Have you ever stopped to tally the amount of food that gets wasted in your household? I think it’s time to take notice. A study released last fall by the Value Chain Management Centre found that about 40 percent of all food produced in Canada goes to waste.
Although the waste occurs all along the farm-to-table route, more than half of the food waste occurs in the home. This is the food that goes bad in the fridge before eaten, the leftovers that sit in the fridge until they go bad and the uneaten food on your plate that gets scraped into the trash or compost. It’s estimated that half of all salad, a third of all bread, a quarter of all fruit and a fifth of all vegetables are thrown away uneaten.
You can build a stark picture of the economic waste at the household level. What may not be so clear is that there is also a significant environmental impact to all of this waste.
More food than is actually required is grown and shipped to be processed. (Think of the fertilizer, water and machinery required to grow food that goes in the trash.) There is the energy used to cook food that doesn’t get eaten, plus transportation and packaging. And finally, when food is put in a landfill rather than composted it produces methane, the most toxic of all greenhouse gasses.
About one-fifth of the food that gets thrown away in homes is food scraps like cores, peels and bones, but the rest is perfectly edible food. According to Statistics Canada, in 2007 more than six million tones of solid food went to waste between retail stores and homes. That’s about 600 pounds per family. (Another 2.8 billion litres of liquids went to waste, like milk, juice, pop, coffee, tea).
Meanwhile we’re all aware of the severe food shortages people in other parts of the world are enduring. Globally we actually produce enough food to feed the world, but food waste is a complicated problem.
While you can’t do much to reduce food waste that occurs between farms and retail stores, you can make an impact in your own home. With grocery chains announcing that prices will rise five to seven percent by the end of the year, you might have more incentive too. Here are some tips.
Don’t buy more than you need. 2- for-1 deals and bulk sizes of perishable foods are only a deal if it all gets eaten.
Don’t cook more than you need for a given meal, unless you plan to use the leftovers quickly. And when you do have leftovers use them up.
Watch your portion sizes so good food doesn’t get left on the plate.
Remember you can freeze fruit that’s about to spoil and use it for smoothies. Yogurt can be frozen then used for baking.
Compost uneaten food. Don’t put it in the trash.