I’m going to be blunt here. I propose that we can stop Global Warming in our kitchen. It might need many kitchens, but if that’s what it takes, let’s get on it.
First things first. Where do I take this idea from? From Tristram Stuart’s Feeding the 5K we learn that “10% of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never eaten.” Now, 10 percent is a big number and we don’t even hace to renounce to anything, since we are talking about food nobody eats (you can find out what this food we don’t eat would mean for the hungry in the world here). It gets even better: “If we planted trees on land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food, this would offset a theoretical maximum of 100% of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.” If that wasn’t illustrative enough, I’ll give you another example (this time from Love Food Hate Waste): “If we stopped wasting food that could have been eaten, we could have a huge impact on the environment, the equivalent of taking 1 in 5 cars off UK roads.”
Now, back to the kitchen. Imagine just for a second not to waste any food (and apparently we throw away around 25% of the food we buy). It doesn’t sound too crazy, right? But let’s get a little more practical here.
For once, we can learn something from the carnivour world. The trend of offal eating – meaning eating all parts of a butchered animal – is showing the way for a more sustainable use of our foods. You can perfectly adapt the concept for the veg world. The New York Times titled some months ago: That’s not Trash, That’s Dinner. From this article we can take the following important message: “the edible vegetable begins with the sprouts and does not end until the leaves, vines, tubers, shoots and seeds have given their all.” The article explains that we should reconsider what goes into the pots and what into the wastebin. The whole idea is called stem-to-root cooking. If you read the article, you’d be surprised what things you have thrown into the bin all those years which would’ve actually been delicious.
A great initiative comes from the UK: Love Food Hate Waste. They offer not only facts but real tools to reduce your food waste. Do you always cook to much or too little? Here you can calculate the amount of food you should cook for the number of people you are cooking for. Further, Love Food Hate Waste promotes meal planning (so that you don’t go to the supermarket buying random stuff. In case you do end up with random ingredients and don’t know what to cook, here are some using-up recipes). Meal planning doesn’t only reduce food waste: it also saves you a lot of money.
Further, it’s time to love the short and ugly. Charities like FareShare are showing us the way. They promote to use vegetables which aren’t “perfect” and distribute them to people in need. We all can do our part and pick the funny looking carrots, potatoes or apples. Don’t forget it: if you don’t buy them, probably nobody will. They will go directly to the dump.
Now, I can’t help but say that if we are planning to save the earth from our kitchens, then there is no way around going vegetarian or even vegan: “8.3 million hectares of land required to produce just the meat and dairy products wasted in UK homes and in US homes, shops and restaurants. That is 7 times the amount of Amazon rainforest destroyed in Brazil in one year, largely for cattle grazing and soy production to export for livestock feed” (and that’s only the parts we waste).
Let’s give it a try, shall we? Let’s not throw away anything. It’s easy. Just keep an eye on your food and don’t go to the supermarket with a hungry stomach. Even if one day you lose the overview, don’t forget: “Best before” means exactly that; best before and still amazing after. Wasting less food (ourselves in the kitchen and obviously also the retailers and companies) would mean less food needs to be produced and transported, and therefore less CO2 emissions plus less waste (which again means less CO2 emissions). Simple, right?
To learn more about the topic, read also my post Rotten Carrots.