I’ve been doing some research into household consumer behaviour and why we waste food. I thought it would be an interesting topic to speak about, given how common food waste is nowadays.
In today’s post, I’d like to dive into several aspects of food waste (which can be extrapolated to any kind of waste). I’ll look at the impact it has on society, the impact it has on our psyche and the impact on our environment.
Impact of food waste on society
When it comes to societal impact, it’s easy to look at it from 2 different extremes; those living in abject poverty and the filthy rich. The majority of us lie somewhere in the middle. For those who live in a state of constant hunger and search for food on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite clear why wasting food makes no sense.
Think about it this way, whenever you intentionally throw food out (bec you let it expire etc.), you deny other people a chance to leverage that same thing. Yes, there should be a threshold or limit to what you can give or can’t give (based on the quality of the food for example). But more often than not, people who don’t have anything to eat will be incredibly grateful for your left overs.
This applies even more when you’re eating out at a restaurant. Time and time again, I see people leave large portions of their food on the table when they leave a restaurant. Those restaurants can’t do anything but throw it away. You, on the other hand, can ask for a takeaway box and give it to someone else (a guard or beggar etc.).
Our decisions always make an impact on other people, whether we see it directly or not. You can change the lives of the people in your community by simply giving away some of your leftovers or excess food. Especially when you know you’re not going to eat something, but keep it in the fridge until it expires/rots and throw it away.
Be mindful of these habits, they also have an effect on your psyche.
Impact on our psyche
As I mentioned already, there are indirect consequences to our wasting habits. The impact actually seeps deep into your subconscious, because you are essentially programming yourself to live a certain lifestyle.
Something as simple as throwing away leftovers? Really?
Yes, because it ingrains a certain level of ingratitude. This may sound like an attack to some of you, but it’s how I personally view the topic. When you’re comfortable with wasting, you are essentially doing the opposite of being grateful. You’re not truly appreciating the value of the blessing.
It happens by mistake and a lot of the time it’s not on purpose, but when it’s habit/lifestyle, then it can be truly problematic. Especially because you’re living out your values. And I don’t think any of us would really like to acknowledge that ingratitude can be a core value.
Apart from that, there’s also a huge concern about the environment. Landfills simply can’t sustainably deal with the type of food waste we produce.
Impact on the environment
Apart from the clear and obvious non-degradable aspects of the waste (like packaging and containers), the food itself causes a significant problem. Considering that most of our food waste typically ends up in landfills (in unsustainable quantities), it ends up being buried for microorganisms to decompose.
The issue is that the process is achieved through anaerobic digestion (without any oxygen), and the by-product is large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2 and methane). This means that food waste directly contributes to climate change.
Another factor to consider is the value chain of the food process. From the time it’s farmed/produced, through to the logistics of transporting it, to the refrigeration/storage, all the way to consumption, there’s a lot of waste created when we throw that food away.
You can find more information on what happens to food waste in the article below.
What can we do about it?
I know that sounds all dark and gloomy, but there is something really simple that we can do about it. Simply waste less.
Start by paying closer attention to your buying and eating habits. If you notice that you always buy an excessive amount of certain items that usually end up expired, then start buying less of it. When you notice things approaching their expiry date and you don’t plan on consuming it, then give it away.
In addition, just give more to those who less fortunate than you. It obviously needs to be edible and in decent condition, but it doesn’t have to be brand new or immaculate. People appreciate the smallest of gestures and acts of kindness. By doing this, you’re acting out the value of gratitude. God has blessed us all with much more than we can count. It’s time to make our actions count.
So if you want to play your part and make a difference to society, to your psyche and to the environment, waste less, be more mindful of what you buy and start giving out more. You got this.