We’re all familiar with this situation; you open the fridge and are hit with a strange smell. First thing you do is check the ol’ tupperware containers and see what has gone bad, then it’s the veggie drawer which likely has something that seems off, and finally you just throw out the old sour cream you haven’t touched in months.
This is what food waste looks like, and it is costing us a lot. You might already be familiar with the report titled “The Avoidable Crisis Of Food Waste” – by second harvest, which was released in January; in which it was pointed out that 58% of food produced in Canada ends up wasted, some 35.5 million tonnes, with 11.2 tonnes being avoidable; and it is that avoidable food waste which costs us nearly $50 billion every year.
Well, not only is it costing us in funding but it is costing us in the Climate Crisis. Another report released this past Thursday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), entitled Climate Change and Land, found better land management use, from forests to agriculture, would play a significant role in mitigating climate change. The report had many people pointing fingers at farmers claiming their land use was the only issue. But the authors also noted that tackling food waste is a factor that could help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 C to 2 C, the point where we will be unable to adapt to the worst effects of climate change.
The IPCC report notes that roughly 25 to 30 per cent of total food produced annually is lost or wasted (as previously mentioned this is significantly higher in Canada) and that has an impact. From 2010 to 2016, global food loss and waste contributed 8 to 10 per cent of human-caused Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. That is not an insignificant number.
So what can be done about it? The answer is found on multiple levels; While farmers will need to continue to improve how they produce, harvest, store, and ship food; stores will need to adjust how much food they acquire for sale as well as how they store and stage it. There are also plenty of things to be done around the house as well. It will come down to a few shifts in behaviour and habits.
Try starting with your shopping list. Instead of going to the store and picking up what ever strikes your fancy or trying to buy things for the next month – consider making up a meal list for the week and buying only what you will need to make those meals.
Try to buy perishable items throughout the week rather than in bulk. In many European cities or even New York, you’ll often see people picking up groceries for dinner after work or earlier that same day. Other benefits: it’s fresh and purchases are based on what you’re craving at the moment. While bulk shopping is tempting for the deals; buying perishable foods in bulk won’t be good value in the long run if you buy too much and end up dumping the spoiled food in the trash.
Leave a couple open meals to handle any leftovers you might end up with too!
Consider avoiding items that have been frozen and thawed before they reach your table, thawed items are usually only good for a few more days; while frozen items last much longer. Herbs, bread, fruits and meat can all be frozen. Instead of automatically stashing your groceries in the fridge, figure out what you’ll need right away and then freeze the rest.
That last tip comes from the World Wildlife Fund which also gives us this one: Fruits and vegetables that are beyond ripe may not look pretty, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still taste delicious in recipes. Try using your wilting, browning, or imperfect produce to make sweet smoothies, bread, jams, sauces, or soup stocks.
Get smart about best-before, use-by and expiration dates. Confused about what these labels mean, exactly? You’re not alone! Get the low down from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It might take some adjustments, but changing our habits when it comes to food will not only save us a tonne of money, but also tonnes of food waste and GHG emissions. It’s worth it in so many ways.