Hundreds of thousands of people in Canada access food bank services every month yet an estimated $27 billion dollars worth of food is wasted in Canada every year. This disturbing social reality is coupled with the negative environmental impact of food waste. When food is wasted, the fresh water that was used to irrigate the crops is also wasted. Furthermore, when food waste enters landfills to decompose without oxygen, it produces a greenhouse gas called methane, which contributes to climate change at 25 times the rate of CO2.
Food is wasted throughout the food system; the Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimates that 1.2-2 billion tonnes, or 30–50%, of all food produced globally is wasted due to issues in food production, storage, transportation and consumer attitudes around food.
The biggest site of food waste in Canada, however, is in the home. There are a number of factors contributing to this kind of food waste including poor meal planning, buying in bulk without a proper storage plan and not knowing the different ways to eat a vegetable or fruit. Luckily, there are many opportunities to reduce food waste in the home – but it does require patience, planning and creativity.
Close the Gap on Food Waste
Creatively re-imagining the food system means letting go of linear ways of thinking and understanding that one’s relationship with food isn’t limited to purchasing, consuming and throwing away food. In fact, one way to close the gap on food waste is by completing the food cycle through composting.
Composting helps reduce waste, conserve water and combat climate change. It also creates nutrient-rich organic matter that can be used for gardening, landscaping and agriculture.
There are several ways to compost including through your municipality and/or by setting up a home composting system. If you have access to a green space, you can set up a composting bin in which you can place a mix of carbon-rich “browns” (such as leaves and twigs) and nitrogen-rich “greens” (such as vegetable peelings and rotten fruit) which will eventually break down to become a nutrient rich humus.
If you don’t have access to a bin, digging a hole in the ground for your compost ingredients works too! Either way, remember to stir the mixture every few weeks so that it is exposed to oxygen. For more information on how to compost using this method check out the David Suzuki Foundation’s useful backyard composting do's and don’ts worksheet.
If you’re interested in indoor composting, vermicomposting may be the option for you. In vermicomposting, or worm composting, red worms are used to help break down organic waste and produce “castings” that can be used as nutrient-rich plant food. This type of composting is a great activity for kids and is an interesting way to learn about nature’s processes. The City of Toronto has some great information on how to compost with worms on their website.
Diverting food waste from landfills is an important element in protecting the environment. By using food scraps to grow more food, composting also provides an excellent opportunity to advance food security.
For even more ways to reduce your food waste, check out the first post in our new Green Living blog from our partners at Green Living Online – plus our Sustainable Living board on Pinterest, or the Wasted Food blog. If you find tips that work, let us know via Twitter or Facebook!
The Food & Culture blog currently features monthly articles on food justice by Jo Anne Tacorda. If you're interested in adding your voice to this blog, please send a short proposal and writing sample to blogs [at] alternativesjournal.ca.
Through sharing her adventures and reflections in the food movement, Jo Anne will explore complex issues from a youth perspective, including the need for an innovative, integrated, empowerment-focused approach to food security and the connections between social justice, environmental issues and food production.
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