This joint article is written by Selina Juul, Champion 12.3 and Founder of Stop Wasting Food movement and Michiel Kernkamp, CEO of Nestlé Nordic
Want to make a positive change in the world? Stop wasting food. It’s that simple!
A wonky carrot in the back of your fridge or a banana with few brown spots are perfectly edible and are aimed to end up in your belly - not your trash bin. If you start saving the food, you will end up saving the world.
According to the EU, around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion Euros. According to the UN, the food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people. The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people. And the food currently lost in Africa could feed 300 million people. And globally, food losses and waste are enough to feed 3 billion people – in a world where every ninth child, woman and man are starving. Not to forget the fact that if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter.
Growing global focus on food waste
At the United Nations’ SAVE FOOD World Congress in Düsseldorf, where Selina Juul recently spoke, the escalating fight against food waste was on top of the agenda. At the first SAVE FOOD World Congress back in 2011 in Düsseldorf, comparing to today, a huge development has been made. Literally hundreds of food waste prevention and reducing initiatives have been born, and the entire food value chain has been activated.
At the “A Great Day for Food Innovation” summit at the Danish Food Cluster, where Michiel Kernkamp spoke recently, the fight against food waste was also on top of the agenda, and many food companies are making good progress. Recently, IKEA announced aim to halve food waste at its restaurants by mid-2020, and the upcoming Minister for Environment and Food of Denmark Mr. Esben Lunde Larsen’s World Food Summit “Better Food for More People” in Copenhagen has food waste on top of the agenda. From EU to UN to big corporations - the fight against food waste is on. And it’s about time!
As the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, who also spoke at the SAVE FOOD World Congress, emphasized, we are in a great hurry to start reducing food losses and waste, not at least to achieve the targets of UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for the halving of food losses and waste by 2030. Recently, Selina Juul has become a member og global Champions 12.3 - a global group of high-level experts and CEO’s to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. She joins high level global NGO, industry and government - among them Minister for Environment and Food of Denmark Mr. Esben Lunde Larsen and Chairman of Nestlé Paul Bulcke.
United against food waste
There is not a One Miracle Solution to end food loss and waste. We must be united against food waste, only all parties in the food supply chain can make a positive and lasting impact. It is only through an end-to-end “farm to fork” approach that we can achieve our targets - and often a local action can create a global impact.
At the agricultural stages, the main focus should be on preventing the food losses, to prevent the food getting lost during the farming and productions stages. Companies like Nestlé aim to improve quality of life and contribute to a healthier future and reduce food waste - with preservation and better utilization at the origin of the creation of the food industry - is clearly core to this aim.
Through agricultural initiatives like the ‘Nescafé plan’ and the ‘Nestlé cocoa plan’ for example the company aims to help farmers better utilize their land, increase yields, reduce water and chemical usage and improve farmers’ livelihoods. It has similar initiatives in place with other agricultural partners like dairy farmers.
Last year the first global Food Loss and Waste Accounting Standard was introduced. Nestlé and Selina Juul participated in that work together with Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), EU Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimizing Waste Prevention Strategies (FUSIONS), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and World Resources Institute (WRI).
The standard aims to quantify food waste based on the thinking that “what can be measured, can be managed”. At the same time Nestlé has committed to achieve Zero waste to landfill in its manufacturing operations by 2020 and they have recently announced their ambition to have zero environmental impact from their global manufacturing operations by 2030. By improving forecasting accuracy and planning process they actively increase the efficient utilization of food. It is good and important to donate the surplus food to the charities - but it’s event more important to work on preventing the overproduction of food to begin with.
Through the Nestlé Portion Guidance initiative, Nestlé helps consumers make the right decisions in order to eat the right amounts. This is good for combatting food waste but is of course also the right healthy option. All in an effort to contribute to eliminating food waste - and to prevent overeating, since the food waste and obesity are large problemt around the world.
Why don’t we disrupt the food chain – and reverse it?
In the Western society, where we, the consumers, contribute to a large share of the food wasted, we have the largest potential to stop wasting food. Minimizing your food waste is a low hanging fruit to make a positive impact – not only on the environment and by that improving our food system but also on your personal economy and time. Fighting food waste is a very low hanging fruit and there are a lot of actions you can take on a personal level to make a global impact.
But before we provide you with a catalogue of ideas in the food chain, please have a look at it this way: What if we ‘disrupted’ the whole food chain – and made it totally reverse? Imagine... as John Lennon wanted us to do.
