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Rescuing vegetables and preventing food waste at home (e.g. by making leftover dinners) requires some creativity. It happens sometimes that I pick up discounted vegetables from a supermarket or market, but then don’t really know what to do with them. Looking for a recipe around these vegetables doesn’t always work, because it usually requires getting more ingredients than the ones you already have. 

But there is a way around it. Each world cuisine gets its unique flavors from the mix of spices and herbs. So when I feel like making a dish from a certain part of the world, I use the vegetables that are available in the Netherlands (no looking for exotic ingredients) and spice them up in a certain way. Remember that once you start practising these mixes it will become your second nature. And no recipes needed!

Italian

Photo by Jakub Kapusnak on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the basis of olive oil and garlic. 

Best vegetables: Almost any vegetable will do for an Italian-style dish, for example tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, carrots, onions. 

Spices and Herbs: Use a mix of dry herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, and thyme

Grains: Serve your Italian-style dish with pasta or short-grain rice like Aroborio

Top up: finish your dishes with fresh basil, cheese, and/or olives.


French

Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the basis of olive oil or butter, garlic, and onions. If you’re making stew, use red wine and vegetable bouillon as liquids.. 

Best vegetables: celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms, green beans, asparagus, potatoes, eggplants, zucchini.

Spices and Herbs: Use fresh thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and ground nutmeg. 

Grains: Fresh bread.

Top up: Fresh thyme, rosemary, or parsley.


Greek

Photo by Dmitry Dreyer on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the base of olive oil, garlic, and onions. 

Best vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, olives, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, eggplants, cucumbers, potatoes, 

Spices and Herbs: Dried oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, thyme, and paprika powder

Grains: Pita bread, rice, or orzo

Top up: Finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon juice, crumbled feta cheese, or serve with tzatziki sauce. 


Japanese

Photo by Cody Chan on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the base of sesame oil, ginger, and garlic. 

Best vegetables: Bok choy, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cucumber, radish, daikon, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, spring onion.

Spices and Herbs: Get the unique Japanese flavour by adding a few teaspoons of soy sauce, sake, and miso paste into your dish. You can also use them to prepare a salad dressing. Optionally, try adding some honey or sugar to sweeten the dish

Grains: Short-grain rice (e.g. sushi rice), rice noodles, ramen or udon noodles.

Top up: Finish your dish with toasted sesame seeds, nori or other seaweed. 


Indian 

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Base: Cook the stews on ghee or coconut oil with ginger and garlic.

Best vegetables: Potatoes, spinach, legumes (lentils/split peas), broccoli, cauliflower, eggplants, leafy greens.

Spices and Herbs: Chili pepper, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, mustard seeds. You can also use read-made curry paste (red, yellow, or green). To get the stew consistency, use canned tomatoes and/or coconut milk (add vegetable bouillon if needed).

Grains: Long grain rice (e.g. basmati) or Chapati bread.


Chinese

Photo by Ryan Kwok on Unsplash

Base: Cook on the base of peanut or sesame oil with garlic

Best vegetables: Bamboo, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, paprika, onion, cabbage, bok choy, leafy greens

Spices and Herbs: Fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, star anise. Use soy sauce, sesame oil and/or oyster sauce for dressings or sauces. 

Grains: Egg noodles or rice


Mexican

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Base: Cook on vegetable oil or lard with chili pepper and garlic

Best vegetables: Tomato, black beans, avocados, potatoes, corn, onions, paprika.

Spices and Herbs: chili powder, cayenne pepper, coriander seeds, cumin, cinnamon 

Grains: Corn tortillas, wheat burritos, rice

Top up: Finish you dishes with a squeeze of lime juice and fresh  coriander leaves.


Middle Eastern

Photo by Kyle Brinker on Unsplash

Base: Cook on olive oil with garlic and onion.

Best Vegetables: Eggplants, tomatoes, onions, chickpeas.

Spices and Herbs: Cumin, sesame seeds, sumak, thyme, dried marjoram, 

Grains: Couscous, bulgur, rice, or flat bread.

Top up: Finish your dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and fresh parsley or mint leaves. You can also serve your dish with hummus or grilled halloumi cheese. 


Thai 

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Base: Use red, green, or yellow curry paste as a base for cooking. Add coconut milk for stews. 

Best Vegetables: Paprika, eggplant, carrot, broccoli, leafy greens, green peas, spring onion.

Spices and Herbs: Ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, chili pepper (or use pre-made curry paste)

Grains: Jasmine rice or rice noodles

Top up: Finish your dish with few leaves of (Thai) basil or coriander, cashew nuts or peanuts, a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

Next time you’re about to throw away limp vegetables from your fridge, think again! It’s possible that the veggies are simply dehydrated (usually the fridge makes them lose water faster). If they’re not mouldy, you can most probably revive them with water. 

It’s also a great way to save money while  grocery shopping. You can pick up rescued vegetables on donation from Tuesday Food Cycle Markets organised by Taste Before you Waste or benefit from discounted food at the supermarkets. 

Ekoplaza, for example, has daily discounts (up to 50%) for vegetables that are not as firm anymore. Oftentimes you can find wilted spinach or collard greens that revives beautifully after a SPA treatment. 

Below are two simple ways you can treat your vegetables.

Ice Bath 

For any leafy greens from spinach to collard greens and lettuce, the best method is an ice bath. 

Fill a large bowl with cold water, add a handful of ice cubes and submerge your (washed) leafy greens. Place the bowl in the fridge to keep it cold. Already after 20 min you’ll see the leaves “drink up” the water and become fresh and crispy! 

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Some bloggers advice to only do the ice bath for 20 min, but I actually like to keep my lettuce in the ice bath in the fridge for a few days. It doesn’t spoil and keeps fresh!

An ice bath also works for green beans and potatoes. Just peel the potatoes before submerging into an ice bath. 

Glass of Water 

This method works for celery, carrots, broccoli, and asparagus. Just trim the bottoms of the vegetables and place them upright in a tall glass of water until crisp (usually around 30 min). 

This method works great with herbs, too. Just change the water often to prevent the stalks from going mouldy. 

