Now that we have done a lot more cooking in our own homes, we have gotten a better sense of the food waste that comes from preparing meals for a family on a daily basis. Many of us believe that preparing meals may be more sustainable, and that is true. We can see most of the food preparation processes right when we pick out our items at the grocery store.
According to a study conducted by the National Zero Waste Council, over 60% of food thrown away could have been eaten, which amounts to over 140 kilograms of avoidable food waste per Canadian household per year. As a country, that results in over 2.2 million tonnes or $17 billion of edible food wasted each year.
Not only does the food waste itself create a considerable impact, but food waste contributes to other environmental impacts as well. Approximately 56.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced from the annual food waste in Canada (CBC News). That equates to over 12 million cars worth of carbon dioxide emitted per year (EPA).
Apart from the monetary and environmental impacts of wasted food, a much larger concern arises from food scarcity. All of our farmers, distribution centers, and grocery stores work every day to provide an accessible food source, but it seems as though more than one in every two items is thrown away without a purpose.
I would think that we can consume our food more sustainably. Since more than half of our groceries are going to waste, it would be a great time to consider donating that half of our groceries that would otherwise go wasted to a food bank. This way, the food could be better utilized to curb food scarcity. Another point of improvement to our food sustainability issue could be to donate monetarily to organizations that combat food scarcity around the world.
Food scarcity is not just a concern for the present. Food is a necessity, and no one should be stripped of this basic need. The United Nations estimates that around 821 million people around the world suffered from hunger in 2018. That is over 10% of the world population. One in every seven people suffered from hunger around the world, and still, we see people wasting large amounts of food every day.
Using Scraps for Alternatives
Here’s a step where you can get creative. There are many different purposes for food scraps. Those groceries that grow from the ground can go right back into the ground and turned into fertilizer. If you have a backyard, this is great! You can give it a go after purchasing or creating a compost bin of your own, and follow the steps from our Wonders of Composting post.
Another tip for perishables could be to freeze the fruits or veggies right before they go bad, so that you can avoid throwing them out and creating more food waste. To add on top of this, you could purchase already frozen products for items you do not see yourself using frequently (i.e. berries for smoothies or avocadoes for toast)
For animal products, eggshells tend to be the most commonly repurposed into plant fertilizer. Still, for those products that are less commonly thought of, such as animal trimmings and bones, those can be placed into a pot and made into a stock for your next recipe!
Switching Up the Recipes
Instead of purchasing new ingredients for every meal, see what creative bug you have and fix something up with what is leftover in your fridge and pantry. With existing groceries, you may be able to substitute a veggie or protein with another. By purchasing new groceries more frequently, you may forget about the groceries you already have at home, resulting in avoidable food waste.
Become a Conscious Consumer
A final stage to attaining sustainable food habits would be to becoming a conscious consumer. Think twice before picking up the additional loaf of bread or an extra bunch of bananas. Just because those items are running on a ‘buy X for X’ deal does not mean you necessarily need to take that deal. Think about whether you are going to consume those products before they go bad.
Another tip is to not focus on how the produce or grocery item looks. Produce, and grocery items don’t need to be perfectly shaped to be fresh. Tons of misshaped produce items that often get overlooked and end up going bad because of our judgement. This results in so much avoidable food waste even before entering our households. Do not judge a book by its cover, and shop more consciously.
With that said, an emphasis should be placed on becoming a more sustainable cook to save money, save lives, and save time. Sustainable cooking creates a domino effect that can be solved quite easily as long as we take the correct steps. Think twice, purchase once, and waste none.