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Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets wasted each year with much of it ending up in landfill and contributing to climate change. Zero-waste chef Max La Manna tells us how we can make a difference.
"Food has always been the main ingredient to my life. Having a chef for a father, I grew up in the world of food. My parents always taught me to never waste food.
On a planet of nearly 9 billion people, we are facing food insecurity on every level and more than 820 million people don’t have enough to eat. Food waste is one of the biggest problems facing humanity today - an estimated one third of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste.
Food waste doesn’t just mean wasted food, it means wasted money, wasted water, wasted energy, wasted land and wasted transportation. Throwing out your food can even contribute to climate change. Discarded food is often sent to landfill where it is left to rot and produce methane gas. If food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after America and China." (This link downloads a PDF).
What can you do about it?
Many people tend to buy more than they need. Shop smart by creating a list and buy only what you need from your list.
*Bonus: Make a point to use up all the food you purchased during the last trip to the market before buying more groceries.
Improper storage leads to a massive amount of food waste. Many people are unsure how to store fruits and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce.
For instance, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and onions should never be refrigerated. These items should be kept at room temperature. The stems of leafy greens and herbs can be submerged in water. Store bread in your freezer if you think you won’t finish it in time. Do your part by choosing slightly imperfect produce at the grocery store, or better yet, directly from the farmer.
Leftovers aren’t just for the holidays. If you happen to cook a lot and you regularly have leftovers, designate a day to use up any that have accumulated in the fridge. It’s a great way to avoid throwing away food.
What’s more, it saves you time and money.
Freezing food is one of the easiest ways to preserve it, and the types of food that take well to freezing are endless.
For example, greens that are a bit too soft to be used in your favourite salad can be put in freezer-safe bags or containers and used at a later date in smoothies and other recipes.
An excess of herbs can be combined with olive oil and chopped garlic, then frozen in ice cube trays for a handy and delicious addition to sautés and other dishes.
You can freeze leftovers from meals, excess produce from your favourite farm stand, and bulk meals like soups and chilis. It’s a great way to ensure you always have a healthy, home-cooked meal available.
Although going out to lunch with co-workers or grabbing a meal from your favourite restaurant may be enjoyable, it is also costly and can contribute to food waste.
A helpful way to save money while reducing your carbon footprint is to bring your lunch to work with you.
If you’re strapped for time in the morning, try freezing your leftovers in portion-sized containers. That way, you’ll have premade, hearty lunches ready to go each morning.
Whipping up a homemade stock is an easy way to reduce food waste.
Sauté vegetable scraps like the tops, stalks, peels and any other leftover bits with some olive oil or butter, then add water and let them simmer into an aromatic vegetable broth.
Composting leftover food is a beneficial way to reuse food scraps, turning food waste into energy for plants.
While not everyone has room for an outdoor composting system, there’s a wide range of countertop composting systems that make this practice easy and accessible for everyone, even those with limited space.
An outdoor composter may work well for someone with a large garden, while a countertop composter is best for city dwellers with houseplants or small herb gardens.
The bottom line is that we all can reduce our food waste and there are endless ways to do so. By thinking more about the food your household throws away every day, you can help create positive change to conserve some of the Earth’s most valuable resources.
Even minimal changes to the way you shop, cook and consume food will help reduce your impact on the environment. It doesn’t have to be difficult.
With a small amount of effort, you can cut your food waste dramatically, save money and time, and help take some pressure off Mother Nature.