Green in the City is an annual environmental seminar series that explores key climate issues through the lenses of local, municipal, and regional speakers. On October 27, 2020, we kicked off the Green in the City series with Tackling Food Waste, featuring four perspectives on how food waste can be reduced at the municipal level and at the house-hold level. Keep reading for 5+ easy tips and resources that we learned in the workshop!

Defining Food Waste

Food waste is defined as any food or drink that has been discarded along the supply chain (think: from its time on the farm to the time it arrives at your table). Food waste is broken into avoidable and unavoidable food waste:

  • Avoidable = Food and drink thrown away that was, at some point prior to disposal, edible. Example: fruits, vegetables, meat, breads, etc.
  • Unavoidable = Food waste that is not edible under normal circumstances. Example: meat bones, tea bags, coffee grinds, egg shells. 

In Canada, over a third of the food produced and distributed never gets eaten. Obviously, there’s a lot of work that can be done to prevent food waste at the manufacturing and retail stages. But there’s a LOT of food waste at the household level too, and this is the stuff that we as individuals have control over. In fact, 63% of the food Canadians throw away is avoidable food waste, with an average household reaching up to 140 kg of food waste per year. We can eliminate (and if not eliminate then significantly reduce) this food waste at home. 

What is the IMPACT of Food Waste?

  • Greenhouse gas emissions - The average London home emits 10.4 tonnes of CO2e per year, and 6% of these emissions are from methane emissions from organic food waste.
  • Space in landfills - When you throw food waste in your garbage, this ultimately ends up in the landfill. 60% of a single family household’s waste is organic waste (45% of which is avoidable), which means a LOT of families are contributing a LOT of organic waste to the landfill each week. To reach London’s 60% waste diversion target, we will need to significantly reduce the amount of food waste being thrown out each week. 
  • Money - It’s estimated that $600 of food is thrown away per London household per year, that’s a lot of dough! If you add up all the London households (based on an estimated 180,000 household from 2016 data), that’s $108 million a year of waste money.
  • Footprint - Think of all of the gas mileage, water, and packaging that was used to bring food to your plate, this is what we refer to as the “food miles” or the “footprint” of food. Recently, Green Economy London and On the Move Organics looked into the carbon footprint of conventional vs. organic carrots, and found out that conventionally farmed imported carrots have a footprint 77x higher than that of local organic carrots! Imagine this “footprint” being sent to the landfill. 

It’s also worth mentioning that several programs in London are working to divert food waste from retail stores to people experiencing food insecurity. These programs help to eliminate food waste while improving food access for individuals and families who otherwise would not be able to. Check out the London Food Bank, the London Food Coalition, and the London Vegan Food Bank for more information.

What Needs to be Done?

Now that we know what food waste is and how it negatively impacts us and the planet, let’s figure out how we can tackle food waste. A mixed approach includes strategies that eliminate and reduce household food waste and programs to divert and reimagine food waste at the community and city-level.

Take Action: Here’s how you can reduce food waste at home right away!

    1. Buy ugly fruit and vegetables to reduce the amount of food wasted at the grocery store. Many stores have a discounted produce section, or you can buy produce from FoodFund or local food delivery services like On the Move Organics. Reimagine Co recently opened their package-free grocery store, so you can cut down on your food waste and plastic waste!
    2. Buy local and in season! This reduces the risk of food being wasted before it gets to shelves because it has less distance to travel (in addition to the many other benefits of supporting local).
    3. Learn about proper food storage, check out this graphic here with some helpful tips to keep your food fresh!
    4. Think circular, learn about the Our Food Future Initiative’s 50x50x50 by 2025 goal to entirely reimagine food waste in Guelph-Wellington, and consider how you can repurpose food in new ways at home.
    5. Get involved in London. Reducing food waste can help us meet climate action targets! Share your thoughts on how food waste reduction can be incorporated into London’s Climate Emergency Action Plan at: getinvolved.london.ca/climate
    6. Click on the image below to watch the full event recording from Green in the City: Tackling Food Waste. In this workshop we learn from Reimagine Co, the City of London, and municipalities of Guelph-Wellington on how to tackle food waste:

Continue our Green in the City series:

What other ways do you reduce food waste at home? Do you compost? Do you freeze your produce to enjoy in its off-season? Let us know in the comments below!