numbers much more closely, we’re one of the biggest contributors to food waste on the planet. This is due to our consumer lifestyles, and a constant feeling of abundance when it comes to food availability.
Food waste is everywhere. It’s in our homes, in grocery stores, on farms and during transportation between countries. The fact remains that food waste is a problem which affects us more than we think. Simply being aware that there’s a problem with our consumer culture is one thing. Taking actions to manage and provide solutions to the problem of food waste should be the obvious next step. This post explores the impact of food waste, and solutions to solve the problem.
Let’s break down the true impact of food waste on society. One of the main things that take a beating from the negative impacts of food waste is the environment. Poorly managed food waste usually ends up in landfills, contributing to pollution and harmful emissions. Therefore there’s a high carbon footprint of wasted food. That’s 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gases that come from landfills to be exact.
There are economic consequences too. Farmers and food producers directly feel the weight of food waste. These are big numbers which occur every year. The beginning and the end of the supply chain will need to be closely assessed in order to keep a better eye on where the larger amounts of food waste are occurring.
A crucial first step to solving many problems is to take ownership of the issue. For example, realizing that there are food items that are typically thrown into the garbage at home that can perhaps be disposed of in more sustainable ways is a good starting point. Putting some thought into the food items that are typically thrown away without thought will help with immediate reduction of food waste. Taking ownership means being a socially responsible consumer.
Our relationship with food isn’t completely negative. However, for successful healing to occur, producers, suppliers and consumers must take actions consistently over a period of time to show progress. Food waste isn’t a problem that will be solved in an instant. There are several important steps which need to be taken to remedy the problem. A lot of work still needs to be done at the producer and supplier level. Here are four very practical solutions that consumers can take to reduce the negative impacts:
Tracking is a very important part of solving the problem. Before throwing food out, regularly make detailed notes of what’s going in the garbage. The analysis will provide a helpful snapshot of your wasteful habits. For example, if you notice that you throw out a lot of fruits each week, you now have a good idea of where to make changes next time. Keeping track regularly also helps keep things organized in the fridge and pantry. Many people typically buy more food than they need when they go grocery shopping. Keeping track will also contribute to helping consumers shop smartly. Say goodbye to the convenience mindset and say hello to a more sustainable method of food disposal.
Food discrimination is a very common practice. There’s too much value placed on aesthetics on a consumer level. Food that isn’t aesthetically pleasing enough is mistaken for low-quality food. This is because it doesn’t fit in with consumer expectations of what high-quality food looks like. Consumers have to be realistic about food and its purpose to make huge strides in this department.
Many times, these blemished food items are actually good to eat. Consumers regularly demand that food has minimal blemishes. So let’s change the “no blemish” mindset to reduce the amount of nutritious food waste.
On the consumer side, learning preservation techniques will certainly increase the lifespan of food. Learning and taking action will go a long way. Simple practices like, pickling and freezing food reduces the amount thrown in the garbage. Learn which places are right to store certain foods. For instance, knowing which fruits and vegetables are better to store at room temperature versus the fridge can make a difference.
Some other practical ways to preserve food are watching portion sizes when preparing food. There’s no need to serve massive portions and have the consumers waste the meals. If the servings are too large, develop a habit of saving leftovers. Don’t take the abundance we have for granted. Use these simple methods to reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and contribute to a less wasteful future.
Before throwing away excess food, consider donating it to food banks or charities in your community that can make better use of the food. Several food rescue programs based in Ontario already exist to teach consumers how to donate food, rescue food, and steps they can take to prolong the lifespan of produce at home.
Consumers have made a lot of poor food disposal choices in recent years. These choices have led to the problem we’re facing today, which is food waste. This post summarizes some of the ways consumers can tackle the problem of food waste. Besides the options we’ve proposed, there are many more creative ways to curb the problem. Let’s go beyond awareness and take actions to solve the problem, in order to help heal consumer relationships with food. These actions are worth focusing on every day. It should become more of a focus in our minds. Food waste is a very sizeable challenge. People collaborating and working together on solutions is key to facing the challenge. With collaboration, we can take small steps to contribute to bigger changes in the long term.
For healthy summer food essentials, read our previous post to get a good sense of what foods will keep you in good shape throughout the summer months.