What vegetables can’t be rehydrated?

The re-hydration methods (both an ice bath and a glass of water) won’t work for vegetables that rot quickly (e.g. zucchini, squash, pumpkin and tomatoes). So make sure you use them quickly, e.g. by making a tomato soup or pasta sauce, zucchini fritters or spiralled zucchini “noodles” (so called zoodles), pumpkin soup, or simply roast the vegetables to serve them on top of rice, grains, pasta, or lettuce. 

And most of all, try to avoid food going bad in the first place by knowing how to store them in your fridge, outside of it, and what vegetables and fruit to keep apart to prevent rapid ripening.

Whether you want to lower your food waste, or are looking to make some more environmentally-friendly diet choices, food activism starts in your shopping basket.

Statistics show that nearly a third of the groceries we buy end up in a landfill, with as much as five million kilos of food being thrown away annually in the Netherlands only. Even the food that does make it to our plates can have a costly effect on the environment, depending on the means of its production – some of it, research suggests, can account for up to twice as much CO2 emissions as car use.

The amount – and type of food you buy is therefore crucial for the development of a food market that is both less wasteful and more ecologically viable. Conscious and well thought-out grocery purchases can ensure that we aren’t generating an excess of food in our pantries, whilst also signalling a shift in marketing demand to food producers and supermarkets alike.

The key things to look out for when grocery shopping in a more ecologically-friendly way are the objective necessity you have of a certain food, the resources that went into producing it, and the likelihood that this item would otherwise end up wasted.

Check your fridge first
Before making a trip to the supermarket, inspect your fridge and see what products you already have available. Pay special attention to items that are about to expire soon, and try to come up with creative ways to use them. This initial step helps you avoid making redundant purchases, and makes sure you aren’t wasting any of the food you already have at home.

Make a list of what you really need and plan your meals ahead
Now that you know what items you need to use up, create a meal plan for the week, and base your shopping list around it. Planning ahead of time makes sure you are being efficient with both your shopping and your meal preparation, and helps you avoid a situation where you have nothing to eat, or (on the contrary) have purchased way too much food.

Check alternative food sources
Before hitting the shops, try to source your groceries in an alternative (and more environmentally-friendly) way – a good place to start might be food rescue markets. Using rescued produce is always preferable over buying products at the grocery store – that way, instead of risking the creation of additional food loss, you are decreasing food waste by using products that have already been discarded by the retailer (but that are still perfectly edible!). Additionally, you are usually able to get such food for free or by paying only a fraction of its original price (the TBYW Tuesday Food Markets offer you to make an optional donation in exchange for your purchases).

Resist marketing temptations
Supermarkets have a way of making us buy stuff we don’t really need – whether it’s “buy-one-get-one-free” deals or delicious chocolate in shiny wrapping, we often walk out of the store with far more food than we initially intended to get. Making unnecessary purchases like those increases our chance of wasting food, and supports the flourishing of excessive consumerism. Once you have your shopping list of necessary items, try to stick to it, and resist flashy advertising. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to an extra pack of cookies every now and again – just make sure it’s you who’s making the decision, not the supermarket marketing team.

© Taste Before You Waste

Shop local, shop seasonal
All food is not created equal when it comes to the amount of environmental resource that goes into its making. Fruits and vegetables that are out of season often have to be imported from the southern hemisphere, and thus require large amounts of fossil fuel to facilitate their transportation. Additionally, since it has to travel such a long distance, much of this imported produce goes bad before it’s even reached the supermarket shelves, therefore resulting in vast quantities of food loss. Fruits and vegetables that do not traditionally grow in a European climate (think mangos and avocados) have a similarly taxing effect on the environment. Of course, you don’t have to give up such items entirely, but try to prioritise local and seasonal produce instead – buy strawberries in the springtime, when they are in season, and try swapping out your tub of guacamole for some hummus or salsa next time you need a dip.

Go for the odd ones out
A lot of fresh produce gets left behind on supermarket shelves solely for its lack of aesthetic appeal – items like bruised apples and oddly-shaped potatoes are less likely to get bought, even though they share the same flavour and nutritional value as their prettier counterparts. Consequently, such fruits and vegetables are likely to be discarded by the retailer much before they have gone bad, simply because there’s no market for them. Buying this kind of “imperfect” produce makes sure that it doesn’t get wasted, and helps undermine the current unrealistic market ideal of perfectly-looking food.

Buy products that are close to their expiration date
If you know you’re going to use up an item relatively quickly, or are shopping for a ready-made meal, try going for products that are close to their sell-by date (most big supermarkets indicate them with a sticker) – this way, you are not only buying food that would otherwise be wasted, but will normally also get a discount on its price. Additionally, most products are good for at least a couple of days after their sell-by date (though this is highly dependent on the kind of food you’re buying – some items, like chocolate, can last for up to several months!), so you needn’t worry about consuming them straight away.

Making consistent, deliberate choices with the way we source our food gives us the power to create a fairer, more sustainable food market, and allows us to have a positive impact on the environment.

It also shows that food activism doesn’t always have to be about huge actions – sometimes, it can be about something as simple as the way we do our weekly groceries!

In speaking of food waste we often hear about the environmental consequences: waste of land use, energy, water, our natural surroundings, and so on. However, the real cost of food waste is not only paid for by nature, but also by people. This blog dives into the social impact of a malfunctioning food system, in which over 30% of the worldwide production of food is wasted (FAO, 2018) while at the same time one in nine people does not have access to sufficient nutritious food. What is the state of hunger worldwide, versus the state of food waste? Who are the ones most affected? What are the main consequences that they carry? In other words: how can the food system be balanced out?

By becoming more aware of the social consequences of a malfunctioning food system, including food waste, we can strengthen the view on our role within a global food network. It will show that the smallest action that aid the reduction of personal food waste does make a difference in changing the planet’s and people’s health. Accordingly, we look for ways to achieve social as well as environmental justice through the food-related choices we make daily.  

