Student Sustainability Architect Akash Modi is working with the University's Catering Services on a project to develop a food and carbon engagement programme. For Food Waste Action Week, he shares his top tips for more mindful, sustainable food consumption at the University.
The impact of food waste
Food waste is a significant problem in the world as it is growing daily, and many people don’t recognise how big an issue it is. The UK throws away around 9.5 million food waste tonnes of food waste in a single year, and the average household in Leeds wastes around 200kg of food every year.
Food waste has immense economic, environmental and social impact. In terms of the economy in the UK, the cost of food waste to an average household is estimated to be to be £470 per year, which accounts to around £12.5 billion from the UK economy. When food waste is broken down, methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is released into the atmosphere. And food waste also has a social impact, with increased demand for food leading to increased prices, increasing pressure on the cost of living for the most vulnerable households.
What is Food Waste Action Week?
To deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving global food waste by 2030, Food Waste Action Week aims to raise the awareness of the issue and educate people on how simple sustainable practices can make a huge impact.
Ways to reduce food waste at University
- Make a weekly menu and use this when shopping so you only buy what you need.
- Always keep a note of things that you have so you can finish it before the expiry date. In particular, pay attention to food items that will spoil early so you remember to eat it sooner.
- Remember that 'best before' dates are different to 'use by' dates. Many foods can still be eaten perfectly safely after their best before dates - the Food Standards Agency suggests using the 'sniff test' on foods that are past their best before date.
- Understand how you can safely freeze food to save for later.
- Think of how you can reuse leftover food - Love Food Hate Waste has lots of ideas for leftover food recipes, and last night's dinner can also make a great packed lunch option that you can heat up in the student kitchen in LUU.
- If you have food that you are not going to be able to eat, for example if you are going away, consider donating it to a local food bank or giving it away on an app such as Olio.
- The Too Good To Go app allows you to purchase unsold food from cafes, restaurants and food shops - including University catering outlets - to prevent it from getting wasted. You can get a huge amount of food for not much money, helping to make your budget go further too.
- Check your local store for food in the reduced section which is short dated - even if you can't eat it straight away, it can often be frozen for later and stops it from going to waste.
- Support local food producers. By buying local produce, you support family farmers and small businesses in your community. You also help fight pollution by reducing delivery distances for trucks and other vehicles.
- Even if you don't have much space you can grow your own food. You can then pick it fresh as you need it, with no food miles involved. Herbs and salads are particularly easy to grow and are happy in a container on a windowsill. You could also get involved with a community garden or allotment such as the one run by the LUU Green Action Society on Woodhouse Moor.
It is high time we take food waste seriously, and whilst we have a long way to go, we have the opportunity to make a significant impact at the University.