Shockingly, in today’s scenario, one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste. This threatens food security and leads to constant hunger pangs in underdeveloped countries where the rates of malnourishment and undernutrition are high. Food wastage is definitely a humanitarian concern, but what most people don’t realise is that it also affects the environment in a drastic way.
In simple words, when we waste food, we deplete the sources of energy that go into making the food. Ultimately, when food waste goes into landfills, it rots and produces methane - the greenhouse gas which is more potent than carbon dioxide. Climate change is an environmental driver that governs the food system. The rural sectors and marginalised communities that depend on agriculture, fishery, and forestry are the most vulnerable groups affected by climate change. Freshwater is also scarcer as a result of cyclones, storms, and other harsh weather events. Climate change and food security are therefore twin challenges that need to be addressed at the global level.
Food loss and waste emission - The climatic breakdown
The greenhouse gases, which greatly impact the environment comes through different sources. On-farm agricultural emissions include manure from livestock, farm energy usage, and fertilizer consumption to produce food which ultimately is lost, or gets wasted. The electricity and heat required for food manufacturing, processing, and an alarming rate of deforestation are the other factors that add to the root causes of climate change. Surprisingly, food wastage and loss not only affect the climate, but the personal and national economy too.
For a win-win strategy, issues like energy generation, transportation fuels, forest conservation, and food production need to be addressed in magnified visions. The real challenge is to tackle climate change, which ultimately endangers the food industry.
Now, for the key question - What can we do to help the food industry? Here are a few simple yet useful tips that can go a long way, especially when it comes to securing the future of our nutritional needs.
Before you go shopping, make a list. Plan on buying food items or groceries that are necessary rather than choosing a cart full of food that may be wasted. Try to make use of the leftover food instead of throwing it away or making another purchase.
- Freeze, don’t toss
Consider freezing food, because that can avoid wastage and frozen food can be just as nutritious. Consuming fresh food has its benefits, but freezing the extra food will help in avoiding an unnecessary toss into garbage cans.
- Package free
As and when it is possible, avoid choosing foods that come with a lot of packaging. Extra packaging means extra resources that go into production.
- Food loss and waste measurement
This protocol can be practised by companies to monitor the amount of food that goes to waste. Effectively, this waste can be managed.
- Set targets
Framing time-bound targets allow raising awareness, focussing attention, and mobilising resources. Starting at home and office extents, these actions can be enrolled in sub-national and national levels.
- Portion sizes
In restaurants, the portioning of food quantities should be altered according to the requirements of a consumer. This alone can cut down on food wastage.
A simple way to reduce food waste is by giving a large portion of good food that is not consumed, to food banks and similar outreach groups.
- Consumer awareness
Launching consumer awareness programmes can reveal the statistics of food wastage, communally, and globally. By getting together, plans and actions can be taken to reduce wastage and focus on consumer effective food security practises. Grocers can also be a major part of the program.
With a rapid pace of world population growth, the challenge which lies ahead for us is to maintain sustainability, rather than wasting what we already produce. Starting small by being aware of our nutritional needs, making use of the leftovers, consuming only the necessary portions, and composting the inedible scraps out of landfills are stepping stones to curb the emission of harmful gases which in turn, deplete the quality of the environment.
Climate change combined with conflicts effectuates inequalities, degrades livelihoods, and gradually exhausts sustainability. To cut to the chase - the food we waste near the fork will impact the weather near the forest. For this, we are liable to think twice when it comes to food.