Hey everyone! My name is Allie, and I am a junior studying nutritional sciences. I am from a city called Woodhaven, MI about 30 minutes south of Detroit. I enjoy running, laughing, and cooking/baking. I am interested in how Australia and other countries practice sustainable ways of living in regards to their every day choices. I am especially interested in food waste and the impact it has on the climate and comparing it to the United States. I would like to learn more about every day sustainability practices that I can bring back to EL and my hometown to incorporate into my everyday life. One interesting fact about Australia is that the Aussie state of Tasmania has the world’s cleanest air.
While in Australia, I have decided to focus on researching UN’s number 2 sustainability goal of zero hunger/avoiding throwing away food. Globally, one in nine people (815 million) in the world today are undernourished, yet over 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted (United Nations, 2018). Food waste includes edible and inedible food that does not reach the consumer or is thrown away when it reaches the consumer. Food waste occurs throughout the food chain ranging from food that never reaches the shops (lost in the field or during processing/manufacturing) to unsold or uneaten food in restaurants to food discarded at home (WWF Australia, 2016). Food waste in Australia has a huge impact on the economy as well as the people that live there leading to $20 billion lost in the economy through food waste and over 5.3 million tons of food that is intended for human consumption that is instead wasted from households and the commercial and industrial sectors each year (Australian Government, 2017). Food waste is not just a problem in regards to a lack of food and nutrition of undernourished people. Food waste leads to greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane, overuse of the limited water supply, and vast amounts of forests cut down to be able to produce this wasted food (WWF Australia, 2016). Methane is 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas trapping a large amount of heat in the atmosphere having a direct impact on climate change with a rise in temperature of Earth’s surface (Government of WA, 2019). Given the large amounts of food waste and increasing problem of climate change, I am interested in seeing what Australia is doing to combat the food waste in all steps of the food chain to limit the impact food waste has on the climate.
While abroad in Australia, we visited many farms and organizations working toward reducing food waste in order to reduce methane emissions from the rotting food as well as increasing food security throughout the country. One specific organization called FareShare Kitchen is making great strides to reducing food waste. Their mission is to rescue food like meat, dairy, eggs, and vegetables from supermarkets, farmers, and manufacturers. The rescued food is turned into about 10,000 nutritious meals and donated to people in need every single day (FareShare, 2018). The rescued produce comes from Woolworth’s, a local grocery chain and other organizations that donate their surplus food to FareShare. By donating this food instead of disposing it, there is less methane emissions because the food is given a second life and not decomposing in a landfill.
Along with one specific non-profit organization, many farmers and individual people of Australia are choosing to make choices to reduce food waste. For example, WIRRA WIRRA winery produce wine from grape plants. Instead of discarding the skins, seeds, stems, and leaves of the grape plants, they have chosen to compost these parts of the plant to eventually be spread onto their plantation as a natural fertilizer. The Jacques Coffee Plantation does a very similar thing to WIRRA WIRRA. They turn the seeds, husks, and skins of the coffee cherries into mulch through composting to be spread onto their plantation. This eliminates food scraps from ending up in a landfill and decomposing while producing methane, a potent greenhouse gas in the process.
Lastly, many farms donate their unsold produce and imperfect crops to local food banks. The imperfect produce does not meet supermarket specifications, so instead of being thrown away, farms like Pacific Coast Eco Bananas donates them to food banks and other charities. The bananas and other crops contain blemishes, bruises, or marks that do not allow them to be distributed to supermarkets even though they are perfectly edible (Pacific Coast Eco Bananas, 2019). Similar to that, Melbourne Market, a wholesale fruit and vegetable trading center donates their extra/unsold produce to local food charities. Therefore, this reduces the amount of edible food that ends up in the landfills and reduces methane emissions.
If food waste was represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind only China and the United States (Climate Central, 2016). This is why it is crucial for people involved in every aspect of the food production chain from producers to consumers to play their part in reducing food waste. The United States is working towards reducing food waste through an initiative called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge which involves farms, agricultural processors, food manufactures, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments. The goal is to reduce food waste by improving product development and labeling, recovering food waste by making connections between food donors and hunger relief organizations, and recycling food waste to feed animals or compost (USDA, 2019). This involves the whole community educating the people and brings together many businesses with a common goal of reducing food waste to eliminate methane emissions from decomposing food in landfills improving the climate for a more sustainable future.
- Food Waste in Australia: http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/food-waste-in-australia/
- Food Waste Australia: Alternative Solutions for Cafes and Restaurants: https://waster.com.au/food-waste-australia-disposal/
- A Restaurant’s Guide to Reducing Food Waste: https://www.nisbets.com.au/food-waste
- Tackling Australia’s Food Waste: https://www.environment.gov.au/protection/waste-resource-recovery/food-waste
- How Food Waste Impacts Climate Change: https://particle.scitech.org.au/food/want-to-tackle-climate-change-tackle-your-food-waste-first/
- Love Food Hate Waste: https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/campaigns/love-food-hate-waste
- Reduce Your Food Footprint: https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/change-the-way-you-live/food-waste#gs.t691tk
- Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land, and Biodiversity: https://un.org.au/2013/09/12/food-waste-harms-climate-water-land-and-biodiversity/
Composting to Avoid Methane Production. (2018). Government of Western Australia. Retrieved June 18, 2019 from https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/climate-change/composting-avoid-methane-production.
Eco Bananas. (2019). Pacific Coast Eco Bananas. Retrieved July 30, 2019 from http://www.eco-banana.com.au/ecobananas/.
Food Waste, Methane, and Climate Change. (2016). Climate Central. Retrieved July 22, 2019 from https://www.climatecentral.org/gallery/graphics/food-waste-methane-and-climate-change.
National Food Waste Strategy: Halving Australia’s food waste by 2030. (2017). Australian Government. Retrieved May 4, 2019 from http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/4683826b-5d9f-4e65-9344-a900060915b1/files/national-food-waste-strategy.pdf.
Reducing Food Waste. (2016). WWF Australia. Retrieved May 4, 2019 from https://www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/food/reducing-food-waste#gs.9tkj1r.
Sustainable Development Goals. (2018). United Nations. Retrieved May 4, 2019 from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/.
U.S. Food Waste Challenge. (2019). USDA. Retrieved July 29, 2019 from https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm.
Who is FareShare. (2018). FareShare. Retrieved July 15, 2019 from https://www.fareshare.net.au/about-us/.