3 Solutions to Combat Food Waste and Become Sustainable (Infographics)

Food waste! Oh, those fries you just throw in your trash bin or that sweet salad you throw away because it’s been in your fridge for one week and nobody even thought of touching it. “It’s just a salad, it won’t do anything wrong”. Well, think again. Just a fact, as there are more here: the average American throws away 300 lbs of food each year. This accounts for about $2 200 yearly. To go even further, this is about $183 worth of food wasted each month.

You could invest that money or even open a business! Or just save them and go on a nice vacation to chill a bit. Okay, but what is it exactly? Food waste is when you waste food, basically. When you don’t think you’re cooking, buying or ordering too much. If we were to reduce the waste in America by 15%, we could feed more than 25 million Americans.

It’s more than that. Because of human ignorance, wasting food has become an issue of importance to global food security and even environmental governance.

Studies show that between one third and one half of the world food production is not consumed, leading to negative impacts throughout the food supply chain including households. And this really has a great impact. Let’s make a chain of thought. Having in mind that 1/3 of food is wasted, let’s imagine how it would be if it weren’t wasted at all, ideally speaking. So, you have less waste, the same amount of food consumed. So far, so good.

On a macro scale, this would lead to food production to lower by one third, because people would not buy as much food. Meaning there will be less water consumed on agriculture and less CO2 emissions. When thinking that about 70% of the world’s freshwater is consumed on agriculture, it is a big thing. And the bills will be smaller because of economics. If I mentioned CO2, let’s give more information, about this. So, Agriculture is, indeed, a cause of air pollution. How? Well, livestock accounts for 40% of global emissions, while mineral fertilizers account for 16% and burning biomass along with crop residue for about 18%. Just to be nice, here is what it takes to produce a hamburger:

Okay, we identified what and a bit of why food waste is happening. But, what are the solutions to combat it? Well, people have thought of a lot of solutions, more and less practical. But I have a few ideas myself, So let’s see them:

1) The Fruit of Eden

Well, it’s not like that one, we’re not going to be “downgraded” after eating it. It just sounds cool and…yeah cool. The solution itself is GMOs. I know people don’t like GMOs, but it’s a valid solution. And they are a good thing, actually.

How we can overcome food waste with GMOs? you may ask. Here’s how it goes. We select a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, leafy greens, etc. which we enhance in such way that specific plate combination using a formula (For example fruit+vegetable+nuts) gives us all the nutrients that we need for an entire day. From a single plate. We would enhance nuts for more proteins, vegetables, and fruit for more vitamins and minerals, etc.

This way, this range of foods, which we can name ‘diet’ to be easier to digest (pun intended), will be largely available and largely consumed. Therefore, they will be more and more demanding due to their high nutritional values and the prices would fall for such products. In the long term, other products, like meat will become less demanded as their price increases. This comes with good and bad aspects. The negative outcome will be that meat will become available mostly in fancy restaurants for the higher class, or upper-middle class. The positive outcome will be that agriculture will use less water for livestock, as the meat production will fall. This will cause the spaces attributed for animals to be redistributed to vegetables and fruit production, which requires less water and processing.

Producers will find alternatives in order to make meat more available by mixing it with other ingredients, so the meat percentage in certain aliments will fall. As Germany did last century when Coffee became less available and they filled the shafts with mix coffee, containing only 51% coffee and the rest of 49% was something else. Or invest in lab-grown meat. The industry is rising and the potential is huge. All the taste, none of the water consumed.

2) Urban Agriculture

We can define urban agriculture by the process of raising animals and growing plants in the cities and around them. Where exactly? We can use the vacant places all around town, backyards of residential neighborhoods and bomb shelters as Detroit does. These are pretty efficient. But I am thinking bigger. Well, not skyscraper farms like China big. I think of using all available space in the cities to farm. “Available space in the cities? Where, parking lots?” No. My answer is rooftops. Let’s think. Buildings are everywhere and their footprint is covering at least 30% of the total urban area. We can use that space to grow food and raise small animals, like chicken, even fish.

