Reducing Food Waste
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

July 14, 2013

For the last 5 months, I participated in a minor at the University of Amsterdam, called the Tesla minor. In it, we were charged with the task of learning how to bring science to society, learning relevant skills along the way. Part of the program was to conduct a project where we bring science to society. Ours, “How to reduce food waste.” It was a very broad question and one I did not know much about. How big was this problem to begin with? As we started diving into the research, I was blown away by food waste. It was estimated earlier this year in a report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineering that globally anywhere from 30-50% of the food produced does not reach the consumers mouth. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the UN estimated in 2009 that the amount of food waste was equivalent to 1.3 billion tons! Although we found most waste occurs in supply chains, in developed areas of the world such as Europe, North America, and Industrialized Asia, consumer waste contributes from a 1/3 to almost of 1/2 of overall food waste. We worked to create a model for companies to use and if you are reading this and work within the supply chain of food production, I encourage you to watch this presentation summarizing our results. My team and I believe it provides a methodology and reason for companies to tackle the food waste issue within their supply chains. (17 min. running time)

Raising awareness in Amsterdam and around the world about food waste by feeding people that of which would have been thrown away

Raising awareness in Amsterdam and around the world about food waste by feeding people who of which would have been thrown away

But what about the rest of us, most of us. How do we address this 1/3 to 1/2 of the problem regarding food waste? I, along with many others believe it is in raising awareness about the issue and pledging to ourselves that we choose not to be part of the problem. Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to witness the “Damn Food Waste” project here in Amsterdam. The project consisted of numerous groups and volunteers getting together to feed 5000 people a free meal with food that was otherwise destined for the landfill.  They served two main dishes of curry and soup which were amazing. Most of the food is thrown away by the farmers as they can’t sell purple carrots or potatoes that are too small because retailers won’t buy them. The food was delicious regardless of the shape and color and it is a shame Amsterdam can’t do this event every weekend.

It seems logical, but did you know the average person in Europe and N America waste over 50 kg of food every year!

If we want to address the problem within our own lives, there are a couple of things that we can do. It starts with meal planing. We need to think about what we are going to buy and when we are going to eat it during the week, making sure to use up what is in the fridge before it goes bad. Most consumer waste occurs with rice and grains as we often make too much for a single meal. If we take an extra moment and measure out the serving sizes, it’s a great start. Other important things we can do are to buy the odd-shaped vegetable if you see one, thereby creating demand for the produce retailers reject.Most importantly, be aware of food waste and question it, have a conversation about it when you notice it. Do you ever get the end piece of bread for a sandwich from your favorite lunch spot? Why not? By being aware of it and having the conversation, we can begin to address food waste at the source.Although food waste has become an integral part of food production, it certainly is not a guaranteed bi-product of food production. We hope we helped make the case for why companies and governments alike should refocus their attention on food waste and hope you join us to make food waste history.

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