Welcome to issue #1
Welcome to the first issue of Earthish. Earthish is meant to be more than just a newsletter: I wanted to build a space where entrepreneurs, creatives and anyone interested in a better world could understand today's social problems and act accordingly. There is much room for improvement, and there are plenty of things to do. So let's dig deeper into it.
— Lorena (@lorenacoronam)
Everything you need to know about food waste
We waste about a third of all food produced for human consumption. Food production is the single biggest cause of deforestation, the single biggest cause of water extraction, the single biggest cause of habitat and biodiversity loss. And one-third of all of that impact is going on to produce food that ends up being wasted: over 1.3 billion tonnes of food is binned each year globally.
Numbers are numbers. More than 800 million people in the world are hungry. 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year. So we don't need to produce more. We need to act differently.
Food waste in numbers
1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally every year.
3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases per year are generated by food waste.
250 km3 of water is used each year to produce food that is wasted.
28% of the world's agricultural area (1.4 billion hectares) is used annually to produce food that is wasted.
50$ billion is the annual cost of food waste (excluding fish and seafood).
Why is food being wasted?
Food is lost or wasted throughout every link of the supply chain, from production to consumption.
Food that gets spilt or spoilt before harvesting –or when being stored, packed or transported– is known as food loss. Food loss can be caused by weather or insects, or by high temperatures and poor storage.
Food that is fit for human consumption, but is not consumed because is left to spoil or is discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste. Food waste occurs due to a range of factors including supermarket cosmetic standards or over-ordering and consumer buying or cooking practices.
The consequences of food waste
Feeding the world
There are nearly a billion undernourished people in the world, unable to access enough food to meet their needs. But we actually grow enough food to feed everyone.
Livestock production is the least efficient process in our food system. 36% of world crops are used for animal feed, but they only deliver 12% of the world's food calories (as meat and other animal products). The United Nations estimates that if farmers globally fed their livestock on food waste and on agricultural by-products, enough grain would be liberated to feed an extra 3 billion people, more than the expected population by 2050. Coupled with measures as reducing meat consumption, ending the practice of growing food to produce biofuels and cutting food waste could ensure that global hunger becomes a thing of the past, even with continued population growth.
Food waste generates 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere per year, around 8% of total global emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming.
And on top of that, a low percentage of all food wastage is composted, which means much of it ends up in landfills, producing methane as it rots. Methane is 23 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
Protecting the environment
Producing requires huge amounts of water, land and other resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that every year, up to 1.4 billion hectares of land and over 250 km3 of water are used to produce food which will ultimately be wasted. Globally, 9.7 million hectares of land are deforested annually to grow food –74% of total annual deforestation.
Furthermore, agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The National Resources Defense Council estimates that each year, the average American family of four throws away about $1,500 worth of food. Globally, people waste over $750 billion of food each year, excluding fish and seafood, with even more economic impact if you consider the environmental and social costs of things like deforestation, soil erosion, increased greenhouse gases, water scarcity, exposure to chemicals and reduced profits for farmers.
Food waste also drives up prices, reducing the number of people who can afford the healthy food they need. And not only does food waste itself have a massive economic impact, but the costs to local government of collecting and treating food waste are significant.
What can you do to help?
It sounds simple, but this is one of the most important things you can do. When you go food shopping, make sure you don't buy too much food. This may mean going to the grocery store more often and buying less food each time. Also, try making a list of items that you need to buy and stick to that list. But if you didn't manage to do it right, you can use these apps to save food that might otherwise be wasted.
Store food correctly
Storing food in the right place is underrated. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, about two-thirds of household waste in the United Kingdom is due to food spoilage. Food Republic has an infographic to help you pinpoint where your various foods should go, while Heart.org breaks down where to put your fruits and veggies to make them last longer.
Moreover, you should practice FIFO. It stands for First In, First Out. When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge/freezer/pantry and put new products in the back.
Understand expiration dates
Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of the best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.
There are no uniform or universally accepted descriptions used on food labels for open dating in the United States. A movement is now underway to make the food expiration labelling system more clear for consumers. In the meantime, use your best judgment when deciding whether food that is slightly past its expiration date is safe to eat.
Food waste scraps can be composted to create a product that can be used to help improve soils and grow the next generation of crops. While not everyone has room for an outdoor composting system, there’s a wide range of countertop composting systems that make this practice easy and accessible for everyone, even those with limited space.
Filmmakers Jen and Grant decided to quit grocery shopping and survive only on foods that would otherwise be thrown away. The images they capture of squandered groceries are both shocking and strangely compelling.
The film exposes the criminality of food waste and how it's directly contributing to climate change and shows us how each of us can make small changes to solve one of the greatest problems of the 21st Century.
Jonathan Bloom follows the trajectory of America's food from gathering to the garbage bin. Bloom's most interesting point is psychological: we have trained ourselves to regard food as a symbol of American plenty that should be available at all seasons and times and in dizzying quantities.
The book traces the problem around the globe from the top to the bottom of the food production chain. The journey is a personal one as the author, Tristram Stuart, is a dedicated freegan, who has chosen to live off of discarded or self-produced food in order to highlight the global food waste scandal.
Some of the reasons we waste food and some of the solutions people are using to address this problem.
Western countries throw out nearly half of their food, not because it’s inedible, but because it doesn’t look appealing. Tristram Stuart delves into the shocking data of wasted food, calling for more responsible use of global resources.
You can find many more here.
Feedback uses tangible awareness campaigns such as Feeding the 5000 to shine a light on the global food waste scandal.
Food Tank leverages their huge media following to share knowledge and promote food security digitally.
It started out because a few college students at the University of Maryland were dismayed by the amount of food being thrown out in their school dining halls. Now, FRN creates food recovery programs on college campuses across the country to salvage food that would otherwise be thrown away.