A whopping one-third of the world’s food is wasted, says Dr Mark Boulet, a researcher who specialises in household food waste and behaviour at Monash University’s BehaviourWorks Australia. “Think about when you go to the supermarket and you buy three bags of shopping,” he says. “It’s the equivalent of throwing one bag away the moment you leave the store.
“It means all the resources that went into making that food – the fertiliser, the energy, the water, the human cost – that’s all essentially wasted.”
Boulet says the amount of wasted food is particularly shocking when you consider how many people are in need of sustenance. “We have millions around the world [who experience] poverty and hunger on a daily basis, yet a third of the food we produce goes into the bin,” he says. “So it’s a social equity and social justice issue as well.”
Food wastage also has a significant impact on the planet, with Boulet saying it contributes “anywhere up to 10 per cent” of annual global emissions. “If food waste were a country, it would be behind China and the US as the biggest emitter on the planet.”
Sustainability blogger Julia Schafer is appalled by these figures, saying that’s why she works “desperately” hard to minimise her food waste. Not only does the 58-year-old shop “consciously” (aiming to only buy fresh produce she knows she’ll use), she also reuses scraps, grows a lot of her own fresh fruit and vegetables, and uses as much of each item as possible. Any excess goes into her worm farm or compost.
But you don’t need a worm farm to reduce the amount of food you waste. Boulet recommends adopting simple strategies, such as pre-planning your shopping. “The better planned we can be for what we buy and want to cook, the less likely we are to waste food.”
“You feel a bit more in control of your own life and you’re not wasting your own family’s financial resources.”
Once you bring that food home, ensure it is stored correctly by popping it in airtight containers if needed, or in the fridge to help it last longer. Then, when your stomach’s grumbling, don’t race out the door to grab more food. Instead, check your fridge and pantry and use up leftover meals and leftover ingredients before buying more.
While these might seem like small measures, Boulet says they have a cumulative effect. “We waste a little bit here, we waste a little bit there, but over the year it adds up.” This can be significant – according to the federal government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water, the average Aussie throws out 312 kilograms of food each year.
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