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This text was published in HARD COPY 18 / Winter 2022

Don’t throw it away

Text by Ann-Marie Galazka

We regularly feature an experiment aimed at making our lives more sustainable. This time, our copywriter and content manager Ann-Marie tries to go zero food waste.

According to the UN Environment Programme, about 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted or lost (between harvest and retail) worldwide every year – roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption is not eaten. Food wastage also causes emissions and has an immense carbon footprint. Of course, this problem is not only caused in households, but also in the food service and in retail.

While food is thrown away, up to 828 million people continue to suffer from hunger, according to the German aid agency Welthungerhilfe. What can we do about that? I know I can’t save the world on my own – but at least I can change my habits to avoid my own food waste. There’s hope, too: people came up with ideas on how to avoid food waste on a bigger scale – for example, food banks that pass on excess food from retail or restaurants to people in need. Or the app “Too Good to Go”, but we’ll get there later. My plan for now: in the next two weeks, I’m going zero food waste by planning my meals and grocery shopping more smartly by using different tools – and eating my leftovers. Nothing gets thrown away, I promise!

I buy quantities of produce I can eat up and can also avoid all that unnecessary wrapping.

Day 1 My friends and colleagues immediately start giving me tips. Cookery books are handed to me for meal inspiration so I can start to plan my menus for the first week. I’m very spontaneous – for this reason, it is difficult for me to imagine what I want to eat over the next few days. I come across the website savethefood.com where I can create shopping lists and plan my meals. It seems I have a new hobby, because I spend a good two hours in the evening planning everything in detail. I also learn about storing my veggies better in the fridge to make them last longer.

Day 3When shopping at the local farmer‘s market, I buy quantities of produce I can eat up and can also avoid all that unnecessary wrapping. Instead, I now buy exactly the amount of produce I need (which also saves packaging waste). But I also realise that I need a lot more time for all the planning and smarter grocery shopping. It’s sometimes not so easy to implement when life becomes more stressful or I’m just too exhausted.

Day 5 I download the app “Too Good to Go” that restaurants, cafés and stores can use to sell leftovers at a very low price that would otherwise go to waste. I scroll through the offerings and I’m surprised: Many of my favourite places have joined the initiative and share their leftovers after closing time. Even hotels put together so-called “Magic Bags” with goodies from their breakfast buffet. I take advantage of the offer of a nearby bakery and get on my bike. A bag full of pretzels and croissants for just 3 euros is already waiting for me – not a bad deal!

Day 8 A banana, hidden somewhere in the kitchen, turned brown. I’m not in the mood for baking banana bread, so I ask Google for alternatives. After reading about several ways to use up old bananas, I decide to just throw the banana with some other fruits into a mixer and drink them as a smoothie. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be so complicated.

Day 11 I’m going out for dinner with a friend. The portion is huge and I’m pretty sure I won’t eat it all. Instead of pouring the sauce over everything, I save some of it, eat one part of the meal and have the waiter wrap up the rest. The sauce would have made everything mushy – the day after, I appreciate that nothing is soggy, and I can take the fresh leftovers to work as lunch.

Day 14 The experiment is over. My conclusion? There will be days when I won’t find time to pre-plan my whole week in meals. I know myself too well: I will not always ride my bike against the cold windy weather to pick up my “Magic Bag”. But: I will keep on planning my grocery shopping better and exploring all the possibilities (I mean, there are more than a perceived hundred ways to use brown bananas, watch out!) of how I use up my food to the maximum. They‘re only small steps and I’m just one piece of the jigsaw of an overall picture – but we really need to start reflecting on where we can all do better and make an impression.