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Our world is facing an unprecedented food waste crisis, which is contributing more than 10 percent of global carbon emissions that drive the climate emergency. In addition to coming at an enormous environmental cost, discarded food compounds the issues of everyday hunger and malnutrition as well as escalating chronic health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Asia generates more than half of the world’s food waste, but we as individuals can do something about it. Here are 13 practical ways to reduce your food waste right now.
1. Eat the food you buy
Sounds straightforward, but how many times do we leave things in our pantry untouched for days and it ultimately ends up in the bin? Make sure what’s in your fridge, cupboard and kitchen shelves are consumed.
2. Store your food better
Be smart about storing food. Keep raw foods and cook foods separate, and store cooked food above raw food in refrigerators to reduce the risk of contamination. In hot and humid climates like Hong Kong, keep more foods – especially perishable fruits – in the fridge to prevent them from over-ripening before you get to consume them. Sealing foods in air-tight containers will avoid spoilage and reduce food waste.
3. Be organised & plan ahead
Planning ahead with shopping lists when you go to the market or grocery store will help you purchase the right amount of food you need and avoid buying what you already have at home. If you’re going out to a restaurant or café to eat, bring a reusable container or jar with you so you can package leftovers and avoid it going in the bin.
4. Compost scraps
Compost any uneaten food. Think food scraps – apple cores, banana peels, the ends of vegetables. This will help divert food waste away from landfills and actually benefits the soil to help provide nutrients for plant growth.
5. Never buy more than you need
It can be tempting to purchase more than one item at a time to save you going to the store twice a week. Or perhaps there is a discount on buying several of the same products. Fight the urge to do so if you know that you won’t need more than a certain amount, even if it is more convenient or cheaper for you. Remember, it won’t be convenient for the planet.
6. Use your freezer
You can always store dinner leftovers, uneaten meals and cooked foods in the freezer. Even bread – if you have a loaf that won’t be finished before it goes stale or mouldy, keep half of it in the freezer while it is still fresh! It’ll stay just as good in the freezer for months and can be reheated whenever you want in the future.
7. Make “leftover recipes”
Learn some handy leftover recipes. Fried rice, for example, is always an easy go-to for finishing up bits and bobs in the fridge. You can throw in different grains and beans you have on hand to make a stew, or pop half used vegetables in a pan or wok for a stir-fry. Whip up a pasta salad with leftover pasta in your fridge.
8. Get pickling & fermenting
Experiment with pickling and fermenting foods. Kept in brine or vinegar, the processes help preserve and extend the shelf life of perishable foods like cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts – you name it. It can be stored in reusable glass containers in the fridge for weeks or months, and is a super delicious add-on ingredient in other dishes, can be used as a salad topping or just enjoyed on its own!
9. Buy “ugly” produce
Don’t cross off vegetables or fruits just because they look ugly when they are perfectly edible. Choosing less aesthetically pleasing produce that other people might avoid or stores might throw away will help prevent food waste. Plus, they might even be on discount at certain shops. Either way, they’ll taste just as good as the prettier ones.
10. Patron responsible F&B businesses
Support restaurants and food shops that are responsible about fighting food waste. In Hong Kong, look out for businesses that have pledged to waste reduction causes such as donating excess food to charities, selling perishable products at discounted prices at the end of the day, and only supplying as much as there is demand.
11. Donate to food banks
Restaurants aren’t the only ones who can donate to charities – you can do it too. There are food banks dotted around Hong Kong such as Feeding Hong Kong that will take in a number of food items that are left unopened or unused in your pantry, which will help support the city’s hungriest while fighting waste at the same time. You can also volunteer at food banks to help collect uneaten food from F&B partners to distribute to local charities.
12. Say no to buffets
Buffets are abundant with unlimited appetisers, mains, desserts, snacks and more. While there is something for everyone, the concept of buffets means a whole lot of food waste. Dishes on buffet lines are continually replenished before emptied, and at the end of each service, lots of food ends up in the bin, with research suggesting that over half of the food displayed in hotel buffets gets disposed of. By saying no to buffets, you won’t be contributing to these wasteful practices and will be reducing demand for them.
13. Eat what you have, not what you crave
You’re really craving a specific dish, but you know for a fact you have leftovers in the fridge that will go bad by tomorrow. Be responsible – if you won’t be able to consume food you already have before it spoils, then don’t go and purchase more just because you feel like it. If you really can’t ignore your cravings, then remember Tip #6 to freeze uneaten food before you go out and buy only what you need (#5) or if you’re eating out, bring a container in case of leftovers (#3).
All images courtesy of Pexels.