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5 Ways You Can Reduce Food Waste

Author(s): Pavitar Singh & Emma Kelly, 01/05/2024

5 Ways You Can Reduce Food Waste

Every year, an astonishing 750,000 tonnes of food never make it from farm to fork in Ireland, with homes alone discarding about 220,000 tonnes. This isn't just about the food; it's about wasting precious resources like water, land, and energy, and contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions 10% of global emissions stem from food waste. Think about the impact on your wallet, too. According to EPA, the average Irish family throws away up to 120 kg of food annually, which means nearly €700 could be saved each year just by cutting down on this waste.

1. Plan Your Meals to Efficiently Reduce Food Waste

Planning meals is a smart way to cut down on food waste and save money. Start by really getting to know your eating habits and try to aim for zero-waste cooking. What does your family enjoy? What tends to get left behind on the plate? Answering these questions can help you shop smarter, buying only what you know will be eaten.

Make your shopping list a reflection of your actual needs. Check your pantry before you head to the store to avoid buying what you already have. This simple step is key for sustainable food consumption. And let's not forget about leftovers – they can be a lifesaver. With a bit of creativity, yesterday's meals can be transformed into today's delicious dishes, ensuring nothing goes to waste. In the office, sharing food or donating excess food can turn excess into a communal benefit, encouraging everyone to take part in a collective effort to reduce waste.

2. Understand How to Store Your Food Correctly

Storing food correctly isn't just about keeping things tidy. The right food preservation techniques are a core strategy to combat food waste. By understanding the basics of food storage, you can significantly extend the life of your groceries and reduce the amount of food that ends up in the bin.

Keeping Things Cool

First things first: know your fridge's layout. Different areas of your fridge have different temperatures that are suited for different types of food. Keep your dairy products, such as milk and cheese, in the cooler spots, while the fridge door, which experiences the most temperature fluctuation, is ideal for less perishable items like condiments. Vegetables and fruits should be stored in separate drawers.

Pantry Perfection

When it comes to dry storage, your pantry or kitchen cabinets should be cool and dark. Items like potatoes, onions, and garlic prefer this environment and can last much longer when stored properly.

Air is the Enemy

For items like cereals, flour, and pasta, keeping air out is key. Use airtight containers to prevent them from going stale and to protect them from pests. Additionally, consider using vacuum-sealed bags for food items in the freezer to prevent freezer burn and extend their storage life.

3. Check and Understand the Labels

Minimising kitchen waste is the key. That’s why the labels on your food are vital tools to help you make informed decisions about food safety and storage.

It's important to distinguish between 'use-by' and 'best-before' dates. A 'use-by' date is about safety – the last day that the product is considered safe to consume. On the other hand, a 'best-before' date is about quality – indicating when a product might start to lose its peak flavour and texture but isn't necessarily unsafe to eat.

To minimise waste, organise your food storage based on these labels. Rotate your stock by placing the older items in front or on top, ensuring they are used first. This method can prevent food from going bad unnoticed and reduce the amount of waste you generate.

4. Utilise Compost: Turning Kitchen Scraps into Valuable Resources

Composting organic waste is a fantastic way to turn your kitchen scraps into a valuable resource rather than letting them contribute to landfill waste. This process enriches the soil, helping to nourish plants and gardens, and also plays a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by diverting organic waste from landfills where it releases methane.

Setting up a compost bin is straightforward. Choose a suitable bin for your back garden or balcony, and if indoors, select bins with charcoal filters to manage odours. Successful composting involves mixing nitrogen-rich 'greens' like vegetable peelings with carbon-rich 'browns' such as dried leaves.

Make sure to give it a good stir now and then to keep the air flowing and help everything break down smoothly. Keep your compost moist to help the tiny organisms thrive, turning your scraps into rich soil. Once your compost matures, it's ready for your garden, reducing your need for chemical fertilisers. This works on a commercial scale for businesses too.

5. Be Creative with Leftovers

Turning leftovers into fresh meals is an eco-friendly and creative way to spice up your dining experience. Plan when cooking initial meals, thinking about how you might reuse what's left for future dishes. It’s best to gather a few fast leftover food recipes. Here are some food waste recycling ideas:· Transform roast chicken into a salad or a hearty soup.· Mix yesterday's veggies into a hearty omelette or stir-fry. · Elevate flavours with fresh herbs, spices, or a new sauce to refresh any dish. By reimagining leftovers, you conserve resources and expand your culinary repertoire.

Making a Difference at Work

In workplaces across Ireland – whether in the office, a coworking space, or your kitchen – the goal is the same: waste less. By talking to our colleagues about the footprint of food waste and promoting smarter habits, we can make a huge dent in this issue. Simple steps like sharing strategies to reduce waste and offering tools and resources can weave sustainability into our daily work lives. Reducing food waste isn't just good for the environment, it makes economic sense too. Whether you're at home or work, discovering how to reduce waste can significantly lower both environmental and financial costs.

Why We Must Address the Food Waste Problem

Tackling food waste is vital, not only for environmental and economic reasons but also for ethical ones. Discarding food means wasting the resources used in its production – like water and energy – while also contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The financial impact is enormous, costing billions annually, and the ethical implications are profound, considering the global issues of hunger and food scarcity. Reducing food waste and upcycling food products can lead to smarter consumption, more efficient food preparation and storage, and a shift towards valuing our resources more sustainably. It demands changes at both individual and business levels, including adopting better practices and technologies throughout the food supply chain to minimise waste.

KeyGreen is actively shaping Ireland's approach to food waste management through its innovative recycling initiatives and biodegradable waste treatment. By focusing on solutions that recycle, compost, or convert waste into energy, KeyGreen plays a pivotal role in reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Our zero-landfill policy ensures that no waste collected goes to landfills. Instead, we divert it to be recycled, composted, or transformed into renewable energy. This method significantly contributes to environmental conservation and supports the production of green energy.

FAQs: Food Waste

How do you compost food?
Start your compost pile by combining kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable peelings with yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings. Keep the pile moist and turn it occasionally to speed up decomposition and create nutrient-rich soil. Check out our guide for beginners: Beginners Guide
Why do we reduce food waste?
Cutting down on food waste is vital. It saves resources like energy and water, reduces methane emissions from landfills, and eases the burden on our environment. It's a direct action that supports both planetary health and personal savings.
What are the methods of food waste?
From composting organic refuse to donating surplus food to charities, the methods for handling food waste vary widely. Effective planning, improved storage, and thoughtful consumption also play critical roles in minimising waste.
How would a household reduce food waste?
Families can minimise waste by planning their grocery shopping, understanding best practices for food storage, and getting creative with leftovers to ensure nothing goes unused. Starting a compost bin can also help manage unavoidable waste.
How can we prevent food waste?
Food waste prevention starts with buying only what you need and using what you buy. Educating oneself and others about the value of food and organising the kitchen to track which foods to use first can drastically cut down on waste.
How can I use leftover food?
Transform your leftovers into new meals. A stir-fry or soup can incorporate various odds and ends, or blend cooked vegetables into a dip or sauce. These practices make your kitchen more efficient and add a twist of creativity to your cooking.

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