The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) are an incredible step towards helping to save our planet.
Goal 12 on this list is so crucial - it focuses on the importance of sustainable consumption and production patterns.
This is hugely important because, over the last century, our social and economic actions have severely damaged the environment and threatened resources for future generations.
Sustainable production for preventing food waste
All through the production process, there are so many ways that food can be lost or wasted, so it’s really important that we make it sustainable.
However, it can turn out to be very complex and strategic - not only does food waste have an economic, social and environmental impact, but there are several value chains involved too.
To start with, food production turns those raw ingredients into something edible, and this process itself often creates harmful emissions and pollution in the air, water and soil.
Sourcing raw materials can also be problematic, especially in areas like the Middle East where the land and climate makes farming very difficult, and sourcing local, raw ingredients very tricky.
This is improving though, thanks to technology.
In 2018, the UAE had 42,300 hectares of arable land which was an increase from previous years, and it’s all because of the introduction of hydroponics and other technologically advanced agricultural techniques.
In Africa though, while they’re gifted with good farming land, they lack the resources for full scale production, causing water, capital, and agriculture to be wasted.
This lack of resources also causes issues in storage and logistics where food isn’t just wasted, but lost as well.
Sustainable consumption for preventing food waste
Sustainable food consumption mainly hinges on the consumer and their choices.
In fact, it’s defined as ‘the result of deliberate or unconscious actions of consumers focused on purchasing sustainable products to balance consumption and reduce waste, thereby affecting the environment as little as possible by their actions and contributing to the local economy and social responsibility by their choices’.
Once food is produced sustainably, it’s down to the consumer to make sure they buy, then dispose of, the product responsibly.
When they’re looking at which products to put in their trolley, it’s so important for consumers to ask themselves, are they becoming more responsible in their consumption habits? Will they stick to sustainability rather than culture and tradition? Do they have enough information about the need for food security?
Only then can we start being successful in moving towards sustainable food consumption.
How to reduce your food waste as a consumer
Food waste isn’t just an environmental issue, but it impacts the economy and food security too, which is why it’s so important that we all do our bit to help prevent it.
Measuring how much we’re wasting can be incredibly difficult though - it’s often tricky to decide exactly how much has been wrongly discarded, because what’s edible in one community may not be in another.
Obviously, food waste is often mixed with general trash too, which makes it even more difficult to measure.
The consumer’s guide to preventing food waste at home
By changing some of our simple habits, we can make a huge step towards preventing food waste.
Here are a few ways you can help.
Try growing your own food, especially fruit and veg.
Plan out your meals before you shop, so you only buy exactly what you need. Then buy from local markets or stores that support the fight against food waste.
Don’t forget to use your freezer to help your groceries last longer, or to store leftovers - just don’t forget they’re there!
Take another look at the size of the portions you cook - if there is too much, save it and use it up another day.
Make a point of buying items that are close to their ‘best before’ dates. They’re perfectly safe to eat, they’re usually cheaper to buy, and it’ll stop them from just being thrown away.
Help create awareness about food waste in your community.
What can we do to ensure sustainability where waste is unavoidable?
Separate items for recycling instead of throwing them all in for the landfill.
Add scraps and peels to compost heaps, which you can then use as fertiliser to help grow your own produce.
Even though there can be huge variations in what counts as food waste, we all have a huge responsibility to act sustainably.
That way, we can help protect the planet, one carrot at a time.