The link between affluence and wastefulness is one of the less flattering traits of the modern consumer society—right up there with rising obesity and environmental degradation.
And while many consumers may counter that at the end of the day they’re only a product of their environment, that flimsy cop-out does not really have much traction in a world facing serious environmental and societal challenges on an unprecedented global scale.
Food companies themselves are no doubt accountable to some degree, but they would not be doing things like supersizing if consumers simply refused to accept the staggering increase in both the size and caloric intake of slices of pizza (up 70 per cent in calories between 1982 and 2002), chicken Caesar salads (double the calories), chocolate-chip cookies (four times the calories) and many other types of everyday foods.
With the world’s finite resources being continually stretched to the limit, it is nothing short of scandalous that up to two million tonnes of food, according to some credible evidence, is estimated to end up as waste without ever reaching anyone’s plate.
Not only is that a shocking amount of food in pure monetary terms; it’s also a huge drain many nonrenewable resources, including arable land, feed, water, medications, fertilizer, chemicals and energy.
In the U.S., for example, 70 per cent of the county’s freshwater supply is used for agricultural production, and more than one quarter of that water is accounted for directly by the wasted food.
So it’s about time, then, that everyone in the global food chain starts playing their part—consumers no exception.
Just as charity begins at home, so should food waste prevention.
According to a timely recent report from the Value Chain Management Centre of the Guelph, Ont.-based think-tank George Morris Centre—titled Cut Waste, Grow Profit—there are many little things that everyday consumers can do to have a big collective impact that adds up to a whole lot more than merely the sum of its parts.
- Taking stock before shopping to ensure you’re not overstocking, especially on perishable foods;
- Planning out meals over the week and buying accordingly;
- Buying perishable foods at regular intervals during the week, instead of in bulk;
- Checking expiry dates when making food choices at the store;
- Ensuring that portions are both calculated and served correctly;
- Freezing and reusing leftovers whenever feasible;
- Finding other uses for overripe fruits and vegetables, which can be used in smoothies or baked goods;
- Not shopping on an empty stomach to avoid impulse-buying sprees;
- Making sure that the refrigerator is never crammed full, to ensure that some food items are not simply forgotten.
To all those who do these things already—well done! To everyone else: what are you waiting for?