Many students have become increasingly aware of the detrimental impact we are having on the environment, which is evident from the surge in climate strikes and environmental activist groups in recent years. More and more of us are eager to make a difference and start changing our habits to reduce our impact on the environment; however, it can seem overwhelming to know where to start.
Living on a budget, and with less than ideal accommodation circumstances, many more eco-friendly life changes, such as composting, using packageless food shopping or going vegan, can almost seem out of reach for students. Making small changes in the way we use our food is one step which can have a huge impact.
“An estimated one-third of all the food we produce in the world goes to waste. This is a statistic we hear a lot, but how specifically does food waste impact the environment?”
An estimated one-third of all the food we produce in the world goes to waste. This is a statistic we hear a lot, but how does food waste specifically impact the environment? Wasting food also means wasting all of that energy, water and time it took to grow, transport and package the food. Then, when this food reaches landfill it rots, producing greenhouse gases, which, as we know, results in global warming and climate change.
Food waste is not only an environmental problem, but a societal one as well. Considering that an estimated 800 million people in the world go hungry every day, we need to find a way to waste less of what we already produce, rather than try to produce more of it. The one-third of our food that is wasted is enough food to feed 2 billion people, which is over twice the number of hungry people in the world. Of course, this isn’t an issue that any one person can solve on their own, but there are steps that we can take at the consumer level that will make a difference.
“Yes, we need systemic change, but this can’t stop us from taking whatever actions we can as individuals to try make a difference.”
Here at Trinity News we have curated a few easy tips and tricks that can kickstart your journey towards producing less waste. Even if you consider yourself to be fairly eco-conscious, one can always benefit from more tips on how to waste less. It can be difficult at times to fight against climate change when so much of how we consume contributes negatively to the environment. Yes, we need systemic change, but this can’t stop us from taking whatever actions we can as individuals to try to make a difference. These tips and tricks will not only minimise your food waste, but potentially save you money and time as well.
Small changes in the way we shop are a great place to start reducing our food waste. It sounds simple, but planning out your meals and sticking to your shopping list when you go to the supermarket can save you time and money and, of course, impact the amount of waste you produce. Just because something is on offer doesn’t mean you absolutely have to buy it – take the time before buying every item to think if you really need it for the week, and then only buy what you think you can realistically consume before the food goes bad.
“Perfectly good food is thrown out every day because of best before dates, so use your common sense and make the call yourself.”
Speaking of, know the difference between use-by and best before dates. Use-by dates are about food safety and should generally be stuck to; however, best before dates are about quality and this means using your judgment. You will be fine if you eat food that has gone past the best before date, it just might not look as nice or taste as good as it did before this date. Perfectly good food is thrown out every day because of best before dates, so use your common sense and make the call yourself.
Additionally, try looking up what fruit and vegetables are in season and plan your meals around them. Fruit and vegetables will be at a higher quality when they are in season and they can often be cheaper too because they are more abundant.
“Before you go to the supermarket look in your fridge and cupboards and see if there are any ingredients left that you could make something out of.”
Save your leftovers (if there are any) after every meal, even if there’s only a tiny amount. You can always add these to another meal or have them as a small snack the next day. This works really well if you have simple recipes like curries, stir frys and stews, which make it easy to throw in whatever you have leftover in your fridge. These are also meals that are quick and easy to make and freeze well. Before you go to the supermarket, look in your fridge and cupboards and see if there are any ingredients left that you could make something out of. This is a really fun way to get creative in the kitchen and minimise your food waste.
Don’t throw away the good bits!
There are so many parts of fruit and vegetables that we are in the habit of throwing away. Do you normally cut off the broccoli florets and throw away the stalk? If you chop up the broccoli stalk and cook it with your florets, it is actually a really good addition to any dish.
“Peeling vegetables and throwing away the skin is another common practice when in most cases the skin is perfectly edible and actually very nutritious.”
Peeling vegetables and throwing away the skin is another common practice when, in most cases, the skin is perfectly edible and actually very nutritious. Try leaving the skin on your potatoes or sweet potatoes as it crisps over nicely when baked. However, if you do want to peel your potatoes — maybe you want to mash them — then why not save the skins and use them to make crisps? Simply wash, dry, add salt and oil, and cook your skins in the oven.
Leaves on vegetables and fruit are another thing which we tend to throw out. Keep your strawberry tops, throw them into a smoothie and you won’t even notice they’re there. Most leaves and leftovers can be chopped up small and thrown into a salad, or a blender to make pesto. You can store any vegetable scraps that you don’t eat in a container in the freezer and when you have collected enough scraps, you can use them to make a vegetable stock or broth. This is one less thing to buy in the shop if you like curries, but it is also an especially great tip if you are unable to compost at your accommodation.
“Many foods will go off before we have time to eat them all, especially if you are shopping and cooking for one.”
When it comes to minimising your food waste, your freezer is your new best friend. Many foods will go off before we have time to eat them all, especially if you are shopping and cooking for one. Take some time to evaluate what foods you waste the most and whether or not you really need or want them. If you have decided what foods you really want that have a tendency to go to waste, think about freezing half of it right after you buy it and then taking it out later when you need it.
For example, freeze half of your loaf of bread if you know you won’t finish it before it goes stale. If you didn’t freeze half your loaf and it is going stale, try turning it into bread crumbs or croutons for a salad. You could also use the bread crumbs for the top of a baked pasta dish, or even make French toast.
Leafy greens also have a tendency to never be fully used. You can combat this by putting half of your greens in the freezer right after you buy them and then take them out later when you need them. To extend the life of the other half in the fridge, rinse and store them in a container with a paper towel to soak up the water.
Finally, so many people hate to eat browned bananas, but they are actually perfect for banana bread, muffins or smoothies. If you don’t have time to make any of these recipes that day, why not throw your bananas in the freezer? Then on a day when you have more time, you can make a delicious smoothie or an easy banana bread.
“Storing food correctly is one of the simplest ways to preserve the life of your vegetables.”
Storing food correctly is one of the simplest ways to preserve the life of your vegetables. Make sure you know where your food should be stored, whether that be in the fridge or in a cool dry place. Often, transferring your vegetables from their plastic packaging to a cup of water can keep them fresh for longer.
Taking this one step further, if you have time and would like a few plants to take care of, try regrowing your vegetables instead of throwing them away. This works well for old herbs, spring onions, lettuce, celery and leeks, to name just a few. As students, most of us do not have an outdoor garden let alone a vegetable patch, but you can make your own mini one.
“Regrow the tips and tops of your vegetables in jars of water first and then transplant them into soil when the roots have grown strong.”
Regrow the tips and tops of your vegetables in jars of water first and then transplant them into soil when the roots have grown strong. Using an old milk carton, cut out the top and add soil and fertiliser. Then replant your carrot tops, lettuce or celery which you have been regrowing in water into this mini vegetable garden. Maybe you could regrow your basil and thyme and have your very own herb garden for your future cooking. Alternatively, you could just buy a pot, but this is a handy way to reuse your milk cartons and regrow your vegetables on a budget. Place the carton or pot on your windowsill so it gets sunlight.
There are so many more ways you can reduce, reuse and recycle your food waste; this article only covers a few starting points. Get creative. It doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. Every tiny change can have an impact on the environment.