Get prepared! Next week, 7-11 Sept, is Zero Waste Week. This annual campaign that takes place in the first week of September with the aim of raising awareness of ways to reduce waste and help individuals, households and businesses reduce both waste and their impact on the environment. Oh yeah, while also saving money! The theme of this year’s event is one very close to my heart: Reducing food waste.
According to figures produced by Love Food Hate Waste, In the UK each year, around £12.5 billion of food and drink is purchased, only to be disposed of. Put into perspective, that’s £700 a year, thrown away, for every family, or £60 a month of food that is never consumed. That’s a huge amount but one that we can all take simple steps to tackle.
I’ll just give you a few more statistics to put the problem into perspective. Every year the UK throws away:
- 5.8 million whole potatoes
- 1.3 million whole apples
- 1.5 million whole tomatoes
I’ll come on to ways to tackle food waste in a moment. Before doing so, I think it’s important to stress the organisers of Zero Waste Week (primarily sustainability specialists Rachelle Strauss and Anna Pitt) do not want to create an atmosphere of judgement or criticise former behaviour.
As a dad with two young children, I know my family wastes food. A certain amount is inevitable, be it through accident or poor buying and consumption.
I’l give you an example. Just a few days ago we returned home after spending several days in Scotland. One of the first things Mrs Adams did on arriving home was remove a sealed container from the fridge that was full of a bolognaise sauce she’d made before we left. I was supposed to have put it in the freezer but I’d forgotten. The sauce had gone mouldy and Mrs Adams was not impressed.
Accidents like this will always happen. The trick, however, is to take steps to reduce food waste, something my family has done a huge amount to address over recent years.
My suggestions for reducing food waste
I have various ideas for reducing food waste. Here are the main ones:
- Freeze fruit. If fruit looks like it is about to turn, wash it and freeze it. You can then use it at a later date for making smoothies or baking.
- Invest in storage containers. If you have a good supply of high-quality storage containers, you can not only store produce (such as opened tins of tomatoes or, ahem, bolognaise sauce) but it makes it easier to take your own packed lunches or go on picnics. This brings me nicely on to my next tip. . .
- East out less. When you eat out, you completely lose control of how your food will be prepared and how any waste is treated. Profit is likely to be a bigger interest to any café or restaurant than environmental concerns.
- Compost your food at home or participate in any local authority food recycling. If you don’t do this already, I strongly suggest you do. As soon as you start recycling food, the amount of waste you put in your rubbish will drop sharply.
I have one final tip, that sounds simple, but requires a little explanation. I suggest looking at your family’s behaviour and making sure you don’t put perceived convenience over environmental concerns. This is something my family discovered the hard way.
Going back a little while, we used to own a large, American-style fridge freezer. While this seemed like a good way to reduce our food waste because of all the space to chill and freeze food, it was, with hindsight, a dreadful influence on how my family purchased and consumed food.
This fridge freezer had masses of space and when we went shopping, we would buy too much because of all the space we had available to fill. We also batch-cooked large quantities of food and froze it. The intention was to defrost the food and eat it another day, but we made so much that it often sat in the freezer for a couple of years before we eventually threw it out.
We then moved house to a place with a smaller kitchen. This time we were living with a small waist-high fridge and freezer. Neither my wife nor I were too sure about this. We thought we wouldn’t have enough refrigerated storage space. In fact the reverse was true. It did wonders to reduce the food waste we produced.
We don’t buy as much so there’s less chance of food going out of date. We’re much better at rotating food and when we batch cook, we produce realistic amounts. We’re much more on top of what we eat, what we need and the amount we waste has massively reduced.
I’m not suggesting you should rush out and buy new white goods. That would impact on all manner of other environmental issues, but keep this in mind next time you move house or buy a new fridge or freezer. Big isn’t always best.
How you can get involved with Zero Waste Week
I will be involved with Zero Waste Week by promoting it and will also be undertaking a ‘Waste Food Audit’ over the next few days to establish how much food my family wastes.
You can carry out your own waste food audit ahead of Zero Waste Week and highlight areas you could improve. Simply follow this link to a printable document you can update and record any food waste you make this week. You will find out more about Zero Waste Week and other ways to get involved by visiting the campaign’s website.
Have you any ideas for reducing food waste?
If you have any ideas for reducing food waste, please od leave a comment below. I’d love to know how you do it and it would be great to get a conversation on this subject. I will also be posting to my own social media channels next week so please do keep an eye on them for updates.