In recent years, growing concern about food waste and its environmental and economic consequences have been raising public awareness about the need for better food conservation, both globally and locally. According to World Wildlife Fund estimates, nearly 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste each year, which amounts to nearly one third of all food produced globally each year. Some food may be discarded during the growing, harvesting, or preservation phases, which is happening in poor countries. Or, as it happens in first world countries, food is simply thrown out by inattentive consumers and shop and restaurant owners who don’t keep their still-edible surpluses.
Wasted food also has an impact on the environment at all phases of its lifecycle, which leaves a deep environmental footprint when it comes to soil, water, and greenhouse gases. The American coalition against food waste — ReFED — estimates that in the US alone, cutting discarded food waste could reduce greenhouse gases by 18 million tonnes over the next 10 years.
If you want to reduce your individual or household food waste, the solution begins with awareness. Acknowledging the issue is the first step, and once you’ve decided to become a more conscientious consumer, it only takes a few simple steps to get you walking the path to food conservation and waste reduction. We’ve put together some simple, easy-to-accomplish lifestyle tweaks that will help you get started.
Shop Smart, Shop Realistically
While it may sound simple, being aware of what you’re purchasing is one of the most important steps you can take toward reducing your food waste. When you go shopping, make sure you don’t over buy. Depending on your lifestyle, this might mean going to the grocery store more often and simply buying less each time, or if you happen to live far away from your grocery store or maybe you hate shopping altogether, it takes a little bit of thoughtful and careful planning in advance about what you purchase. Consider planning your meals, and then making a detailed shopping list with only the ingredients you know you’ll need for those meals, with a little left over for snacks and such. If the grocery store is too far away, consider finding locally sourced alternatives, like produce from your local farmers market.
Use Alternative Wrapping Methods
Some people think that the best way to keep food fresh is to wrap it tightly plastic wrap. In fact, most foods prefer to breathe, and the truth is that porous, non-plastic food wrap options will keep your food longer. Beeswax food wrap — from a manufacturer like Abeego.com — is one alternative that looks good, smells great, and keeps your food fresher for longer, all of which fosters a healthier relationship between consumers and the food they eat, and also saves money in the long run, as less food is tossed in the compost.
Store Food Properly
Another tip that at first sounds like a no-brainer is storing food in the proper place to avoid spoilage. This is a small change but one that can really help control food waste. You’d be surprised to learn what kinds of fruits and vegetables actually prefer to be at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator — check out this Food Network article to see which foods (like Melons!) actually prefer to stay out of the fridge.
These steps really make it easy to subtly adjust your lifestyle to be a more conscientious consumer and waste less food day-to-day. If you’ve made it this far through the article, chances are you’re dedicated to making a difference in how you buy, store, and consume food. Follow the tips above, and soon you’ll be feeling better about your relationship to food and to the environment. It’s incredible how far a few simple lifestyle changes will go.