If we were able to reverse the food chain and have the perfect data, so we can eat what we cook, cook what we store, store what we buy, buy what we produce and produce what we harvest. Food waste will soon will be a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, data imperfection between the different elements of the value chain currently prevent an optimal consumer triggered supply chain. New developments like connected fridges, portioned meal boxes, recipe data bases triggering portioned food purchase or E-tailers tracking your consumption patterns will help a more accurate consumer data driven food supply chain thus helping to eliminate the waste, which results from each party in the food supply chain trying to predict what the other party is going to produce, buy, store or cook.
Utilizing new technology will therefore help preventing the waste from occurring in the first place.
So, what can you actually do to stop wasting food? Here, we present a couple of good advices...
What can you do in the supermarket:
Planning is a good weapon in the fight against food waste. Before you go grocery shopping, make sure to make a meal plan, a shopping list or even easier: Take your smartphone and take a picture of the content of your fridge. You will have an easy reminder of what you already have and what you will need to buy.
Never buy on an empty stomach – snap a banana or a biscuit before going grocery shopping. If you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you will risk buying more food than you actually need.
Control your inner hamster, while grocery shopping. Be in control of the bulk discounts, instead of letting the bulk discounts controlling you.
Choose smaller size of shopping carts and shopping baskets – a large shopping cart or a shopping basket will automatically make you buy more food than you actually need. If you want to buy just the amount of food you need, choose a smaller shopping cart or a smaller shopping basket. Remember to carry your shopping basket in your hand, instead of pulling it behind you on wheels. When you carry the shopping basket in your hand, you will have better control of the amount of food that you buy, because the shopping basket gets heavier and heavier.
Buy the food close to its expiration date – it’s often much cheaper. You will also help the supermarkets to reduce their food waste.
Use bulk discounts with caution – use the bulk discounts only if you are sure that you are going to use all the food, otherwise, it will be your money down the drain.
Ugly and wonky taste just the same – buy ugly and wonky fruits and vegetables. Just because the cucumber is bendy, it tastes just the same as a straight one. And remember to buy single bananas – the single bananas need more love.
Buy food for several days and have a good plan to use the leftovers. Plan for leftovers while buying the food. For example, yesterday’s leftover salmon can turn into today’s salmon salad.
Keep your food fresh – make sure to get home quickly after buying your groceries. Keep the food in cooling bags and don’t let your groceries sweat in a warm car for hours.
What can you do at home in your kitchen:
Use the food that you already have in your refrigerator, your kitchen cupboards and in your freezer. Less food waste means that you will save your money, you will save your time – and at the same time you will save the planet and value the work done by the farmers spending their valuable time and efforts producing your food.
Have a flow in your fridge, your freezer and your kitchen cupboards, so the older foods are placed at the front – and preferably at your eye level, so you are constantly reminded to use up that food first.
Have a central place to store your leftovers and use your leftovers in new meals, no matter if it is a weekday, weekend or a holiday like Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Eid/etc. Store your leftovers in a central place in your refrigerator, so you always remember to use them.
Leftovers is free bonus food – create a new attitude towards your leftovers. When you use your leftovers, you save a trip to the supermarket, you save your time and you save your money. A leftover chicken can be used in an omelet. A leftover cream can be frozen and used in soups or stews.
Have Empty Your Fridge Days to use up all your leftovers. Sunday is usually a good day to cook meals with leftovers. Once every month, have an Empty Your Freezer Day too. Also, be sure to have the Empty Your Fridge/Freezer Days before holidays like Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Eid/etc. to make new room for all the good leftovers.
Make sure that your meal with leftovers look aesthetically pleasing – just because it’s leftovers, it does not mean that your plate should look like trash. The meal should always look inviting.
Your refrigerator is not your garbage bin – make sure that no old leftovers are left to die in the back of your fridge. Remember not to overstuff your fridge. If you overstuff your fridge, it will be more difficult for the cold air to circulate in the fridge – and thus keeping the food fresh. Keep good hygiene and regularly clean your fridge and your freezer.
Stop producing the UFO’s – yes, the Unidentified Frozen Objects in your freezer. UFO’s are all the good leftovers that you freeze and then forget all about them for a year or two. After a year or two, you usually throw them out. Your time, your money, good food and your electricity bills all for nothing. Prevent UFOs by freezing the leftovers in smaller portions, and always have a system to note what you have frozen and when. And remember to use the food in your freezer, so your freezer won’t become the last stop before the garbage bin.
Learn to store the food properly – apples, pears, bananas and oranges should not be in contact with each other, otherwise they will ripen faster. Tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, bananas and citrus fruits must be stored outside the refrigerator. Use packaging only suitable for food.