A closer look at the issue

Our food system has developed into a system stimulating continuous growth, in many cases at the expense of life on the planet and livelihoods of people. Some people are more affected by this than others, but ultimately it harms everyone. The current production of food is enough to feed the world population twice (WFP, 2018). At the same time, roughly one in nine people worldwide suffer from hunger (FAO, 2018). It is clear that a profound change in the food system is needed to nourish the 800 million people that suffer from undernourishment in a way that ensures the health of the planet.

The global population is expected to grow with 2.3 billion people by 2050, counting almost ten billion people in total. The food production should increase with 56% to feed all those people. Or: we can reduce our food waste and not have to increase in food production at all.

On the macro-level, plans are made to reach targets to reduce food waste and nudge consumers’ behaviour in the right direction such as streamlining expiration labels and eliminating the use of trays in cafeterias (see box) (Ranghanatan et al, 2018). A big share of the waste, however, still happens on the micro-level: within households. Figure 1 shows where food is wasted on the consumer level the most.

Figures are consumer waste per capita based on data from the 2007 FAO report ‘Global Food Losses and Food waste’. Globally, consumer food waste amounts to roughly 350 Mt which equates about 50 kgs per person or 10% of total food supply (Gustavsson et al (FAO), 2011

In the figure we see that the so-called high-income regions, defined by the World Bank, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have the highest share of wasted food at the consumption level. The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand produce a striking 110 kgs of food waste per person each year.

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2017
Note: Developed countries are not included in the regional estimates since the prevalence is below 5%.

So: how does that relate to undernourishment? Whilst the number of undernourished people was steadily falling from 2005 – 2014, it has started to increase again in 2014 and has since risen again to 821 million people (Hutt & Gray, 2015).  The following chart shows where undernourishment is prevailing, globally.

The chart shows that the largest part of undernourished people live in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia. So the regions where most food is wasted on the consumption level are the ones where hunger is least prevalent. This raises a moral question: how we can justify wasting the food that people in low income countries apparently are in such great need of?

Less food waste, more food security…?

To a large extent, the social impact of food waste relates to environmental consequences. The next figure gives an overview of those environmental costs.

Scialabba, 2014)

A growing global demand will put extra pressure on the agricultural sector. However, the need to produce more food can be offset dramatically by reducing the amount of food that is wasted. This also seems like an ethical thing to do, as societies carry most of the costs of the environmental impacts of food waste. First of all, simply said, human efforts to produce food that does not get a use, is wasted effort. Secondly, the pressure on countries to produce food is increasing as population grows. At the same time regions such as Sub Saharan Africa and the MENA-region also experience increased pressure on their agricultural productivity due to the effects of climate change. Soil is degrading, water resources are getting more scarce and more extreme weather conditions occur. If no serious system change takes place, the risk of a global food crisis is inevitable.

Rural women’s role in food security

The ones who are most affected by the increased pressure on the food system are rural women in low income countries. Women feed least and last in the countries that are faced with hunger, conflict and famine. Therefore, rural women are part of the so-called “left-behind category” (Nyirongo, 2018). Famine and hunger are not related to the fact that there is not enough food for people; it relates back to the access that people have to the food that is available, which is a political issue. Regarding food access, women are last in line. There are three reasons why:

  1. Deep-rooted gender norms. In many countries, the case is that women only eat after the men and kids have had food. Especially when crisis hits, women are the first to sacrifice their food to make sure the family has enough. Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men do and earn 23% less for paid work (ILO, 2016).
  2. Man-made conflict. Man-made conflict is the number one driver of food insecurity and women are hit hardest by that. As men fight in conflicts, women become the head of the household, yet having little to offer to their families due to a lack of resources. Additionally, women are more subject to abuse, violence and abduction from their homes in times of conflict.
  3. Lack of women’s rights. In many countries, women have less power and less rights compared to men. Even though women make up for more than half the world’s agricultural workers, they do not own any of the financial means, land or tools to farm (WFP, 2018).

Challenges for the role of rural women for development, food production and poverty eradication are further complicated by a changing climate, food price inflation and economic crisis. Women empowerment is essential, not only for the well-being of communities, families and individuals, but also for overall economic productivity. Women are key agents in development as their productivity level is higher than men’s. A study of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that if women had equal access to resources as men (tools, land, credit etc) agricultural output would rise up to four percent. This might not seem like a lot, but globally, as a high share of low-income countries are active in the primary (agricultural) sector, this definitely adds up. Additionally, if women are given the opportunity to control household income they are more likely to spend it on food, health, clothing and education than men are.

Believe.earth

Improvements in food security can be made by, for instance, improving rural women’s access to agricultural resources and credits and enhancing decision making and ownership within households, communities and at government-level. Gender equality is essential in achieving food and nutrition security and contribute to social and economic growth, both now and in the future.

Conclusion

Globally, a clear pattern is visible: in high-income countries most food is wasted consumption stage of the food supply chain. Low-income countries hardly waste food at that level. These countries that largely rely on their primary sector, of which agriculture holds the largest share, suffer the most from the consequences of food waste because it puts pressure on their capacities. At the same time, they encounter the greatest problems in the agricultural sector such as heat and drought, water scarcity and more extreme weather conditions due to climate change.

The prevailing food crisis is a direct consequence of food loss and food waste practices, of which rural women in particular are affected the most. To solve these issues in the food chain it is important to empower rural women, as not only does it reduce inequality, it also increases agricultural productivity, and investment in the community that women take part in.

