It is this time of the year when your news feed is full of ideas and insights on setting your best new year resolutions. And there is a good reason for this, as the time around New Year is all about reconnecting with ourselves and reevaluating the things that are important to us. We are wired to rethink what needs to go, what should stay, what we want to have more in our lives and what needs to decrease.
By 2019, most of us have reached an inner conviction that we need to do something about our waste culture and decrease the amount of waste we create a society, and therefore as individuals. So if you too are thinking along those lines, why not consider the following New Year Intention:
2019 New Year Resolution: Challenge your Food Hoarding Instinct
As a society, we are creating waste in various forms and huge quantities. But one, with particular ethical, economic and environmental consequences, is food waste.
The fact that we waste too much food can be directly linked to the fact that we buy too much food.
The grim statistic for North America and the EU indicates that households on average throw away between 20-40% of their food uneaten. Another way of looking at it is that we continuously buy 20-40% more food than we need to eat. During the Winter holidays, this figure can go up to 100%. Why is this the case?
We’re often aspirational shoppers. We have the best intentions around having variety in our diet, having something at every meal that family members will enjoy; maybe something is on sale, so you purchase more than you’ll end up eating.
A lot has been said about our consumer culture becoming the underlying foundation of our Western Civilisation over the last 2 centuries. Yet at CozZo, we believe there might be a more profound explanation to our urge to buy in excess to what we actually need, than simple consumerism. This explanation may go way back into human history, to the time of our forager ancestors.
Our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers for over 60,000 years, depending on their food on wild animals and plants that needed to be hoarded to survive the long cold winters.
It is only between 9,500 and 3,500 B.C. that the transition to agricultural settlements gradually took place.
But despite the fact that farming provided a more structured method of food provision, it did not guarantee humanity the much sought after food security. Farming used to be severely influenced by negative conditions, such as droughts, floods, prolonged drops in temperatures, cattle, and crop epidemics and similar environmental hazards that lead to extended famine.
Up until very recently, our human civilization was constantly threatened by varying degrees of food insecurity. Our primary aim as humankind was to conquer the forces of nature, so as to minimize their adverse effect on the food supply. Therefore, surplus food was always seen as a form of civilizational success.
In his groundbreaking book, Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, (2009) Tristram Stuart explains that “waste is a product of food surplus, and surplus has been the foundation of human success for over 10.000 years” (p. 169). Having surplus creates continuity in the food supply, which over time has ensured population growth and technological development.
According to Stuart, both population growth and technological development increase the power and prestige of society compared to other smaller, less developed ones. Thus, “hoarding surplus food has been a useful reflex in the past, and it probably developed as an evolutionarily advantageous instinct millions of years ago” (Stuart, 2009, p. 75)
Currently, “we have an enormous buffer in rich countries, between ourselves and hunger,” says Stuart. In some developed countries, there is up to 200% more food available than the population physically needs. “We’ve never had such gargantuous surpluses before,” remarks Stuart, and admits that in many ways this is “a great success story of our civilization and of the agricultural surpluses that we sat out to achieve 12,000 years ago.”
Yet, the Food Waste campaigner admonishes us that, “we have to recognize now that we are reaching the ecological limits that our planet can bear.”
So on the verge of 2019, it may be just about time to challenge our food hoarding instinct and our “just in case” food provisioning mentality.
We need to realise that if we buy just what we need today, we will not go hungry tomorrow. If in the rare case, we eat up everything we have today, there will be sufficient food in the store to feed us tomorrow. And the day after. And the week after.
Living in developed countries, neither our survival nor our economic success requires of us to hoard surplus food, day in day out.
On the Eve of 2018, the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, launched the #NotWasting hashtag as a global appeal to the population, which seems perfectly adequate to reverberate a year later. The UN Resolutions calls, “make not wasting food your New Year’s resolution”. FAO specifies that it is not merely about a waste of food, but also about a “waste of labour, water, energy, resources and other means used to create the food”.
To support you in your New Year Resolution of challenging your food hoarding instinct towards buying only the food you really need, we invite you to