A topic that Sarah Wilson has been behind for a little while, and one our grandparents stuck by to a tee. So why has it become something so far from our everyday that our annual household food wastage in Australia is now a $5.2 billion problem?
Considering rising food prices, it’s startling that an estimated
4.45 million tones of household food in Australia ends up in landfill
with each household throwing out approximately 936kg a year (this doesn’t account for food wastes from industrial and commercial sources). This 5.2 billion dollars in waste is equivalent to installing solar hot water systems in 960,000 Aussie homes according to UTS’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, and costs us more as a nation than running the Australian Army, says the Australian Institute’s 2009 report What a Waste.
John Dee, founder of Australian social and environmental organization Do Something!, says the impact of food waste is far more than just financial. “The vast majority of Australians are unaware that when discarded food rots in landfill, it gives off methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust”, he says. Holy hell!
I recently read about one organization dedicated to “rescuing food and fighting hunger” and that’s Victorian-based charity FareShare. They accept donations of unwanted food from businesses, transforming it into healthy meals for the homeless which I think is amazing. In 2009 they recovered and distributed 400 tonnes of food which they estimate prevented 620 tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, as well as calculated that for every kg of food recovered, they also saved 56 litres of water.
So what we can we do to rectify some of this burden we have collectively put ourselves under? Well it all begins at home. In my favourite place – the kitchen;
+ Look at what’s in your fridge
+ How do you store your food?
+ Why do you buy certain products? Were they on sale and you couldn’t resist? Was it on a whim? Or was it planned? Most of us buying sale items are lured in by the (cheap) cost rather than stopping to think how (and if) we’ll actually use it.
Ways to reduce your food waste at home might include:
+ Rotating the food in your fridge and your pantry to put the older items at the front to be used first.
+ Store your food well; airtight containers, sealed bags, refrigerated if necessary.
+ Shop with a list you have compiled based on what you already have at home; this reduces impulse buying but also makes sure you don’t double up on something you already have sitting at home waiting to be used.
+ Make leftovers; these are my favourite meals usually! Make a big pot of veggie soup, a casserole, or a stir fry at the end of the week to use up everything left in your fridge. Have some for dinner, and some for lunch the following day, and freeze anything else left for those nights you just can’t be stuffed!
+ Compost! The food we simply throw in the garbage ends up in landfill contributing to greenhouse gases from the methane produced when broken down anaerobically (without oxygen). However when we compost our food scraps, they decompose aerobically (with oxygen), generating few emissions and double as a super duper usable product for your garden, not to mention much safer than commercial fertilizers, for your garden, your family and the animals. Think about it; you’re adding to the soil, not taking away from it.
+ Additionally, throw your fruit and veggie scraps in a blender, whiz up, and pour straight on your garden.
+ If you make juices at home, save the pulp left over for making crackers, adding to bone broth for extra flavour and minerals, or for use in veggie or mince patties.
The food chain is just that – a chain. And unless we work in the industry’s that directly in contact with our food along any of the multiple processes from farmer to plate, all we can do is start at our fridges. And go from there.
This week’s challenge: Have a look in your fridge and pantry; pull the older items to the front and use these first. Start writing a shopping list to go by when you go grocery shopping. Find recipes to use what you’ve got sitting at home if you’re unsure what to do with them. And start composting! If it’s in an old ice cream tub or a bucket from the back of the garage – it’s perfect. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all.