We cannot grow fruit trees and we cannot raise swine on the rooftop of an ordinary apartment building, we’ll leave that to China and its skyscrapers designed for this. Yet, we have a lot of options. We can grow basically any vegetable, some sweet fruits as there are strawberries and watermelons. And most importantly, the food we could not live without, not pizza, unfortunately. I am talking about potatoes. How could we live without them? And yet, we put them to waste…Wait, does anyone throw away fries? I mean, they get eaten the minute they are ready. They don’t even have time to cool off. Or is it my household only?

Returning to the subject, planting on the rooftops is, indeed, a bold move. It requires a lot of dirt to grow the food on. Oh, wait. This is not totally true. As this is a solution, filling up the rooftops of all buildings with dirt, planting seeds and watering them daily, there is quite a long range of other options. I am talking about Hydroponics, Aquaponics and Aeroponics.

To be short, Hydroponics is growing plants by having their roots grow in water with nutrients, consuming 80–95% less water than soil farming. Aeroponics is growing the plants’roots in air containers or tubes which are supplied with nutrients and water by a fine mist, consuming 20% less water than hydroponics. Aquaponics is growing the roots of plants in water, as in hydroponics, the difference being that the water is not enriched with nutrients. Instead, there is fish growing in the water and providing the roots with nutrients. If you are concerned about the energy costs overall, that is another issue. But I found a study for you to read if interested. The yields from these methods are also more productive, in a shorter time, as well as a lot of other benefits.

How cool is that? We can grow food in our apartments and on rooftops using less water. Also, we can grow fish as well. This is pretty impressive. Quite an opportunity.

Still, how could urban farming reduce food waste?

Again, let’s think economically, another chain of thinking. We grow food on rooftops and in our apartments. This leads to buying fewer vegetables and leafy greens from the supermarkets. By decreasing the demand for food, the production will be also decreased, which means less water used.

The biggest problem with supplying food is transportation. Vegetables don’t have too much time before being spoiled. And by growing locally, we have them fresh at all times.

The issue of fish is yet another. If you live somewhere in Scotland and buy fish harvested from The North Sea, it is not fresh, usually. That fish has been around the world, being ‘filtered’ by numerous businesses and being transported by heavy ships which participate in pollution quite a lot.

3) Being responsible

This is the easiest way to reduce food waste is to just be responsible. We should be more careful about what we consume, be aware of the amount of food we consume, make some tables and just don’t buy so much food. It’s not that hard to achieve. It seems hard because people are irresponsible and ignorant. Growing food in our apartments and on rooftops is, for sure a great idea. But the main cause of food waste is throwing food away because “we’re full” or “It’s spoiled”. Of course, this happens if we cook/order/buy too much food and we don’t consume it when it’s time.

The economic scenarios apply here as well, less food is thrown away, less production, more water, less pollution.

BONUS: Redistribution

We can also lower food waste if we invest more in redistribution. You finished your food and by tomorrow night you won’t eat is and it will not spoil? Fine, give it to the homeless. There are millions of tons of food thrown away in the sea yearly? Fine, impose some policies, as the UN or the government regarding the expiration date of foods and send them to poor people in Africa and Bangladesh just in time so they can have something to eat without it being expired. It’s effective altruism. We should try that.

Conclusion

There are many causes and negative effects of throwing away food and there are lots of solutions to solve that. We can apply the concepts of urban agriculture, we can genetically enhance fruits and vegetables, we can be more responsible and we could just apply effective altruism as a mindset. I know that in Islam, there is a ‘policy’ which implies that, from your production to give one third to the poor, one third to friends and relatives and one third remains for you. It may be applicable only for Ramadan, I am not sure, correct me if I am wrong. All of these things, alone or even combined could lead us to a utopia and considerably lower food waste.

What are your thoughts on this? What do you think?
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Originally published at hariolus.blogspot.com.

I’m full of ideas. Crazy ones.