But: we shouldn’t forget the responsibility that the consumer has on the other end of the food value chain. System changes can come from here, too. The question isn’t only: how can we increase agricultural productivity to meet the nutritional needs of ten billion people in 2050? But: How can we make better use here and now, of the food that already exists? This is where we should strive for making healthier choices in consumption, both for the people as the planet. Cutting down on meat consumption would be a major step ahead, as this relieves a lot of pressure off the planet’s resources and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. Combating food waste is another major one. With that we can influence the lives of those most affected by the malfunctioning food system on the other end. Now, why should we care? Because, as Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

References:

  • Besley, T. Persson, T (2008) Wars and State Capacity. Journal of the European Economic Association DOI: 10.1162/JEEA.2008.6.2-3.522
  • FAO (2010) How to Feed the World in 2050
  • FAO (2011) The state of Food and Agriculture. Women in agriculture, closing the gender gap for development.
  • FAO (2018) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Building Climate Resilience for  Food security and Nutrition. http://www.fao.org/3/I9553EN/i9553en.pdf
  • Hutt, R., Gray, A. (2015) What is Hunger? World Economic Forum. Derived from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/what-is-hunger/ at 21/05/2019
  • Kapur, D. (2011) 31 – Agriculture, food and nutrition security. Public Health Nutrition in Developing Countries, Pages 844-878.
  • Kim, K. & Morawski, S. (2012) Quantifying the Impact of Going Trayless in a University Dining Hall. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Volume 7, Issue 4, Pages 482-486.  
  • Lipinski, B. (2013) By the Numbers: Reducing Food Loss and Waste. World Resources Institute. Derived from

https://www.wri.org/blog/2013/06/numbers-reducing-food-loss-and-waste at 22/05/2019

Summer’s here! Bring out the sun beds, dig out that bathing suit, lather yourself in sun screen and just lie under the sun forgetting all about deadlines and alarm clocks. Well… not exactly, but another beautiful season is upon us and with it come different patterns and habits. As I was daydreaming of all the things that I will be able to do in summer like to go out more, hang out on the beach, and reclaim the wonderful afternoon siesta, I started to think of good habits to pack for this summer. I’m going to share a few of them with you here.

At home

Shed those extra pounds

With a new season it’s always great to look into your closet and see which pieces of clothing you haven’t worn. A simple trick is to put the hanger facing outwards (opposite to what you’d normally do) when hanging clothes on the rail and if after the season they are still turned outwards, then you don’t really use is.

Keep it cool

Higher temperatures mean food can spoil quicker. It is therefore crucial to wash and store all food well. Remember to look at our blog on how to store food properly. If you get distracted and find your lovely fruits covered in dark spots, don’t worry about it. Just cut out the good fleshy bits add some lemon juice and voila you have a nice refreshing smoothie OR simply gather those lonesome fruit, slice them razor thin, add some red wine, brandy, brown sugar and lots of ice for a simple summer sangria


© MollieKate

Chop – Drizzle – Eat

Let’s face it, it’s warm, we’re lazy so we might not feel like making a proper meal. Summer is perfect to enjoy a nice crunchy salad with all kinds of vegetables, beans, herbs, grains, nuts, and lentils. Scrape your fridge or cupboards, chop and mix everything and then drizzle with a lovely dressing. You can opt for one of my personal favorites: Tahini dressing, or Fresh mint dressing. Yum!

Out and about

Stay safe

The sun’s warmth is lovely but not its UVA rays. It’s important to protect our skin with face and body sunscreen as well as after-sun. Unfortunately, commercial sunscreens have a huge deteriorating impact on marine life and are linked with the destruction of the coral reef (Danovaro, R. et al, 2008). Fortunately, there are eco and even zero waste options which you can make yourself.

Tidy up!

Clear blue waters, soft green grass or beautiful clear sands. These splendid places offer us moments of peace and a place to have fun with our friends, so why not give something back? While you’re at the beach or park you can  spend 5 minutes cleaning up and even join the social media trend #5minutecleanup. It’s quick and very effective, and just think if all of us got into this habit!


© Giovanni_Tafa

Guilt free Ice cream

It doesn’t matter if it’s  vanilla or a triple chocolate chip cookie madness, ice cream is EVERYTHING in summer. However, this icy creamy goodness comes packaged in plastic that we unwrap and throw out before devouring it. We can easily avoid this by buying ice cream cones so everything is consumed and no more plastic. Yes please!

Going away

Pack it

It’s not just your luggage that needs to be packed, so does your food. Before heading out make sure to freeze what can be frozen i.e. dairy products, some vegetables, all fruits and more. Soft herbs like basil, mint and parsley don’t hold up well frozen, so chop and mix them with olive oil and freeze in an ice cube tray.  Another option is to see what food items can still be eaten and give them away to a friend or neighbour who will be more than happy to receive them!

Be prepared!

– The city;

A mason jar and a tea towel go a long way. These two items can save you a lot of unnecessary waste. The mason jar is perfect to keep beverages, ice cream scoops, and small snacks, while the tea towel is great to hold bread, croissants, fruits, or lay out for a mini picnic. These take minimal space and can be carried around the city in your favorite tote bag ♡

– Camping;

This requires a bit more preparation. The basic items would be a good water jug which keeps your drinks chilled or hot, as needed. Then reusable cutlery and a compostable plate (made from bamboo or cornstarch; I know incredible!). Finally, your toiletry kit; bamboo toothbrush & holder, toothpaste tablets, deodorant, bug spray, moisturizer, and sunscreen which can all be DIYed.


© GoingZeroWasteBlog

© GoingZeroWasteBlog

Summer is all about having fun, and that’s what our journey to reduce food waste should be about. It’s all about discovering alternatives and being creative with what you have. When I say you it is not just one individual but ALL of you who are reflecting on your personal habits but also the collective potential to make a positive change.

Who’s a self sufficient responsible zero waster? You are!

Sources

Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections ( Danovaro, R. et al, 2008)

Going zero waste

Cookie and Kate recipes

Around the Wei river, trees and shrubs dot the area and grass stretches over kilometres of land cut by dramatic canyons. This green stretch of land in central China covers the Shaanxi province and extends to inner Mongolia is known as the Loess Plateau (Ahlquist, n.d.). Here 20 million people have lived and grown their food like the Sichuan pepper, to sustain themselves for centuries. These highly fertile soils have been significant in China’s history and played a crucial part in the survival and wellbeing of its civilisation.

People living here are dependent on these rich soils. Farmers are very much attuned with the land with its properties and needs, agriculture here is planned. Terracing has provided a way to control soil erosion and the resultant loss of land. Land which is sloped into a series of successive planes provides a way to control sediment flow which then flowed into downstream (TheWorldBank, 2007).  Also, herders cannot leave their herds to wander freely around grasslands and graze wherever and as much as the animals would like. Other measures include sustainable water management, increased vegetation cover, and this was all reinforced with policy.

