It’s day five of Waste Reduction Week in Canada. What are we serving up today?
Waste reduction is challenging and we're all trying our best to reduce waste and lessen our impact on Earth. So let’s celebrate our efforts and achievements with Waste Reduction Week 2021.
While waste reduction is an evergreen effort—and Waste Reduction Week is a year-round program—October 18 to 23, 2021 is a week where we can celebrate our wins and set new intentions, while learning how to further our waste-reduction efforts into the future. After all, you can't create a solution for a problem you're not aware of.
Each day this week, we have been taking a closer look at ways we can reduce waste and the principles behind waste reduction. So far, we've examined The Circular Economy and investigated ways to reduce textile, plastic and E-waste. Today we're serving up food waste.
Food waste: what's the big deal?
Tossing leftovers and scraps into the compost or letting a dry good expire here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal—until you zoom out and look at the big picture. Collectively, Canadian households waste more than 10 billion dollars’ worth of food every year.* That works out to $1,766 per family, but what does it look like in food terms?
Every day in Canada we waste:
- 2,400,000 potatoes
- 1,225,000 apples
- 1,200,000 tomatoes
- 1,000,000 cups of milk
- 750,000 loaves of bread
- 555,000 bananas
- 470,000 heads of lettuce
- 450,000 eggs
And that’s just the start.
Food must travel from its origin to our dinnerplates. When we broaden the scope to account for the entire supply chain (things like manufacturing and processing), that 10-billion-dollar figure swells to $21 billion.* If we account for the “value chain”—that’s infrastructure, transportation, restaurant and retail waste—this report estimates the value is closer to $49 billion.
If we dare zoom out even further to capture the global perspective, we find that 30 per cent of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. To imagine global food waste as a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the United States. Not only are exorbitant volumes of resources needed to produce that wasted food (yielding a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tons of CO2—yikes), organic material that decomposes in a landfill releases methane, a greenhouse gas which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It’s a poignant reminder to ensure scraps and leftovers end up in the compost, not the garbage.
The expiration date myth
As consumers, we can help play a role in reducing food waste—and a little education goes a long way. Anti-food waste advocates point squarely to a solution that requires zero heavy lifting: better understanding “best before” dates and expiration dates.
Many consumers equate the term “best before” with “bad after,” when in fact, a best before date is not considered to be an expiration date by the manufacturers who produced and labelled the item. (It’s worth noting that only five items require true expiration dates in Canada: nutritional supplements, meal replacements, baby formula, formulated liquid diets and pharmacy-sold foods for low energy diets.*)
The problem is that, traditionally, public health departments promoted a “when in doubt, throw it out” food safety message. Advocates say this unnecessarily exasperates the food waste problem and suggest the narrative is long overdue for an overhaul; an overhaul that would explain that the best before date actually has little to do with food safety.
What’s at stake if we continue with the status quo?
- We perpetuate a culture of accepting food waste as "a cost of doing business.”
- We operate in an economy where the true cost of waste is not internalized, meaning businesses might choose to send food waste (cheaply) to a landfill rather than partnering with a food rescue organization. For consumers, it can lead to apportioning less value and care to the foods that they choose to purchase.
- Default public health messaging that lacks nuance will continue to result in safe, nutritious food ending up in the garbage or compost.
Practical tips for reducing food waste at home
- Log a family menu for meal planning. Create a master list of meals you enjoy cooking—and eating. This way you won’t have to brainstorm recipe ideas every week; instead, it feels like picking from a menu.
- Meal plan…for your schedule. Plan which meals you’ll cook and when. It’s helpful to think about you/your family’s after-work/school schedule. Example: if Wednesday is busy with soccer practice and an end-of-day appointment, a simple dinner requiring less prep (like a slow cooker meal) may help prevent you from ordering in last-minute.
- Perform a pantry inventory. Make sure you’re stocked up on staple ingredients. There’s nothing more annoying than getting part-way into a recipe, only to find out you’re low on olive oil or out of garlic powder. You’ll be less likely to ditch and dial up a pizza delivery.
- Visit the grocery store, armed with a smart list. Write your grocery list in the same order you shop: department by department. It’s intuitive and efficient.
- Store fruits and vegetables properly so they last longer.
- Get excited about leftovers. Get creative with last night’s dinner (ex: dinner tacos easily become a next-day lunch burrito). Otherwise, trick your brain: you might think you have a disdain for leftovers, when really, it’s just how they’re packaged. Use a container you like—and can be safely reheated—to assemble your next day’s meal with added visual appeal. That way, it feels like you’re “shopping” your fridge for a tasty take-away meal—without the waste.
- Be mindful of best before dates while acknowledging their limitations.
- Get creative with food scraps.
- Compost leftovers and organic food scraps.
- Take the Food Waste Pledge
Waste Reduction Week in Canada Events:
Canadian zero-waste laundry brand Tru Earth is a proud supporter of Waste Reduction Week in Canada.
To join in the 2021 celebrations, Tru Earth will host an official Grand Opening of their Tru Earth Store at 3210 St. Johns Street, in Port Moody, BC.
Events are on from October 18 to 23 at their flagship store:
- 15% off all purchases
- Free giveaways with every purchase
- Fun prize draws daily
- Virgin Radio will be onsite October 23 for the official Grand Opening celebrations
About Waste Reduction Week in Canada
This is the 20th year of Waste Reduction Week in Canada. While Canadian Waste Reduction and Recycling Weeks have been organized since the mid-1980s, in 2001, this national Waste Reduction Week program was formally implemented by the Circular Innovation Council. This program today has the support of many not-for-profit environmental groups as well as all provincial and territorial governments in Canada.