On some level, most people know that wasting food is bad, or even harmful. However, in this day and age, simply saying ‘wasting food is a problem’ does not achieve anything. Worse yet, it doesn’t elicit any proper reaction from the people at large. So, just how much of a problem is excess, wasted food? If you’d like to find out the definitive answer to that question, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will go over what food waste is and how much of a global impact it has. But more importantly, you will also learn about what you can do to help fix the issue.
What is Food Waste?
Food waste is really just one of two ways edible matter gets reduced in mass or nutritional value. The other major way is food loss. And while the two share the same end result (i.e. the removal of food from the food chain), they have a few key differences.
Food loss refers to the edible matter being lost or decreasing in value before it reaches the final product stage. In other words, it’s food that spoils during extraction, manufacturing, packaging, or transport.
Food waste, on the other hand, has to involve food at the final product stage. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily involve a decrease in value. Perfectly edible food can also be considered waste (for example, when you throw away a half-eaten sandwich or leave an uneaten piece of cake at the restaurant). The same can happen with packaged food that workers discard from a retail store or a supermarket.
Why Food Waste is an Issue
Food waste directly contributes to air pollution, water waste, and other environmental issues like deforestation. For instance, around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste. While in a landfill, the wasted food rots away, releasing harmful gasses like methane (CH4). Methane has a greater comparative impact over a period of 100 years than carbon dioxide (CO2), and the difference isn’t a small one, either — in fact, the impact of methane is 25 times greater!
Globally, agriculture uses up 70% of water, meaning a lot of it goes into producing food. Comparatively speaking, if we were to collect all of the water used to make the food we waste, it would be three times the size of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.
Finally, there are ethical issues that arise from food waste. More than 4 million people died of hunger worldwide during the first half of 2021 alone. If we look at the numbers related to food waste in the US alone and compare it to the global statistics listed earlier, we come to a staggering conclusion. Namely, the food wasted just in the US can all but eliminate hunger-related deaths globally.
How Can You Help Reduce Food Waste
There are various ways in which you can help reduce the amount of food waste. You will, in fact, be surprised as to how little you actually need to adjust your life in order to live waste-free. And make no mistake, your input will matter, no matter how small it might seem.
Check the Packaging
Lots of packages out there, like vacuum bags and plastic containers, don’t offer a lot in terms of repackaging the food. So, if you wrap your cheese or bread back up, it might end up spoiling. However, there is a way around this issue. If possible, simply buy a product that has a resealable bag or a plastic package with an airtight closing system. That will help keep your food fresh and won’t cause it to rot or go bad. In other words, you will be more likely to eat that food than to throw it away.
One of the best ways to reduce, or rather reuse, food that you don’t need is through donations. Luckily, there are plenty of organizations like Feeding America that provide users a list of nearby food banks where anyone can donate to those in need.
Storing your food properly can have plenty of benefits, and not just regarding food waste reduction. In fact, if you store your stuff the right way, you can avoid catching a harmful disease or other health hazards like food poisoning. Moreover, properly stored food will not leak or emit any scent. In other words, your refrigerator and your freezer will be odor-free and you will not need to clean up any nasty stains.
Make sure to do some research into the food you buy and prepare so you can store it the right way. For example, most fruits and vegetables will have a longer shelf life if stored and refrigerated properly. The same goes for drinks, sweets, and even food for your pets.
Utilizing New Tech
Let’s say that you have a lot of leftover food that you can’t or won’t eat. The nearest foodbank is too far away and you don’t want to throw it away. So, what do you do?
Well, instead of throwing it all away begrudgingly, simply make a new meal from it. Modern smartphones can use recipe apps that scan ingredients and give you a choice of different recipes. Of course, you can simply input the ingredients you have and get the same results.
Organic material like food can be reused in clean, eco-friendly ways, with composting being the popular option. All you have to do is figure out which food you can compost and how to do it. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that readily provide such information to everyone.
As you can see, combating food waste might seem like a losing battle, and unless things change, it will only get worse. However, if you actively work on reducing food waste on your end, you will live a cleaner, healthier life. Also, you will not be alone in that fight — the vast majority of businesses and organizations have expansive programs that help combat both food waste and food loss on a large level. Everyone wants a clean planet with well-fed inhabitants, and combating food waste can get all of us closer to that goal.
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