Every day, food waste emits an atrocious amount of greenhouse gas emissions that fuel the climate emergency. But there are plenty of ways that we, as a food business, and you, as a home cook and eater, can eliminate personal food waste. Wondering what we do to combat food waste in Organico? Wondering what you can do at home? Read ahead to find out!
Why we have to end food waste
One million tonnes.
That’s how much food goes to waste in Ireland each year.
That’s how much food ends up in landfills, producing toxic amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, a greenhouse gas at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
As the third largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, food waste has soared to levels that we must diminish if we’re to tackle the climate emergency.
But we know it’s not just down to you as a shopper and eater. As a food business, we at Organico acknowledge our responsibility to bring an end to this country’s frightening levels of food waste. That’s because the majority of Ireland’s food waste is created by retail businesses and restaurants. And we’re both.
What the supermarkets are doing to end food waste
The good news is that Ireland’s major supermarkets—including Tesco, Aldi and Musgraves—have pledged to take action to halve Ireland’s food waste by 2030, in accordance with the Climate Action Plan. But these brands are so big, and they have so many moving parts, it will take time to fix all the problems along their supply chains.
The food waste generated by these large chains isn’t just composed of the products that go unpurchased. There are other sources of waste along a supermarket’s supply chain: crops that are rejected before they ever leave the farm, entire egg cartons thrown out because one egg is cracked, and food orders that are cancelled after the food is produced.
What Organico is doing to end food waste
It’s rare for a food shop to generate virtually no food waste, but that’s what we’ve achieved in Organico Shop, and it all comes down to our relationship with our local producers and Organico Cafe.
'We buy wonky-looking veg from our organic veg suppliers,' says Hannah Dare who oversees the shop. 'It's better value and just as tasty. And because we buy surplus veg from local growers, we're able to help stop food from going to waste at the beginning of the supply chain on our local farms.'
For years now, we’ve sent any surplus of fresh produce from the shop into the cafe or bakery to become part of the menu. It’s just what makes sense to us.
'If not for the cafe, Organico wouldn’t be able to avoid food waste,' says Rachel Dare who runs the cafe. 'I don't know how supermarkets do it, it would break my heart throwing so much away. Our system means that the shop can order what they think their customers will need, and anything that doesn’t sell in time goes to the cafe.'
The goal is to find a valuable use for everything. As Hannah explains, 'If yogurts and kefirs come to their date in the shop, we use them in our oat bread instead of organic buttermilk. Since they're fermented products they keep really well.'
The synergy between the shop and cafe allows Organico to support local producers even when things don’t go as planned. Rachel explains, ‘If there’s a delivery of local broccoli that doesn’t look great because it came from a waterlogged field, we don’t have to cancel the order or send it back. We’re able to support the farmer and find a use in the cafe for whatever doesn’t sale in the shop.’
Rachel explains it takes a special type of person to tackle the daily challenge of food waste in a professional environment: 'The chefs who love working in our kitchen are the people who don’t like to see food wasted. So when that unexpected box of lovely Irish chestnut mushrooms arrives, they immediately start dreaming up inventive ways to use them.'
Inside the cafe, Rachel and her team of cooks eliminate food waste by creating a menu that changes daily based on what’s seasonally available. They composts scraps; make chicken stock from the bones of roasted chickens, and vegetable stock from peelings; and prepare food in quantities that they know are likely to sell.
'As a team, we put a lot of emphasis on reducing food waste,' says Hannah. 'We're able to achieve what we do because we all share a common goal.'
What you can do to end food waste
10 easy ways you can eliminate food waste in your home
1. If you have the time, make a meal plan for the week and a shopping list based on that meal plan. Having a shopping list will help you to only purchase the foods you know you’ll use.
2. Designate one meal each week as a ‘leftovers meal’. This is when you take the odds and ends of veg or protein that haven’t been used and turn them into a soup or stir-fry. Or you set out the leftover portions of meals you cooked earlier in the week to be finished in one go. You may even discover a love for an unlikely pairing of dishes!
3. Any sliced fruit, berries or fresh herbs that have seen better days can be turned into ice cubes. Fill an ice cube tray with the produce, top with water, and use as ice once frozen. Pretty and eco-friendly!
4. Bananas are one of the most commonly wasted foods inside our homes. Break the habit by peeling, slicing and freezing bananas when they start to go brown. Now, they’re always ready to be turned into smoothies, banana bread, pancakes or a dairy-free ice cream.
5. Speaking of your freezer...label foods with their name and the date as you freeze them, so you’ll always know what’s in your freezer and how long it’s been there.
6. Memorise, or keep a list handy, of what goes in your brown bin:
- Raw or cooked food
- Meat, poultry and fish, including bones
- Leftover food from meals
- Fruit and vegetables
- Plastic-free tea bags, coffee grounds and paper filters
- Breads, cakes and biscuits
- Rice, pasta and cereals
- Dairy products
- Eggs and egg shells
- Food-stained paper napkins, paper towels and pizza boxes
- Grass clippings and small twigs
7. Invest in good quality food storage containers, so saving—then eating—leftovers becomes a pleasure. We’re particularly fond of the Black & Blum range for cooked meals, food huggers for cut ingredients (like lemons and avocados), and beeswax wrap for cheese and bread.
8. Get the most of your fresh ingredients by storing them in the appropriate place. See this guide for what should be stored in the fridge, freezer, or on the countertop.
9. In most cases, the ‘sell by’ or expiration date is a suggestion rather than a rule. Use common sense and your senses (especially sight, touch and smell) to determine if something is past its prime or still perfectly edible.
10. Make food friends! Is there a neighbor who would appreciate your surplus of cooked rice, or half a bag of rocket? Maybe a slice or two of banana bread would brighten the day of a work colleague? Sharing what we don’t need stops food from going to waste and builds community at the same time!
Let us know
What are your tips? How do you put a stop to food waste in your home? Let us know in the comments or get in touch on Facebook. We know that by helping one another, we can work together to bring the world to a much better place.