Food waste has a big impact on climate change – and it’s money down the drain. Here’s how you can cut back at home.
The average Australian household wastes a whopping 350 kilograms of food each year, or thereabouts – approximately one in every five bags of groceries they buy. Not only does it make your fridge smell a bit woofy, but it’s not all roses for the environment either.
Energy, water and other precious resources are used to produce, process, package, store and transport this food – only for it to end up in the bin. So what’s the ramifications of all this food waste and how can you avoid it?
Food waste in your rubbish bin contributes to climate change
Food waste buried in landfill in South Australia breaks down to form methane, a greenhouse gas with more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills result from decomposing organic material like food scraps and garden waste. If you’re interested in how your food waste compares to other types of emissions, plug your food waste weight into the Watch My Waste calculator to get a picture of how the emissions from your food waste compare to that of everyday activities such as using electricity or driving a car.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. With a little bit of planning and some extra steps, you can minimise your food waste – and save money too. Here’s how:
1. Meal planning – don’t buy what you won’t use and make sure you store it correctly
If you plan your meals for the week, you won’t only reduce food waste but you’ll save money too. Choose a few meals that can be stretched over one night or eaten as leftovers for lunch the next day, and buy the right quantities of ingredients so that you don’t waste any at the end.
Planning ahead means less last minute trips to the supermarket, which saves time and possible transport emissions, as well as less time in the kitchen and more time to do the things you enjoy. It can also take the stress out of deciding “what’s for dinner” each day, and help you monitor what you’re eating.
Storing food and leftovers correctly can make a difference in its shelf life and freshness. Love Food Hate Waste has a range of tips on storing food correctly to keep it fresh, as well as planning, shopping and cooking tips. Foodwise really is the bible when it comes to managing food waste, and its toolkit includes cheat sheets to help you avoid food waste and save money. It also has a recipe finder that allows you to plug your fridge ingredients in and find a recipe to use.
There’s an app for everything these days and meal planning is no exception. There’s MealBoard for across the board management of shopping, recipes and even your pantry, but you’ll need to invest some time in setting up your inventory, Pepperplate to copy recipes into, organise your shopping list, and walk you through the recipe – complete with timer – when it’s time to cook, and Cloud-Freezer (iPhone only), GrocerEaze and Out of Milk, which all go one step further with a barcode scanning function that helps you manage what’s in your pantry or freezer and telling you what to use first so you don’t end up with food waste.
2. Buy what’s in season or grow your own
Buying in season produce is only natural. It means your food will have been grown closer to home, so it’ll be fresher, last longer and have the added benefit of less transport emissions getting to your door. Try local farmers markets to ensure you’re buying SA-grown produce, or even better, grow your own – there’s really no transport emissions from walking outside to your garden!
3. Dispose of your food scraps in the right way – and not just fruit and veg
Proper disposal of your food scraps can make a big difference to the environment. A compost heap or tub is a great way to recycle your food waste into a source of valuable nutrients for your garden. Kitchen scraps can also be saved for a worm farm or chicken coop. Many councils offer their residents subsidies on buying compost bins and worm farms, so check with your council to see what’s on offer.
If you don’t have your own compost heap, most councils throughout SA allow residents to place food scraps into their green waste bins for regular collection and processing into compost-based products such as soil conditioners, mulches, garden soils, top dressing soils and potting mixes. To add your food scraps to the green bin, simply throw them in, wrap in newspaper or place them in a compostable corn starch bag. Just remember, NO plastic.
We’re not just talking about fruit and veggie peelings though. Anything that once grew can go in your green organic bin – the thinking is ‘if it didn’t grow, it doesn’t go’. So in addition to fruit and vegetable peelings, your green organics bin can take garden prunings, offcuts, lawn clippings and dead flowers, tea bags and coffee grounds, meat trimmings, bones, eggshells and seafood scraps (including shells). Many items that aren’t suitable for the home compost can still go in the green organics bin, including tissues and paper towels, some weeds and diseased plants, compostable plates, cups and utensils.
If you’re worried about products like leftover meat and seafood smelling bad by collection day, cover them with grass clippings, or store them in the freezer until the day of your bin collection. Easy! Remember, always check with your local council if you have any questions or go to the Recycle Right website.
Main image: Bailey (If you’re wondering what our lovely, furry friend Bailey here has to do with food waste, well he does help out by eating quite a lot of scraps and leftovers – but we just like him because he’s cute. Plus, the pic is furry dif-fur-rent and it was almost im-paws-ible to get him to do what he was told, so let’s give Bailey a round of appaws.)