Crispy shrimps drenched in sweet sauce, juicy steaks with a side of inviting mashed potatoes, and slices of home-made cake with mouth-watering chocolate frosting. Piles and piles and piles of food–
–all dumped in the trash.
Wasting food is bad. We all know it; we’ve been told this since we were just toddlers. But most of us haven’t grasped the entire picture of how food waste affects our society and our planet, as well as what causes it and what we can do to prevent it.
How food wastage affects us
There are multiple negative effects of the excessive purchases of food that a large number of people do not know about.
Firstly, food wastage contributes to climate change. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), if food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, falling just behind the United States and China. This is due to the fact that, as something edible decomposes, it releases methane into the atmosphere. Considering the large consequences of climate change and global warming, cutting down on nourishment misuse can aid us immensely.
AISB has recently joined the eco-school program which is, essentially, a project educational facilities around the world partake in. The goal is for students to take on leadership responsibilities and start their own initiative to protect and improve our ecosystem.
The coordinator of this group, Marion Siekierski, cited a survey that is a part of the eco-school project initiated by first graders, stating that, “…For one week they collected all the food waste of their four classes [during lunch] … The food waste was 25 kilos.”
Although this may not seem like a lot of food, consider the fact that this is from a single grade level. Therefore, the overall impact by the school over the course of a week, a month, and even a year is immensely worrying. As global citizens, we have the responsibility to ensure that we protect our ecosystem for the well-being of others in the near-future.
Secondly, being mindful of food wastage can feed the less-fortunate. Although Romania has one of the lowest food waste rates in Europe, the small country throws away approximately 5 million tons of potential nourishment on a yearly basis. The majority of this is lost during production, transport, and sales. However, a large portion is thrown out by consumers. This is distinctly troublesome due to the fact that 13.9% of Romania’s population lives in absolute poverty, scrambling to find something to eat. What we do regarding our food could potentially improve the life of another person dramatically.
“At AISB, first we should try to reduce food waste. Then see if the food could be reused: are there pig farms or are there dog shelters that may actually be happy to have that food?” asks Siekierski. “We can also look into composting because we will have a bigger greenhouse next year.”
The options Siekierski highlights are currently being explored by AISB, and can possibly make us a school that is even more environmentally-aware.
Finally, reducing food wastage can lift financial burdens. Statistics show that the average family of four in the United States, on a yearly basis, spends $1500 on edibles that they will never eat. Being more mindful of the edibles we buy can improve the lives of many citizens and could lightly ease economic issues for the average person.
How can we waste less food?
Although being more mindful of the food we buy can be challenging, surprisingly, the act requires only subtle changes to one’s lifestyle.
As individuals, the following options to significantly decrease food misuse are interesting to explore:
- Being aware of food container sizes. Over the past few decades, the sizes of trays, plates, fridges, shopping bags and other food-containing items has increased dramatically. Psychologically, this has been proven to cause us to buy more (and often unnecessary) foods as we subconsciously attempt to fill up the container completely. In fact, if plates were to decrease by 9%, wastage would be cut by an astounding 25%. Buying smaller containers can subconsciously allow us to buy less food. AISB has been very mindful of this in recent years, allowing both tiny and large trays and reasonable portion sizes.
- Donating food. There are multiple dog shelters that would be happy to receive meat. Simply search “animal shelters near me” (see article on Understanding Romania’s Stray Animal Problem). Another possibility is donating to the poor either through contacting a food bank or, in the near-future (due to the growing influence of social-media) donating it to companies similar to Copia. Copia is a company in which you can pre-schedule food pickups via phone and the would-be waste will be donated to nonprofits. Although this app currently only functions in the United States, Komal Ahmad, the founder, stated, “…Our plan is to expand beyond the United States one day… we are currently focusing our efforts on expanding city-by-city here.”
Furthermore, as a school, the following initiatives to decrease food waste may be worth considering:
- Food-recycling bins in our cafeteria.
Daniel Obretin, AISB’s Cafeteria Manager, says, “The food goes to the garbage and they [the garbage company] come and take it… I don’t know what they do with the food. I am not allowed to donate…”
Nevertheless, Obretin encourages students to create this project and take initiative. However, they would be wholly responsible for it. As of right now, there is already a system in place for 3rd-5th graders!
- Creating a student-led project. Siekierski, the manager of the eco-school project, is strongly encouraging students to take initiative to protect the ecosystem. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reducing food wastage can essentially solve a massive amount of problems we, as a society, struggle to overcome. So next time you find yourself piling your tray up with just one more item, remember this.
For more information, check out this video: