How to cut kitchen waste as we cook more at home
In a year where Covid-19 has shined a light on the fragility of our food systems, celebrate Earth Day by taking meaningful steps to reduce food waste as you cook more at home.
A new report from United Nations Environmental Program estimates that globally, 17 percent of produced food is wasted. This equals 930 million tonnes of food waste being sent to landfills, including the resources used in the production of these foods – land, energy, labour and capital which is scarce during the pandemic.
The average Canadian sends 79 kilograms of food waste to the landfill each year. That’s 35 million metric tonnes of food, accounting for nearly 60 percent of food produced in Canada.
These striking numbers are reasons to focus more efforts on sustainable food consumption with practical plan to reduce food waste.
Second Harvest Canada, Canada’s largest food rescue organization says “there is a way forward, but we need to start by radically re-thinking how we value food at each stage of the value chain. As you will see, there is a strong business, social and environmental case for reducing food loss and waste and rescuing and redistributing surplus food”.
Before tossing that forgotten tray of vegetables from your fridge, consider the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it took to grow that food as we battle climate change. Then think about the growing number of people in the world who don’t have enough food to eat.
Saving or wasting in Covid-19
The pandemic has meant more people are spending time at home and as a result, cooking at home. Sourdough bread and banana bread topped the list of common pandemic recipes as we all became chefs. But how much more waste did our busy kitchen produce?
A study by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University suggests that pandemic wise, Canadians households are now wasting 2.30 kilogram of food per week. According to the study’s modelling, “Canadian households could potentially be generating between 20 to 24 million kilos of additional organic waste a month, since the start of the pandemic.”
Changing some everyday practices can help us reduce our food waste.
Poor planning is chief among reasons for high food waste. Far too often, people buy food they don’t need that often gets forgotten in the fridge. With time, these foods lose their freshness and become the least choice for mealtimes.
Misinterpretation of best before date also contributes to how much food we toss. According to the United Nations, “much of the food purchased by households was discarded as food waste, because of a misunderstanding of date marking and improper storage of these household food items.” Far too often, people are tossing food that is still safe to eat because it is past the best-before date on the label.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that “Best-before dates are not indicators of food safety, neither before nor after the date. You can buy and eat foods after the best-before date has passed. However, when this date has passed, the food may lose some of its freshness and flavour, or its texture may have changed.” See more information on shelf life and consumption limits from Love Food Hate Waste.
Five simple steps you can take to reduce your food waste
- Plan your meals for the week and buy only the ingredients you need.
- Check your fridge before shopping to help prevent buying food you already have
- Check the expiry dates on your food and place those with older expiry and best before dates at the front of cupboards and fridge to ensure you use before they spoil. Also store products in airtight containers so they stay fresh longer.
- Compost your food waste. That’s a sure way to reduce your carbon footprint. Food scraps can be beneficial to the environment when broken down into smaller particles as composts.
- Making a meal from leftovers can be a great use-up strategy.
Follow this great advice from Chef and Restaurant Consultant Joanna Sable who says veggie scraps can make a great soup!
“When I make soup, the only thing that goes in my garbage is bones,” says Sable, who makes soup from earlier frozen veggie scrap and bones. She boils fresh veggie peels and bones as well, making a flavourful broth. The scraps go to her pet dog as she tosses only the bones. This all works out to a low-waste tasty soup when the freshly cut veggies are added! See more of her food saving tips here.
Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.