How spoiled are we?
I suppose I should be speaking for myself, but research by the National Zero Waste Council (NZWC) indicates I am not alone.
According to the council, Canadians waste 2.2 million tonnes of edible food each year. That amounts to approximately 140 for the average household at a cost of $1,100.
I got to thinking about this during the recent cold snap. One evening I decided to make tacos, but when I pulled the lettuce out of the fridge it had been partially frozen.
I salvaged what I could, but only because I had already prepared everything else. The rest went in the trash, not because it wasn’t edible, but because it was yucky.
I admit to being a picky eater, not in terms of the variety of foods I like because that is extremely broad, but I like things the way I like them.
There were a few other casualties of the freeze, as well, again not because they were spoiled per se, but just not ideal.
I felt guilty about it — not only because I come from the generation that had to endure the “starving children in Africa lecture” when I was a child, but also about the money.
And the world is not really very well set up for single people. Groceries tend to be packaged in quantities for larger households and when they’re not, they’re very expensive. Of course, not nearly as expensive as having to throw away half of it.
I try to be very conscious of this.
I try to buy only what I can foresee actually consuming before it spoils.
I have adapted most of my recipes to single serving, but it’s also a challenge to cook for one and inevitably I sometimes end up with leftovers.
Unfortunately, I’m not very good with leftovers. Some things keep well, others don’t.
But more often than not, it’s just that spoiled thing again. I think about pulling out the leftovers, but think, ‘I don’t want to eat that again.
The late comedian George Carlin had a great routine on leftovers.
“Leftovers make you feel good twice. First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then, a month later, when blue hair is growing out of the ham, and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!’”
I suppose some waste is just unavoidable, but limiting it as much as possible is not just about personal finances. Food waste has a significant environmental impact as well.
The NZWC calculates a reduction of one tonne of household food waste is the equivalent of taking one gasoline-powered vehicle — which on average releases approximately 4,500 kg of CO2 annually — off the road.
Even if each of us were to reduce food waste by half, that would be close to five million less tonnes of CO2 a year.
That’s something to think about.