This is what land degradation looks like.

This however has not always been the case, actually it was quite different before 1994. Planned sustainable agriculture was an outcome of WWF’s project entitled the ‘Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation project’ (TheWorldBank, 2007). Its aim was to attain sustainable living among residents by revisiting agricultural practices in the area. Farming here was exhaustive, acres of trees were cleared to make space for agricultural land, crops were planted on steep sides of the valley, grasslands were exhausted by herds of goats, and most importantly people did not own the land but they could just farm it (Liu, 2005). These practices went on for centuries while people did not really think ahead, and so the land started to turn to sand and wild plants and animals disappeared.  People were left without a source of food or income causing poverty within the region.

Land degradation refers to the diminished value of land from disturbances, either caused by natural phenomenon or human activity. These changes or disturbances negatively impact the ability of land to function as part of the ecosystem and hinder its ecosystem services, i.e. the absorption, storing, and recycling of water, energy and nutrients (FAO, 2013). Such natural phenomenon as extreme weather, drought, or salinization from coastal surgance can cause for land to dry up and erode. However, the causes of land degradation are mainly anthropogenic and agriculture related. The increasing and combined pressures of our modern-day agriculture and livestock production include; overcultivation, overgrazing, forest conversion, deforestation, pollution and urbanization (FAO, 2014).

  • Globally the total amount of food wastage in 2007 occupied almost 1.4 billion hectares (this is significantly larger than the size of Canada), equal to about 28 % of the world’s agricultural land area.
  • While the major contributors to land occupation of food wastage are meat and milk, with 78%of the total surface.

The way we produce and consume food requires us to slash acres of trees, destroying natural habitats, displacing numerous species, and in so doing jeopardizing biodiversity. This conversion from natural vegetation to agricultural land tends to go beyond the soil’s natural ability to recover. The industrial agricultural method intensively grows a single crop within a region, this is known as Monoculture. This drastic shift depletes the nutrients from the soil which is normally used to the richness of biodiversity. Additionally, the improper use of fertilizers, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus contaminate and pollute the soils making it more acidic and less fertile.

When it comes to live stock, this requires huge amounts of land, as a place to keep the animals but also vast agricultural land to grow their feed crops i.e. alfalfa (FAO, 2013). Besides land occupation, livestock production is also responsible for over grazing, where pastures are exposed to constant intensive grazing over long periods of time.

It’s not just the way that we produce our food, it’s also the rate. The land’s resources are consumed much faster than they can replenish and this fails to ensure the long-term sustainability of land. Which can eventually lead to desertification, meaning that a piece of land dries out, losing its water sources and wildlife and becomes a desert. (Fertile Crescent)

All these negative implications of the present food supply chain, and faults in the industrial agriculture methods illustrate the repercussions which the natural environment is subject to. However, these repercussions extend to our communities and economies.

On the environment

Soil is also an excellent source of water, green water that is. This was already highlighted in a previous blog post on the implications of food waste on our water sources. Poor agricultural practices and poor land management also leads to the contamination of waterways and groundwater (FAO, 2013). This mostly happens because of the irrigation method that is used, the pesticides which are either discharged into freshwater creating deposits in river banks or leak into groundwater.

On our communities

The constant and increasing pressures on land to extract as much food as possible is actually backfiring. Nutrient less soil produces poor quality crops which negatively impacts our health. Loss of land means that there is less space to grow food, which is a huge issue for a growing population already dealing with food insecurity. It also means loss of livelihood for those who are dependent on this land, farmers risk their income or even their own meals and fail to provide for their families. Once soil is degraded it turns into sand and dust which is swept away by the wind, increasing particles in the air and creating greater respiratory problems for us all (FAO, 2013).   

When we then realise that one third of all the food produced for human consumption is then being wasted, this continues to make less and less sense.

Once we take a few steps into the journey food makes to get to us, we start to gather all the ‘invisible’ resources that are necessary. When talking about food waste, we can not only talk about the food that is wasted, though this is an excellent starting point. We have to look at where this food comes from, who is producing it and why these resources and long hours of labour than end up in landfills decomposing. However, very much like in the Loess Plateau there is potential. Here, land was allowed to regenerate resulting in vegetative cover increase by 17 up to 34%, crop production was more stable ensuring a secure food supply for the inhabitants (Liu, 2005).  By protecting their natural resources 2.5 million people were lifted out of poverty as employment opportunities increased and they could provide for themselves once again.0

Now, this may seem like a story of a distant place that has nothing to do with us but we know that our food is global, and so is our food waste. Borders and distances in kilometres mean nothing to nature and our eco system’s biodiversity. We’re all in this together (un)fortunately. In our local efforts to reuse food, reduce food waste, and recycle what’s left we are actually contributing to a much larger effort.

Source

Ahlquist, M. (n.d.).

FAO. (2013)

FAO. (2014).

Liu, J. D. (2005)

TheWorldBank. (2007)

Every single thing which you are holding, sitting on or nibbling is water. In the same way as plants and produce need water to grow, the computer you are typing on required liters of water during its manufacturing. The same goes for the clothes that you are wearing or the soaps and detergents that you use at home. We might not think of the water that is used in these products because we don’t see it bottled or coming out of our taps, but we are still consuming it. Our use of water resources directly impacts fresh water systems which is all the lakes and ponds, rivers, streams, springs, bogs, and wetlands

How much are we consuming?

Well, a lot actually given that from all the water on earth, only 3% is fresh water of which only 1% is readily available for our consumption (FAO, 2013). The Water footprint network (WFN) has estimated the average global consumption to be 1,240 m3 per year per person, with variations across regions and countries (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011). Countries like Peru, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo use on average 600 to 800 m3 of fresh water per year per person. While countries like the USA and Russia have a much higher average of 2,100 to 2,500 m3 per year per person.


