Food is a basic necessity, yet many continue to waste it. According to the World Food Programme, about 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually, translating to an estimated US$1 trillion. This staggering amount of food could have fed hundreds and millions of hungry people.
Even worse—many don’t realize that they might be wasting food unconsciously due to poor habits. Continue reading to learn more about the causes of this problem, how it affects the environment, and how you can cut down on food waste.
Table of Contents
Causes of Food Waste
The sad reality is that food waste occurs at every stage of the production process. Even before food reaches groceries or your table, it can already go to waste for many reasons, such as weather damage, poor storage conditions on farms, or spoilage during transport.
That said, these factors are often beyond your control. So perhaps what would be more relatable are the causes of food waste at the consumer level, which occur more frequently than you might think. Some of the top reasons are:
- Buying more food than necessary
- Leftovers due to overpreparation
- Discarding spoiled or stale food
- Improper food storage
- Over-ordering when eating outside
How does it affect our environment?
Food waste can cause significant damage to the environment. Every time you waste food, you destroy the natural and human resources used to produce, grow, and transport that food. For instance, about 45 trillion gallons of water are spent annually on food waste. Additionally, once you throw away food, most of it rots in landfills, thus producing methane, a greenhouse gas that’s far more dangerous than carbon dioxide.
5 Ways we can cut down on food waste
Undoubtedly, the gravity of the food waste problem is enormous, so there’s no better time than now to take action. Check out these five easy ways to reduce food waste, lower your carbon footprint, and save money.
Plan meals ahead of time
To start, make it a habit to plan your meals to avoid buying too much food or more than what’s necessary. Planning gives you a clear idea of what ingredients you’ll need and prevents you from going overboard in your next grocery run.
When making your shopping list, remember to consider how often you’ll eat at home and whether you’ll eat leftovers on certain days. Also, try to coordinate your meals to use similar ingredients across recipes to maximize your purchases.
Buy frozen fruits and vegetables
You’ve often probably had fruits or vegetables that quickly went bad after buying them. If this sounds familiar, consider buying frozen fruits and vegetables since they last much longer. And contrary to widespread assumption, research has shown that frozen produce has just as many—if not more—nutrients than fresh produce.
Be resourceful with leftovers
Don’t just throw away leftovers because they aren’t fresh anymore. To give you some creative inspiration, here are a few ideas on what you can do with your leftovers:
- Pack it for lunch or dinner the next day
- Add leftover vegetables to a hearty stew or casserole
- Add soft apples or blueberries to your oatmeal
- Use stale bread as croutons for your salad
Store food properly
Storing food properly and wisely is crucial to prolong its shelf life and prevent them from going to waste. Here are general tips to help you out:
- Store meat, poultry, and seafood in the lowest part of your fridge
- Store grains in airtight containers in your cupboard
- Freeze food like bread or leftovers if you won’t eat them immediately
- Wash and dry greens, then store in a plastic container in the fridge
Understand food labels
When shopping for food, it’s essential to understand the difference between “best-before” and “use-by” dates. Best-before pertains to quality, so it gives you an idea of how long your food will last before losing its quality. On the other hand, use-by refers to safety, so you must consume the food on or before the given date.
One good way to look at it is the best-before date is more of a guideline, but the use-by date is a deadline. In that sense, you can still eat food for a while after the best-before date. However, you can’t do this with the use-by date since your food won’t be safe to eat anymore once the date passes.
Food waste is a global issue with serious economic, social, and environmental consequences. Fortunately, it’s more than possible to contribute to the collective goal of stopping food waste. From planning meals to storing food properly, even the most minor changes to your lifestyle and habits can go a long way.