Stop wasting food!

June 9, 2008

In the 70’s when I was a kid, I used to think my grandmothers were crazy. After raising large families during the Great Depression, these women were living embodiments of the ‘waste not, want not’ axiom. From washing out milk bags to use as wrappers for leftovers to saving every bone and bit of meat to make soup broth, they were experts at avoiding waste of all kinds. We loved to eat the homemade food they created but we also made fun of their frugal habits.

Now 30 years later, the planet finds itself in a shameful place that we may have been able to avoid if we had listened to these wise women. While riots and strife are common in countries where food is scarce, Westerners are wasting more food (and money as a result of their waste) than ever before.

It’s easy to say ‘not me’ when you read articles like this one in the New York Times. But we have to face the truth when stats from our own hometown hit the press. This article in the Toronto Star asserts that:

• Toronto households waste 210 million kilograms of food each year.
• One-quarter to one-third of the food we waste is unopened or whole or untouched.
• Single-family households each produce about 275 kilograms of food waste each year.
• Food waste is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, which is more dangerous to the environment and traps more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
• 38 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions come from landfills.

Reading these facts encouraged me to examine my own food waste habits. The results were sobering. I have to admit that I often buy more produce than I need and end up with slimy herbs and blackened lettuce to throw out at the end of the week. Likewise, I occasionally buy meat that I intend to cook but don’t use because our dinner plans change or we choose to eat something different. I also routinely throw out half of each loaf of sliced bread I buy for making school lunches. When you only have one child to make a lunch for, it’s difficult to use a loaf before it stales.

Although I made fun of freegans on this blog only a few weeks ago, I do give them credit for trying to be part of the solution. I just hope that we can find ways to avoid the problems outlined in the articles above so that such extreme solutions don’t have to be explored.

To that end I’m going to try to be a better earthling by separating my loaves of sliced bread and freezing what won’t be used within a day or two. By doing this I should be able to divide my sliced bread expenditures by at least half, saving about $75 a year and reducing the amount I put in the green bin by approximately 18 pounds (8 kg) a year.

I’ve sent the $75 I plan to save to the World Food Programme’s Silent Tsunami Fund which hopes to ‘reach the millions of people who, six months ago, were not even considered ‘hungry’ but, today, are fast becoming the new face of hunger.’

What do you waste that could be saved or diverted to another use?