Friday, November 20, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE: How is Food Waste Adding to Global Warming and Poverty?

By Stephen William Moore

There's a simple way to reduce global warming and save money at the same time - don't waste food.

In his book, 'Waste - The Global Scandal', Tristram Stuart, calculates that British households consign 5.4 million tonnes of edible food to the bin each year. That's 25% of all the food that Britons eat at home. It hits them in the pocket as well. That means that it costs each British household, on average, £8 ($14) a week.

Stuart quotes some more amazing British food waste statistics. Among other other perfectly-edible items that go in the bin annually are:

- 2.6 billion (yes, billion!) slices of bread;

- £370 million worth of bananas;

- 1.6 billion uneaten apples;

- 484 million opened pots of yoghurt.

Unfortunately, the message of food waste has been passed to our children - about a third of school packed lunches end up in the bin.

The repercussions of this waste are serious on a global scale. The developed countries' demand for food pushes up global food prices. In 2007, average global food prices rose by 23 per cent. By the following year, prices had gone up by a staggering 54 per cent.

This matters. The result of increased food prices is that up to an estimated 100 million extra people were pushed into chronic hunger. Chronic hunger in turn increases the child mortality rate amongst this group. It's estimated, according to Stuart, that the rate has risen to 25 per cent.

And waste food contributes to the pressure on scarce land resources. 8.3 million hectares of land are needed to produce just the products wasted in the UK and the US. That's seven times the amount of Brazilian rainforest that was destroyed in 2008 to produce food.

As food prices rise, the greater the financial incentive to deforest the rainforests. But they're vital to deal with global warming.

So what can you do to reduce your food waste?

Don't buy too many meat and dairy products at once. These products are more perishable than other foods and take up to four times more land to produce and result in more greenhouse gas emissions (particularly from cattle).

Use a shopping list. With the massive variety of foods available in the supermarkets, it's easy to make impulse purchases. Make a list and stick to it. Only buy 'buy one, get one free' deals if it's something that you regularly use and will finish.

Keep an eye on what's in the fridge. Much food is wasted because we've forgotten that it's in the fridge or cupboard.

Use leftovers. You could put leftover meat in a sandwich to take to work the next day. This also saves money. Or turn leftovers into curries, soups and stir-frys.

Food waste is easy to avoid and saves money. Will you change your shopping habits?

Stephen Moore writes about global warming and other environmental issues at

Find out more about Tristram Stuart and his book, 'Waste - The Global Food Scandal' at

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