© The Water Footprint Network

In 2002 Arjen Y. Hoekstra (a water management professor at the University of Twente) presented the concept of The Water Footprint. This serves as a tool that tells us how much water is required to produce the goods and the services that we consume, be it food, clothing, or the running of a multinational company. It quantifies the impact of humans’ consumption patterns on freshwater system by looking at the full production process from the supply chain to the end user. This means that is looks at the water that is used directly and indirectly in the process. In so doing, making government, companies, and individuals are accountable for their water use (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What is wrong with a large water footprint?

Many people have the misconception that water’s status of renewability means that it is endless source. A renewable resource is not endless; rather it means that the natural rain cycle replenishes the resource. Water is continually moving throughout the planet, with each climate receiving its own kind and volume of precipitation so its availability in regions varies. If a community overuses or pollutes its water source, the source can temporarily run out. However through conservation efforts water resources can eventually be restored.

In the Netherlands the total water footprint is 23,000 million m3 per year meaning that every individual living in the Netherlands consumes 4,000 litres of water per day. However only 5% of this is internal, while the other 95% is external (Ibid). Water use in a globalised world means that products are not always consumed in their country of origin, water consumption is externalised to the countries producing the goods and services. This however does not mean that the consuming countries are not accountable for their consumption.

Rather, global water consumption is tracked at river basin and aquifer level, which is particularly useful to understand the implications of water consumption or pollution within that region. It especially matters in regions prone to water scarcity in countries like Chile, Malta or Kuwait, as further extraction or pollution of their water resources can be detrimental to their national water resources and global water systems.

The water food print is made up of three components; blue water, green water, and grey water.


© The Water Footprint network

So, by knowing how much and where, the water footprint informs us on how better manage our use of fresh water resources.

Why does this matter?

Let’s imagine that all the freshwater available to us for consumption was a 1 litre bottle. This one bottle of water needs to serve all freshwater ecosystems with their species, as well as our growing industries and communities. Global estimates suggest that of this single source of freshwater 70% goes to growing our food, mainly for irrigation in agriculture (FAO, 2014).

Water use in food production varies from crop irrigation to food processing i.e. cleaning, sanitizing, peeling, cooling. It is essential therefore for our food supply chain to have a healthy constant source of fresh water to grow produce and feed animals. Yet, one-third of food produced for human consumption is thrown out (FAO, 2014).

Some of the most commonly wasted food are bread, milk, and apples.

Using the Water Footprint product gallery, we can now look at the estimated water costs of these products.

Bread

The global average water footprint of wheat is 1827 litres per kg

Milk

The global average water footprint of milk is 1020 litres per kg.

Apple

On average, one apple costs 125 litres of water.

Meat

The global average water footprint of beef is 15400 litres per kg.

The Water footprint shows us that it is not just the valuable food being wasted but also such finite resources as water. FAO (2013) estimates that globally, the blue water footprint i.e. the consumption of surface and groundwater resources of food wastage is about 250 km3. While conservative estimates of water loss caused by discarded food indicate that about half of the water withdrawn for irrigation is lost. Once food is dumped, it sits landfills which leads to harmful soluble substances (via leachates and runoff) to seep into the ground. This pollutes waterways and groundwater which negatively impact both land and aquatic biodiversity  (Hoekstra. Y, A et al., 2011).

What can we do to shrink our Water footprint?

There are many positive contributions we can make.

We can start off by calculating our personal water footprint. This will give us a clearer idea of how much water our lifestyle requires and how sustainable this is. Once we know this we can start making more conscious decisions about our dietary choices and consumption habits.

Of course, this does not fall on us individuals. It is also important to voice our concern and let governmental representatives know that we care about water and want it to be used and managed in a sustainable way across the globe. We can do this by electing representatives with a sound water policy and being an active global water citizen.

In that way governments can set up coherent policies which look at multiple industries, and work to ensure sustainable production of produce and services from importing countries. Similarly, industries need to implement resource efficiency in their production process and ensure transparency in their water use.

Happily, this shows how by learning to reuse food, reducing our food waste, and recycling food scraps we’d also be making a contribution to shrinking our water footpring. By fighting food waste we’re also alleviating pressure from water sources and assuring the sustainability of fresh water systems. In our mission to fight food waste we’d;

  • Reduce blue water consumption for irrigation in agriculture
  • Require less blue water for food processing
  • Downsize the amount of food waste in landfills and the resulting leachates and run off
  • Reduce the possibility of contamination of waterways and groundwater 

Looks like a win- win!

Sources

FAO. (2013). Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report. FAO.

FAO. (2014). Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report. FAO.

Fao. (2014). Mitigation of societal costs and benefits of food waste. Fao.

FAO. (2014). The Water-Energy-Food Nexus; A new approach in support of food security and sustainable agriculture. Rome: FAO.

Hoekstra, A. Y., Chapagain, A. K., Aldaya, M. M., & Mekonnen, M. M. (2011). The Water Footprint Assessment Manual; Setting the global standard. London: EarthScan.

There is nothing quite like opening a fully stocked and perfectly organized squeaky clean fridge. It becomes a well-chilled sanctuary for our precious food and delectable offerings to our late-night cravings. Yet, this sanctuary at times becomes a cemetery where unfortunately sometimes our food rots. It’s either because it’s forgotten in some part of the fridge, it’s not stored well, it sits in an unclean space, or because of poor grocery planning. However there are things you can do to avoid this and turn your fridge into a tool to avoid and reduce of food waste at home. Here are some tips.

Temperature

Keep it cool.

Set your refrigerator between 1°C to 5 °C. If it’s any warmer, you run the risk of growing harmful bacteria but if it’s any colder some of your food may begin to freeze.

Organising your fridge

Top shelf; Here temperatures are constant so it’s best to keep drinks. Also, this is the first part of the fridge that you’ll look at, so it’s a good idea to keep leftovers stored in clear containers.  

Middle shelves; Keep dairy here. Your milk, yogurts, cheese, and eggs should go here. Also, milk should be put at the back of the shelf since this is the coldest bit.

Bottom shelf; This is the coldest shelf, which makes it an ideal place to store raw ingredients. Things like raw meat and fish should be kept here in tight packaging to avoid dripping and cross-contamination.