Learn about the date labeling – the “Use By” label is used on fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh chicken, etc. It’s not advisable to eat the food after the expiration of “Use By” date. Meanwhile, the “Best Before” label is used on pasta, rice, cookies, chocolate, corn flakes, etc. You can eat the food after the expiration of “Best Before” date. In other words, “Best Before” doesn’t mean “Toxic After”.
Do not cook for 11 people if you are 8 people for dinner – many people constantly tend to cook and serve too much food. A good idea is to cook 30% less food and to calculate portion sizes before making the food.
Use smaller size of plates and dishes – for the past 20 years, the sizes of plates have grown all over the world. By using a smaller size plates and dishes on the dinner table, you will make sure that you will waste less food. The bigger the plate is, the more you are tempted to fill it up with food. A smaller size of plate also prevents overeating.
More is not always better – focus on quality of food, rather than quantity. When you buy food of better quality, you will also tend to waste less. It is much easier to waste cheap junk food than more expensive organic food.
The food should not sweat on the dinner table for many hours – no need to put all the food on the dinner table at once. Serve gradually to keep the food fresh.
Do not mix things when saving your leftovers – many dishes are better if not mixed up, so they can be stored better. Store vegetables and meats separately for optimal reuse.
Save your food – most of your surplus food and the leftovers can be frozen. Leftovers of many dishes can be frozen. Bread can be sliced up and frozen. Even cream, herbs, vegetables, fruits, hard cheese can be frozen as well. But remember to keep track of your frozen leftovers, and remember to use them. Also, freeze in smaller portions for better convenience and optimal reuse.
Have a great number of food storage containers to store your leftovers. A good advice is also to have a roll of fridge and freezer bags located directly in your refrigerator. This will automatically remind you to use them and save your food.
Don’t eat moldy food – if there is mold on one side of the bread, the entire bread has to go. Yet, some moldy foods can be eaten while cutting off the mold, such as hard cheese or carrots.
Keep a Food Waste Diary during holidays like Christmas/Easter/Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Eid/etc. to track how much food you throw out and why. That way you will learn to do better and better next time the holidays are approaching.
Share your surplus food with your neighbor if you have cooked too much food. After a big dinner, give homemade doggy bags to your guests. If you have fruit trees in your garden, but no time to pick the fruits, use social media to engage your friends to come and help you to pick the fruits. Bonus: You will get happier friends and neighbors.
Regrow your food – you can regrow celery, garlic, spring onions, cabbage, salad, herbs, fennel, coriander, carrots, leeks and much more – right in your own home. Join the regrow trend and grow your own free food.
What can you do while on the go, in a café, restaurant or in the canteen:
If you book a table at a restaurant, tell them what you intend to eat. This will improve the restaurant’s purchasing accuracy and this significantly reduces food waste. Ask your favorite restaurant booking app to make this a permanent feature of your next restaurant booking. Imagine being a vegetarian and not being able to tell the restaurant not to buy meat for you.
Buffet is a food waste trap – order portion servings (a la carte) instead of a buffet.
Take all you can eat, but eat all you take – if buffet is the only option, it’s a good idea to start with small tastings. The first time you go to the buffet, remember to take small samples on your plate, so the next time you go to the buffet, you know which dishes you prefer to eat.
Use small plates at the buffet and remember to put a bit less on your plate. You are welcome to visit the buffet several times. A plate of smaller size also prevents you from the danger of over-eating.
Ask the waiter about the size of the portion before you get portion servings (a la carte). If you are unsure whether or not you can eat the whole plate, consult with the waiter about the size of the portion serving.
Order two starters instead of a starter and a main course if you are not sure about your appetite. If you are still hungry, you can always order some more.
Ask for a doggy bag if you are unable to finish your food. You have paid for your food, it is your right to take it home – and to reduce food waste.
What can you do to rescue the food:
Become a Food Hero and help donating the good surplus food to food insecure people. Encourage your local supermarket, bakery, food producer, farmer and such to donate their good surplus food to charities.
It starts with you
If you try to follow these simples life hacks, you’ll start saving the food - and end up saving the world.
Stopping your food waste will give you more spare time, improve your personal economy and at the same time make the world a greener place, value the efforts of everyone, who has contributed their time and passion to produce your delicious food.
At the same time you will help feeding more people in the world with our current resources while helping the battle against deforestation, water usage, CO2 emissions - and the list goes on.
We are all food wasters, we are all part of the problem. And fortunately, we are all part of the solution.