Zero Waste Week 2013 – Rachelle Strauss – Food Waste

“Use it up!”

I’d like to invite you to play a game.

Next time you come home from the grocery store with your food shopping, I want you to stop off at your dustbin before you reach your house, open the lid and put one quarter of the food you’ve just bought straight into the bin. If you’ve bought eight bags, toss two of them. If you’ve bought four, toss one of them – you get the picture. Now walk away and leave it.

Crazy, right?

But that, according to latest research, is exactly what you, me and all our friends and colleagues are doing on a daily basis. Apparently, we’re binning a quarter of the food we buy. Further to that, recent reports show that 30-50% of all food grown on this planet never actually gets to a human stomach! It’s harvested, stored or transported incorrectly which means it never reaches the shelves. It’s rejected for being the wrong shape, colour or size by supermarkets. As householders, we buy too much, store it badly or cook too much. And what’s more, our Western culture encourages us to treat food like a disposable commodity rather than the precious resource and gift it is.

All the while we are throwing food away; nearly 870 million people (one in eight) in the world go to bed hungry. And it’s not just children in Africa that are hungry; people on your street, in your neighbourhood and at your workplace are just as likely to be living on the poverty line as anybody else. People assume that because food waste is biodegradable it’s ok to landfill it. But nothing could be further from the truth. With the absence of oxygen (which is how it tends to be in a plastic sack at the bottom of landfill), food produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Furthermore there is the embedded energy in food that we don’t even take into account such as water, transportation, cold storage and packaging.

So not only is wasting food bad for the environment, it’s bad for our economy, our personal finances and it has moral implications too. I believe that if all the food produced on this planet was managed and distributed efficiently we could eradicate hunger overnight. Now I don’t know about you, but I like to focus on the solutions, rather than the problems. It can feel horribly overwhelming if we look at the bigger picture, with cries of “But what can *I* do? I’m only one person!” There’s a favourite quote of mine by Margaret Mead. She wrote “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. So her message to me is that we are all powerful. We are powerful beyond measure. And that by taking small, seemingly insignificant actions, we collectively have a massive impact.

Take steel can recycling as an example. If you and every person in the UK recycled just ONE more can, that would be 60 million cans saved from landfill. Now tell me that’s insignificant! As an opportunity to become part of the solution, I set up an awareness campaign six years ago, called “Zero Waste Week”. The aim of which is to invite participants to reduce landfill waste. As I feel so strongly about food waste, this year’s theme is “Use it up!” where you’re encouraged to reduce your food waste to zero for that week. Sure there will be inedible peelings, bones and cores, but apart from that, everything can be eaten if thought about in advance.

The week takes place 2nd – 8th September 2013 and you can find out more at the zero waste week website. Under the video at the top of the homepage you’ll see the sign up box. Once you’ve signed up and taken your pledge you’ll get daily emails during the week to help you plan, share tips and engage with our community.
If you’re more of a Facebook fan, we have an events page where you can come along and invite your friends list to join in the fun.

I’d love to see you onboard and don’t forget to invite your friends!

Zero Waste Week

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