Drawer; These tend to retain some moisture which is good for produce. You can place your fruits and vegetables here. If you have multiple drawers, use them to separate ethylene producing fruits and vegetables like apples and avocados, from sensitive ones to avoid quick spoilage.

Door; Even though most refrigerator models come with beverage and egg shelves on their door, this is not a good place to keep them. This part of the fridge is prone to temperature fluctuations and is actually the warmest part of the fridge, so avoid storing highly perishable foods. Instead keep your condiments and well-preserved foods here.

Top of the fridge; Usually this part is quite warm so avoid storing any food here. Instead you can keep some small kitchen appliances and utensils, or just your pile of cookbooks.

© Appliance Service Station Inc.

Storing Principles

FIFO –  First In, First out; Always move the food that is already there, and it closest to expiration date to the front of the shelves. That way you have a better visualisation of what you need to consume first and you’ll make have space in the back for the new groceries. This also helps to avoid finding a stray yoghurt from 3 months ago in the back of the shelf.

Markers. Set. Go; It’s very likely that you are not the only one using the fridge so labelling the shelves into sections can be a helpful way to keep the fridge organised. Food should also be labelled to avoid the ‘What is this, and when did I make it?’, sure a quick sniff can be suggestive of the answer but better to play it safe and just label it.

Air it out; Air needs to circulate in your fridge to avoid parts of the fridge from becoming too warm or too cold. When you over stock your fridge there isn’t enough air circulation and this can create warm or cold pockets causing food to spoil quicker.

Eat-me first!; This is really handy. Just take any organizing box and stick a post-it saying ‘Eat me first!’ then place all the food which is going to perish soon and needs to be eaten. This will convince everyone in the house to reach for these items before trying anything else.

Keep it together; Food keeps for longer when it’s still whole. Meat, fruit, and veggies expire quickly when they have been chopped, sliced and diced. Keep your foods whole until you’re ready to consume them.

Plastic – not – fantastic; The unfortunate trend of plastic wrapped produce is bad for MULTIPLE reasons, one of these being that food actually spoils quicker. Instead use glass containers, paper bags and,  mason jars or a damp tea towel for fresh herbs and leafy vegetables.

Tidy up; In order to keep food good for as long as possible, it’s important that it stays in a clean space. So keep your fridge tidy, clean up any spills and make sure to wash the insides every month.

© Gardner’s Supply Company

While we’ve been talking about what goes in to the fridge, it’s equally important to talk about what doesn’t. This may be to avoid altering the texture or flavour of the food, or even it going bad. It can also be to simply save space and keep a tidy ventilated fridge.

  • Foods you shouldn’t refrigerate; potatoes, onions, garlic, honey, tomatoes
  • Foods that can but don’t need to refrigerated; peanut butter, oils, apples, butter
  • Food you must refrigerate; milk, cheese, eggs, meat

What other tips do you follow to keep your fridge in check and avoid wasting food?

World Disco Soup Day 2019

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor fill bellies not bins

Code Orange! © Pebble Magazine

The 27th of April is the day that for 364 days a year, the Dutch are patiently waiting for: Kingsday. On this day the streets turn orange, people awake from their hibernation, crawl out of their caves, pet the dust off of their summer jackets and hit the streets where orange flags, beers, music and flea markets await.

Taste Before You Waste will not let this day go by unnoticed. We will join forces with the Slow Food Youth Network, Café de Ceuvel, Food Circle, Sapient Social & Environmental Enterprises, Guerilla Kitchen Amsterdam and Healthy and Affordable and turn Kingsday into World Disco Soup Day.

What?

World Disco Soup Day started seven years ago in Berlin as a protest soup where 8000 people were given sous from rescued products (Slow Food, n.d.). The protest soups soon began to spread to ask attention for a pressing problem: our failing food system. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, over one-third of all the global production of food for human consumption is wasted (around 1.3 billion tons annually) while at the same time, 840 million people suffer from hunger, globally (FAO, 2015). Not only does the actual food go to waste, also think of all the energy, land, water, seeds and labour that is lost!

 

 

The idea of organizing a protest soup was soon picked up by the Slow Food Youth Network in Brazil. The Slow Food Youth Network, a non-profit organisation that fights for a more fair and sustainable food system, took on the concept and organized a national Disco Soup Day. The snowball effect that followed caused the World Disco Soup Day to grow out to be one of the biggest internationally organized events that fight food waste and in the extension of that; impacts of climate change.

All over the world, youth addresses the problem of food waste by collecting food that would be wasted but was still perfectly fine to use. Delicious soups were created from the rescued food, and a disco element was added. Because why not celebrate that wasted food actually tastes great, while collectively contributing to the battle against food waste?

 

 

World Disco Soup Day 27th April, 2019

This Kingsday-edition, the collective of organisations that were listed above will dance to the music of DJ Stefnitz, listen to the jokes of MC Benji B and taste the soups made by you, the welcome guests! Join the event and eat the soups, all for free.

To prepare for our kingsday-edition of World Disco Soup Day we need your help and ask you to take part in our #soupchallenge. Share one of your favorite soup recipes and tag #verspillingsvrij #wdsd19 #sfyn #samentegenvoedselverspilling #votewithyourfork #fillbelliesnotbins @sfynamsterdam @slowfoodyouthnetwork @deceuvel @tbyw.  

We recommend you to use as many rescued vegetables as possible and your soup might be the inspiration for the soup of the day at World Disco Soup Day. So: post your recipe, post a photo of the dish and insert the tags and if your soup is chosen, it will be made and served to all the party people at the Ceuvel!  

 

We are super excited for this day full of great, rescued food and dancing. Join use and let’s get wasted!

© Nancy Standlee

Today was a good day. I ate the leftovers from yesterday’s pie, yum! still delicious! I didn’t throw out or waste any food, well only the orange peels from this morning’s breakfast. So, for today my food waste CO2 emissions are low, so tonight I’ll have sweet waste free dreams! XoX

Let me explain. A couple of weeks back, while I was researching on food waste related topics, I came across ‘The Food Waste Calculator for households’ (FAO, 2013). This initiative is part of the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) which usually takes place in the last week of November each year. Now, I didn’t really want to wait eight months to write about this, so I decided to go ahead and fill my food waste diary for seven days.

