Daniela ter Borg
Generally Europeans think they can contribute to solving environmental problems. One of these problems is food waste. In the Netherlands 86 per cent of Dutch citizens think that they are personally responsible to reduce their food waste. Here is how!
Today we are living in a world where in countries like the Netherlands consumers spend a marginal amount of money a month on food. Supermarkets have everything that we need at every time of the day. Our lifestyle gets more hectic; we do not have time to think much about our food. This leads to people buying more prepared meals and family traditions and old recipes vanishing. The outcome in the Netherlands is that people loose their relation to food, how it is produced and how it is prepared. This leads to a higher amount of edible food that is thrown away.
There are generally losses along the production line of food that cannot be avoided, but most food is wasted at the consumer level despite being edible. In the Netherlands about 50% of food waste happens at the household level of which at least 50% could be avoided. On average every Dutch citizen wastes 50 kg edible food each year.
The current food trends lead to an overproduction of food in industrialised countries like the Netherlands. To account for this a big amount of land is used for agriculture in the country. However, this is not enough to produce all the food consumed. Therefore, millions of hectares of land in other countries are used to produce products for industrialised countries like the Netherlands. This development leads to food shortages in industrialising countries, since the space that would be needed to grow food for their own citizens is used for growing food for industrialised countries instead.
The increase of need for land for agriculture leads to the destruction of bio habitats not only in the Netherlands but also abroad. To get more farmable land forests are cut down, the water is getting more and more polluted through the increasing use of fertilizers and animal species die out because they cannot survive in the new environment.
Every kind of food needs to be produced. Along this production line every food produces CO2 and other Greenhouse Gases (GHGs). This production of GHGs is increased by the overproduction of food products, which are not consumed in the end. The emission of CO2 does not only in the long term, but also right now lead to more extreme weather conditions all over the world. In Europe alone about 89 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, which lead to 170 million tonnes of CO2 and equivalents per year.
Last of all, people spend more money on food than they actually need, because they throw a big amount away. In the Netherlands this means that every person can save up to 150 Euros per year by reducing the amount of food they throw away.
Food waste accounts for a large amount of the Netherland’s GHG emissions and therefore presents a crucial point for reduction that every person can contribute to by making changes. Strategies to avoid food waste are planning your meals, making a shopping list and sticking to it. Only buying food on sale when you know it will be eaten for sure. Putting leftovers in the fridge/freezer or getting creative and making a different meal out of leftovers. It is important to check how to store different foods the right way and what expiration labels really mean. Most important, remember that fruits and vegetables are natural products; they might not look perfect or the same but they taste good nevertheless. Reducing your food waste does not only have benefits for our climate and industrialising countries but it also helps you to save money.