How will working from home affect our food waste?
Written by Emmanuelle Gammage
Here’s the final part of our working from home series where we’ve talked about how our energy, heating and water consumption have been affected by working from home. You guessed it, today we’ll be exploring how working from home has impacted our food waste.
Sitting comfortably at our makeshift desks, no early morning commute, and attempts to get our daily steps in by walking to and from the kitchen, it may appear that working from home is more sustainable than working in the office, but as we’ve explored previously, it’s not that simple.
How much food do we waste?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, globally, 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food waste. Pre COVID-19, figures show that 50-70% of all UK food waste came from our own kitchens and on average, a household only ate 16.8 meals a week at home, throwing out approximately 1.9kg of food waste per person, every week.
Wasting food is so much more than throwing food away. Wasting food means wasting all of the materials that went into producing it too – fuel, water, and packaging. To be specific, agriculture accounts for 70% of the water used throughout the world. If we throw away one kilogram of beef, that equals throwing 50,000 litres of water down the drain.
But the good news is, studies appear to show that COVID-19 has improved our relationship with food and reduced waste.
How has food waste decreased?
WRAP, a charity that works with governments, businesses, and communities to improve resource efficiency conducted a survey in May 2020. Their key findings revealed that the households are managing their food better by pre-planning their shop, better in-home food management and being more creative with what they have.
Further statistics show that waste has dramatically decreased by a 34% reduction in four key items: bread, chicken, milk and potatoes.
Less time commuting and a short walk from your desk to the kitchen has allowed for more time for 33% of us to experiment and partake in preparing food from scratch (remember all those banana breads?).
Additionally, increased unemployment and higher food prices have caused many households to tighten their belt when it comes to the amount of food they buy, and how much they waste. In fact, 63% of people are shopping less and 59% admit to buying more to create their meals at home, especially in the form of long-life items.
It’s also down to our attitude changes
Our attitude has massively changed too, for the better. Researchers have been trying to show us the detrimental effects of food waste for years, and despite the crazy year, COVID may actually have some silver linings. Research by Hubbub, a UK sustainability charity revealed that more than half of us value food more than we did pre-COVID.
Food management also improved. WRAP found that 47% of us are checking our cupboards more before shopping and 37% of us have been organising our cupboards to ensure we’re not accidentally missing anything.
At first, when the panic buyers hit there was a worry that our food waste would skyrocket. Although it is likely that it may have in the first couple of weeks, people have become more conscious of food waste.
Giving to those who need it
Supermarkets, businesses, and households have also been sending food parcels and products that would otherwise be wasted to families who need it. Leading charity Fare Share has doubled “the amount of food delivered to those in need during coronavirus crisis”, delivering almost two million meals a week to those at risk of hunger.
Speaking of supermarkets, with the guidelines urging us to stay at home, an American study titled ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Food Waste’ suggests that the rise of online shopping has likely reduced impulse buys and discouraged us from buying perishable goods. However, the same study expects less plate waste but increased food preparation and management waste, in comparison to eating out. This is because restaurants package ingredients to minimise waste and save money.
Therefore, we should take a leaf out of their book and direct our attention towards maximising what we have, using packaging. We suggest minimising your food waste by storing your food more efficiently using Stasher Bags and Beeswax Wraps. Stasher Bags are ideal, they’re completely food, freezer and cooking safe and better yet, they’re endlessly reusable. Or, rather than stubborn clingfilm, Beeswax Wraps keep food fresh, they’re far more convenient and of course, they’re sustainable because they can be home composted.