How did you get on with yesterday’s challenge? Did you find an interesting article that helped explain how, by reducing waste, we can tackle climate change?
It can all feel a bit overwhelming, so you might be thinking “where do I start?!”
Well, the easiest place is actually your kitchen. We all eat every day so small changes in your kitchen soon accumulate to have a big impact. The best areas to start with are in your food waste, your shopping habits and how you dispose of the food waste that you do make.
UK households produce 7.1 million tonnes of food waste per year.
It takes a landmass bigger than China, and 25% of the world’s fresh drinking water to grow all the food that is never eaten globally. When the food waste ends up in landfill, it breaks down to produce methane, a very dangerous greenhouse gas. In fact, if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases.
TODAY’S SPECIAL OFFER!
Each day of Zero Waste Week, we’re reducing the price of an item that will help you waste less. The offer runs from midnight to midnight BST.
Today, to help you reduce food waste, Anna has a special offer on the kindle edition of “Leftover Pie: 101 ways to reduce your food waste”. With recipes and ideas from chefs, bloggers and campaigners, you won’t want to miss this fantastic offer. Did you know you can make a delicious snack from banana skins?
Get your book here for 99p. Remember, the offer ends midnight BST.
What can you do?
Luckily, creating less food waste is not complicated! First off, only buy what you need. It sounds simple but this means always going through your fridge before you go food shopping, thinking about how many meals you’ll be eating at home for the week and how many people you have to cook for. Then, make a list and stick to it! The average UK household throws away 22% of their weekly food shop which adds up to £700 per year! So stop wasting food, help combat climate change and save some serious pennies.
Secondly, celebrate leftovers. Make a big curry out of leftover vegetables, freeze extra slices of bread to make breadcrumbs or add leftover rice to a stir-fry the next day. There are some pretty cool recipes that you can make that produce virtually no waste at all. For example, why not try your hand at a ‘Whole Orange Tray Bake’ or a Banana Skin Curry so you are even using the peel! Leftovers also make the best and easiest lunch the next day, cooking once and eating twice sounds good to me!
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In order to tackle climate change in your kitchen, thinking about your shopping habits is also crucial. This means taking an interest in where your produce comes from, how it got to your supermarket shelf and what packaging it comes in. Our way of shopping has become an increasingly wasteful process.
Fuelled by the modern-day expectation that we can have whatever we want, whenever we want, supermarkets stock produce all year round despite it being out of season. To do this, they ship fruit and vegetables from all over the world which produces unnecessary carbon footprint and contributes to global warming.
Plastic also features in this process. Supermarkets seem to have significantly increased the plastic they wrap fruit and vegetables in, which produces huge amounts of waste. By choosing locally grown produce that comes loose (not wrapped in plastic) you can cut down on your waste significantly and start shopping zero-waste style.
What can you do:
The simplest step in cutting down on waste is always take reusable bags to avoid plastic ones that cost you extra and are almost guaranteed to end up in landfill. Also choose fruit and veg that comes loose rather than individually wrapped. You can even take your own small bags to separate them if you prefer. For non-perishable goods, opt for things that you can easily recycle. Or take things a step further and find yourself a zero-waste style supermarket where you take your own containers and stock up with dry goods such as dried fruit, nuts, grains and pulses from refill tubs which saves you money and leaves you with no plastic to deal with! Some people call these “bulk buy” shops, but you don’t need to buy loads. Just buy what you need to get you through to the next time you’ll be able to shop. That way nothing gets wasted, going stale in the back of your cupboards.
The next thing is to get savvy about where your produce is coming from. Try and prioritise locally grown fruit and veg to cut down on carbon emissions. Then think about produce that’s been shipped rather than stuff that needs to be airfreighted. Also, fight the urge to choose the most ‘perfect’ looking produce, as misshapen but entirely good fruit and veg often ends up being thrown away.
HANDLING WASTE IN THE KITCHEN:
Now nobody is perfect, and some waste is inevitable in the kitchen. So, after you have cut out the extra food packaging and learnt to love your leftovers, what can you do with any unavoidable food scraps or packets?
Firstly, learn how to recycle properly. Look for the recycling labels on any packets before you buy and choose the packaging from materials that you know you can recycle easily. Try to support companies that use packaging made from at least partly recycled materials. Mixed materials often make packaging harder to recycle, so simple packaging is generally best. Be aware that often labels on the packaging are misleading. Just because it says it can’t be recycled, doesn’t mean to say it can’t be recycled in your area, so try to learn more about what your area can and can’t recycle. Facebook groups and local sustainability groups are useful sources of information for this and most councils have comprehensive guides on their websites for you to find out what to recycle where.
It does help to rinse out your tins, bottles and jars. Because we are always going to need more produce, we will need more tins, bottles, jars, cardboard. So the best thing for produce you can’t get unpackaged is to make sure that every bit of packaging gets to the recycling.
For cardboard packaging that is contaminated with a lot of food, the best place for it is the compost heap, but only discard the bits of cardboard that are messy with food. For example, you can probably recycle 85% of a pizza box if you tear off the messy bits and recycle the the rest. The world’s packaging factories want to have every fibre back as each of those fibres that make up your cardboard box can be reused between 10 and 20 times.
For your food waste, and those messy bits of card try to avoid the general waste bin. General waste that is contaminated with food is around 3 times more costly to deal with than general waste that doesn’t contain food. If your council provides you with a food waste collection service it is still ok to choose to compost at home, but do use your food waste bins for anything you don’t like to add to your compost heap (such as meat and fish bones or cooked food). Even if the only food waste you have is tea bags it is still worth using your food waste collection rather than putting them in your bin – because otherwise you are increasing the cost of your general waste.
If you have no separate food waste collection or are new to recycling, you’ll find there are many ways to compost, regardless of how much space and time you have. This means that food waste will hopefully avoid landfill and you can even wind up with some compost to boost your house plants, garden lawn or flower patch. Here are 3 ways to compost cooked food safely.
Arm yourself with your reusable bags (and your shopping list) and head to your nearest farmer’s market or supermarket. See if you can buy all your fruit and vegetables without any excess packaging. Get creative with it, and if there are any leftovers pack them in a reusable container for lunch tomorrow!
Businesses, we have plenty of ideas in our Zero Waste Week pack to help you engage staff. Plus you’ll know what’s coming up for the rest of the week, so you can get ahead of the game. Get your pack here.
Further Reading resources:
For lots more ways to reduce your food waste, more information about how to deal with your unavoidable food waste and 101 tasty recipes to help you make the most of the food you buy, take a look at Anna Pitt’s book, Leftover Pie: 101 ways to reduce your food waste.
A list of zero-waste shops all around the UK so you can find your nearest one.