It turned out to be a pretty simple thing to do. I downloaded the excel file from the EWWR website, I read though the instructions and filled in my details. After that I started to keep track of my food waste. All I needed was a balance to weigh the food waste, and a piece of paper to list the weight daily. I would then enter the information in the excel file under the appropriate cell, either leftovers or spoiled food. This would add up to my weekly food waste (mine came to 2.2 Kg), and then converted in its CO2 equivalent. It also compared me my CO2 equivalent of my food waste per year with the climate compatible annual emissions budget per person.

These are my results:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a bit silly but I was a little annoyed at the beginning that the numbers were so low, I really wanted to have a bigger discovery at the end of the week-long experiment. It turns out I’m pretty good at avoiding waste (for that one particular week), most of the food waste was unavoidable i.e. fruit and vegetable peels. There was only one sad savoy cabbage promised for delicious vegan kimchi that went bad before I could even try, oh well!

This was a truly uncomplicated way to become more aware of household food waste at the most localised personal level. However, the issue of food waste is a global one which extends beyond the individual and involves multiple agents; governments, businesses, and producers. Globally it is estimated that a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted through production process and after consumption (FAO,2013). The quantification of this loss and waste is essential to adequately reduce and avoid wastage of food as well as the waste of natural resources in production.

In 2013, FAO coined the term ‘Food Wastage Footprint’ in order to calculate the environmental and social costs associated with natural resource loss and environmental degradation (FAO, 2013). In this case, food wastage specifically refers to any food lost by deterioration or discard, thus the term “wastage” encompasses both food loss and food waste.

 

“The Food Wastage Footprint (FWF) project… calculates the impact of food wastage on natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity. This includes the natural resources used across the food chain, from growing to distributing food which is finally not eaten, the impact of food wastage disposal on natural resources, and the impact of GHG emissions from food wastage on the atmosphere.”  –  (FAO, Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report, 2013)

 

Once the parallels between landfills overflowing with edible food, and malnourished communities on separate parts of the globe were drawn, the issue of food wastage was impossible to ignore (FAO, 2013). Studies were carried out, which showed us that one-third of all food produced for human consumption if wasted, and this is costing 1 trillion USD out of our pockets each year. (FAO, 2014) Still, these high figures overlook the total cost of food wastage; economic, social and environmental. That is where The Food Wastage Footprint comes in.

KNOW.

The Food Wastage Footprint provides a more complete and accurate understanding of the food supply chain. As it unveils hidden environmental and social costs and provides a clear illustration of any distortions within the global food system (FAO, 2014). It also heightens and improves our knowledge of the implications of our food production and consumption patterns.

ENUMERATE.

The Food Wastage Footprint does this by monetizing unpriced natural resources such as land, water, air, ecosystems, and biodiversity, along with the related ecosystem services. Usually natural resources are prey to the Tragedy of the commons’, a concept which Willian Foster Lloyd wrote about back in 1833, it loosely states that resources which are freely accessible are depleted through self-interest over-consumption for short-term gain (Vugt, 2009). By going beyond market pricing, the Food Wastage Footprint incorporates societal welfare costs related to the loss of natural resources.

MITIGATE.

The Food Wastage Footprint therefore serves as a powerful tool for effective mitigation of global food waste. It equips us with a thorough understanding of food wastage at different levels (global, national, local), and the role of various agents (producers & consumers). This is necessary as only by knowing exactly what, where, and how can we successfully reduce food waste and design targeted measures (Fao, 2013).

 

In its study FAO provides calculations for prominent social and environmental costs of food wastage, these are also broken down by geographical region, commodity (cereals, meat, fruit, & vegetables), and phases of the global food supply chain (FAO, 2014). Its findings highlight that in addition to the USD 1 trillion of economic costs per year, environmental costs reach around USD 700 billion and social costs amount to USD 900 billion.

 

 

Some of the most notable findings include;

  • 3.5 Gt CO2e of greenhouse gas emissions. Based on the social cost of carbon, these are estimated to cause USD 394 billion of damages per year.
  • Increased water scarcity, particularly for dry regions and seasons. Globally, this is estimated to cost USD 164 billion per year.
  • Soil erosion due to water is estimated to cost USD 35 billion per year through nutrient loss, lower yields, biological losses and off-site damages. The cost of wind erosion may be of a similar magnitude.
  • Risks to biodiversity including the impacts of pesticide use, nitrate and phosphorus eutrophication, pollinator losses and fisheries overexploitation are estimated to cost USD 32 billion per year.
  • Increased risk of conflict due to soil erosion, estimated to cost USD 396 billion per year.
  • Loss of livelihoods due to soil erosion, estimated to cost USD 333 billion per year.
  • Adverse health effects due to pesticide exposure, estimated to cost USD 153 billion per year.

Source:  FAO, Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report, 2014

 

 Key global environmental impacts of food wastage by regions

[Values in million tonnes wastage, millions ha land occupation, million tonnes GHG emissions, and km3 water use, all on the same axis.]

Source: FAO, Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report, 2014

 

The Food Wastage Footprint highlights the sheer magnitude of the global food waste problem through valuing our ecosystems, the commons and all related invaluable services they provide. This is not an attempt to put a price tag on nature but rather these calculations allow prioritising actions and defining opportunities for various actor’s contribution to resolving this global challenge (FAO,2013) . However we may choose to look at it, reducing food wastage makes sense economically, environmentally and socially. It also raises the question that, with increasing world population, higher standards of living and limited natural resources, are the costs of food wastage something we can really afford?

 

P.S. For our readers, we encourage you to participate and fill in YOUR food waste diary and feel free to let us know how it went!

Sources

FAO. (2013). Food wastage footprint Impact on natural resources Summary report.

Fao. (2013). Toolkit reducing the food wastage footprint. 

FAO. (2014). Food wastage footprint Full-cost accounting Final Report. 

Fao. (2014). Mitigation of societal costs and benefits of food waste.

Vugt, M. V. (2009). Averting the Tragedy of the Commons