Our 10 tips to fight against food waste at your own level

On the occasion of the 2014 World Food Day, we wrote you this special article on food waste, a topic that is particularly important for us and that will be central during the Universal Exposition 2015. One other good reason to choose this issue is that in France, the country where two of us come from (one of them being myself), today is also the National day of the fight against food waste!

Enjoy the article! Don’t hesitate to leave your comments !


The challenges:

“One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year”

Source FAO

“805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14”

Source FAO

When talking about food losses that may happen along the logistic chain, people tend to think that they cannot do much from it as their own small level – except favoring local food and encouraging the politics which put this issue at the top of their agenda – but so many things can be done at our scale to fight against food waste!

This issue will be one of the main challenges that will be addressed during Expo 2015. Thus, during the presentation of a report on domestic food waste in Italy the 7th of July 2014, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, has declared that “the fight against food waste is one of the priorities of the Expo 2015. This can also be noticed thru the interest shown by the participant countries”.

Moreover, the protocol of Milan, a global agreement on sustainable food, which the Expo could be one of the result of the Universal exposition 2015 and that we mentioned in some of our past articles,  give the  objective of reducing by 50% of food waste in the world.

The solutions and views imagined by participant countries to tackle this issue will certainly be the object of a future article.

Our 10 – non exhaustive – tips to reduce food waste!

Food waste-Expo 2015

1. Re-make sacred your food through education and dialogue

Do you remember when you were a child and your parents were always telling you: “Clean your plate. Think to those who don’t have anything to eat”. Our grandparents were used at recycling everything. For instance, they were giving to chicken the food which couldn’t be eaten or they used it to do compost.

This attention and respect of food was of course deeply related to economic arguments. For example in France: in 1960 nutrition represented 38% of a family budget together with tobacco, it was 25% in 2007[1], even though. At the same time, in some countries this part still exceeds 50%. This idea of food was also based on a certain respect for the fruits of the land and of the job of farmers.

This view, if it has not totally disappeared in many countries and families – being either a necessity or the result of a choice – seems however to have decreased in many so called “developed countries”.

The evolution towards an “urban society of abundance” in several territories (apparently though) with supermarkets and fridges full of products has made us loose some good principles. If, on one hand, it seems unfortunately likely that scarcity and poverty are coming back and with them, a greater attention against food waste, on the other hand, work on a greater respect of food still needs to come from the everyday education and dialogue among friends, at the restaurant and at home, by bringing out good practices and by exchanging some advice in order to reduce our food wastes! Even French economist and thinker partisan of the degrowth theory, Serge Latouche, gave the advice to make sacred food, as you can see if one of our past articles.

2. Don’ bite off more than you can chew

When you go to the supermarket, when you go to the restaurant, at home, or when you are going to prepare dinner, don’t overestimate your appetite. This will allow you not to leave your plate full of food, or to be obliged to deal with a full fridge for only few people.

3. Don’t mix up the “Best Before” and “Use By” dates on food packaging

Let’s take the example of France, it is estimated that one French throws away 20 kilos of food every year, about 7 kilos is still packed[2].  What are these 7 Kilos? They are often products which are still eatable, which have just exceeded the “best before” due date. Indeed, a report by the European Commission in 2011 shows that 18% of the European citizens do not understand such notion[3].

The 2nd of June, a group of EU member states officially asked the European Commission to revise this system[4]. Even the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council, on January 2014, has requested a revision of such system.

You can find more information in English about how to read and understand these indications, in order to avoid food waste, on the site of the European Union.

4.Buy your fruits and vegetable in small quantity

I must say that this advice is particularly relevant for me: I really bite off more than I can chew when it comes to fruits and vegetable, I have difficulty to estimate my weekly needs. The easiest and safer way to avoid fruits and vegetables wastes is to buy them in small quantity, twice a week. But this tip can be difficult to implement according to where you live or your lifestyle.

5. Cook the leftover

tomate flétrieOk, it’s done, you have withered tomatoes and green beans in your fridge, pasta already cooked and solidify. But No-no, the solution isn’t yet to throw everything in the garbage. First of all, don’t be agraid of ugly fruits and vegetable (cf. discover the nice communication campaign of a French supermarket), the most important is that they are good! And yes even if tomato seems a little bit old, maybe once cooked and prepared with nice herbs they will become a delight! Have it a try, no worry, you can find thousands of ideas on internet: pasta cake or gratin? Some websites allow you to find recipes starting from you have left in the fridge. Example: Foodwise.com or Bigoven.

And it’s a perfect excuse to invite your friends over to help you finish your food! ;)

6. Make your own preserves or freeze

You are going away for the weekend or in holidays, you have no time to eat what you could cook, but don’t worry, you still have the solution to prepare your own homemade preserves or to freeze your food.

Enironmentally speaking, the can solution is better since it uses less energy. And here again, you can find so many websites that explain how you can do it. (Ex: http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/learn-to-make-your-own-preserves-110758 )

7.Clean up and organize your fridge

Here again, a tip that I should follow more often, since I have this tendency to put my food without any thining in my fridge in order to start as quickly as possible a more entertaining activity… but to be precise, I used very little my fridge, except during summer since I buy few fresh products apart from butter.

And yes, the way you organize your fridge influences the food preservation (the floor, the proximity with other foods). In order to have more information on how to organize your fridge, you can check this website.

8. Give the food you don’t need

No definitively, no preserve, no freezer, no cooking: you can still give your food to food bank. First check what kind of food they accept to take, because not all products can be given safely.

Some new solutions are appearing in order to give or exchange food between private individual through internet platforms. For instance, in Italy, a food sharing initiative is emerging in order to share food with your neighbor: http://www.scambiacibo.it/. This project is inspired by a German project, born some years ago and now a growing success: http://foodsharing.de/.

9. At the restaurant, don’t hesitate to ask a Doggy bag

If asking for a doggy bag is really common in the United States (where portions can also be bigger), it’s still quite rare is many other countries. But, what will become our leftover if we don’t take them with us? They will be thrown away…And yet, you paid for it, so give it a try, with a smile, ask for a doggy bag !The more people will ask, the more restaurants will adapt.

10. Make the test and measure your food waste!

Without making any king of special efforts and by respecting your own habits, try to measure the food waste you’re producing: can, leftover, passed away vegetables…then observe the difference being more cautious to reduce your waste.

A good way to be more aware of our own food waste is to make your compost. And for those who can’t some cities are doing it for you collecting your organic food, it’s the case of some quarters of Rome where two of us are leaving. Even if my organic bin is mostly full of peeling, I must admit the fact of throwing away in a specific container my rotten plum will help me avoid to have to do it again.

prune flétrie

[1] Source:  Insee

[2] Source : data 2010, rapport gaspillage alimentaire di nov 2012

[3] Source : Consumer Empowerment in the EU – SEC(2011)0469

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