Simple actions by consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year and help shape a sustainable future, according to a new global campaign to cut food waste launched today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners.
Many people think of food waste as a benign substance. It rots down in the landfill anyway, so no problem, right?
Wrong! For food to compost properly, it needs light and air. In the landfill, it has neither. Instead, food devoid of light and air produces methane gas, which contributes to global warming. It is estimated that we throw away a third of the food we buy each week!
Through poor portion control or buying too much fresh food that goes off before we use it we create a lot of waste.
Follow these top ten tips to reduce your “foodprint” and food bill! (contributions by NRDC and WRAP UK)
- Shop Smart—plan meals, use shopping lists and avoid impulse buys. Don’t succumb to marketing tricks that lead you to buy more food than you need, particularly for perishable items. Though these may be less expensive per ounce, they can be more expensive overall if much of that food is discarded.
- Buy Funny Fruit—many fruits and vegetables are thrown out because their size, shape, or color are not “right”. Buying these perfectly good funny fruit, at the farmer’s market or elsewhere, utilizes food that might otherwise go to waste.
- Undertand Expiration Dates— in the US, “sell-by” and “use-by” dates
are not federally regulated and do not indicate safety, except on
certain baby foods. Rather, they are manufacturer suggestions for peak
quality. Most foods can be safely consumed well after their use-by
In the UK, “best before” dates are also generally manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. Likewise, most foods can be safely consumed well after these dates. The important date is “use-by”: eat food by that date or check if you can freeze it.
- Zero Down Your Fridge—eat food that is already in your fridge before buying more or making something new, which will save time and money. Follow storage guidance to keep food at its best. Websites such as www.lovefoodhatewaste.com can help you get creative with recipes to use up anything that might go bad soon.
- Say Freeze and Use Your Freezer—frozen foods remain safe indefinitely. Freeze fresh produce and leftovers if you won’t have the chance to eat them before they go bad. You can also do this with take-away or delivered food, if you know you will not feel like eating it the next day.
- Request Smaller Portions—restaurants will often provide half-portions upon request at reduced prices.
- Compost—composting food scraps can reduce climate impact while also recycling nutrients.
- Use FIFO (First in First Out) as a kitchen rule. Check your pantry. Cook and eat first what you bought first. Store newly bought canned goods at the back of the cabinet. Keep older ones in front for easy access.
- Love Leftovers --tonight’s leftover chicken roast can be part of tomorrow’s sandwich. Diced older bread can become croutons. Be creative! Ask your restaurant to pack up your extras so you can eat them later. Freeze them if you don't want to eat immediately. Very few of us take leftovers home from restaurants. Don’t be embarrassed to do so!
- Donate—non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food can be donated to local food banks, soup kitchens, pantries and shelters. Local and national programs frequently offer free pick-up and provide reusable containers to donors.