By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
We live in an era where generosity is expressed via offering excess food. We see it each time we are invited to a gathering or a social event, and it often crosses our mind when we glance over to the food table as we’re leaving, knowing the following fact: all of this food will (probably) be wasted. It’s something we are all guilty of. We go to the grocery store and stock up our fridges with weeks’ worth of food supplies knowing that just a few days later those items expire due to their short shelf life span established by food companies.
The situation is worsened because we as consumers fail to plan properly, and fail to store our food in an appropriate way, which in turn leads to excess waste that goes directly in to the landfills — where we think it will decompose easily with no side effects to the environment (newsflash: this is not the case).
The market supply of food is far greater than the demand. If you consider that a single supermarket’s fridge filled with fresh produce will have to be emptied by the end of the day, have you ever asked yourself where will it all go? In fact, some produced foods never quite make it on to the market, despite being perfectly fine for us to consume, purely because only the ‘best’ tends to qualify.
Our food industry has evolved by adding unnecessary and complicated regulations to the production of our food, which has resulted in the creation of a worldwide crisis in terms of food waste. We’re living in a world where some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy life even— that’s about one in nine people on earth, and yet, while we insist companies change their policies on the single use plastics, or renewable packaging, food waste is often something the population turn a blind eye to.
The environmental impact is not necessarily just down to the disposal of excess food, but it’s in the resources that have been used to produce those food products, considering the energy and natural resources used in processing, transporting, storing and cooking — all of which were not needed in the first place, once the untouched food ends up in the trash can. In landfills, food waste produces methane gas which is considered to be worse than CO2. Methane and other toxic emissions are responsible for raising the temperature of the earth, and contributing to global warming and climate change.
When it comes to water, around 70 percent of the world water is being used for agriculture, so when we talk about food waste, we’re also talking about the loss of fresh water. Yes, our extreme levels of food waste extends so far that it’s almost too much to comprehend or get our heads around— which is scary, given we are the ones in control of the food demand/supply.
To reduce food waste, we have to tackle it from the surface level, and implement change at every stage. From the farm to the supermarkets to individuals The demand should meet the production, and we need to take steps which in turn can reduce the production of ‘more food’ for ‘less people.’
Secondly, if oversupply occurs in our everyday lives, we need to be ready to re-distribute the food immediately to people who are in need —an initiative which I’m proud to see some companies already adapting.
Furthermore, we have to start working to discover if our food can be grown using less resources and more clean energy, like plant based food. Recent studies have shown that a plant-based diet cuts the use of land by 76% and halves the greenhouse gases and other pollution that are caused by food production.
Restaurants, cafes and big food providers can reduce their food waste by using fruits and vegetables smartly. My message is clear: there is no reason for us to throw away food and contribute to this worldwide crisis. Instead, let’s start making smart choices from the moment we identity there’s a little too much on the table.
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health.
Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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