After the results of the 2019 EU Parliamentary Election, we can confidently say that concerns about global warming have gone mainstream. The green parties across Western Europe have witnessed an unprecedented surge in popularity. We have reached a point where it is obvious that our current way of living is something our planet can no longer sustain. And more and more people are aware of that truth and looking for ways to switch to waste-free living.
Perhaps, the number 1 question for everyone, who has recently become aware of the urgency of environmental issues is, “what changes can I make to contribute to the decrease in environmental damage?” This question keeps popping up despite the tons of widely available information and literature on the topic. In fact, for some, it can be overwhelming. Putting it into practice can appear extreme and discouraging. It often feels like, if you are not all in, you are not taking the matter seriously. But that is like attempting a headstand in your first yoga class.
We need to pace our effort, gradually adding new routines to our daily lives to make the changes sustainable. It is best to start with one practice and see how it spreads to other lifestyle choices, instead of attempting to adopt 10 different habits at the same time. You can start by trying to eliminate plastic or going second-hand, but we would urge you to start by focusing on food waste reduction. Being mindful about your food is such a fundamental mind-shift, that it will soon spread to the rest of your non-sustainable behaviour. You will be fast on your way to waste-free living.
Why start with food waste?
The statistics are stark: we are currently throwing away somewhere between 20% and 30% of the food we buy. That is like 1 in 3 apples goes to the bin uneaten.
We don’t throw away food because we are bad people. We end up binning our food because we overestimate the amount of food we can eat within a given time period before it goes bad. As Erica van Herpen, from Wageningen University, recently put it at the REFRESH conference in Barcelona,:
People do not want to waste, it’s a collateral damage. We need to change the social norm, from a fear of having too little to a concern about having too much.
And obviously, we are not mildly off, we are way off. We overestimate by buying and cooking 30% more food than we need. And, as Jose and Jill from Your RV lifestyle have rightly observed in their “Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle” Guide, “reducing waste does not begin with your rubbish – it begins with the things that you buy.”
Just by reducing the amount of food we buy, we will be decreasing the CO2 emissions we produce from binned food by up to 30%. An average household bin approximately 90 kgs., of food each year, which is the equivalent of 170 CO2-e (kg). If we manage to cut our food waste to 5kgs., per annum, we would be producing just 9.5 CO2-e (kg) as a result of binning.
This means we will also be saving up to 30% of the money we spend on food. For the average UK household, the saving can be approx., 65 GBP per month, while for a US family the reduction can be as much as 125 USD each month. This certainly makes a neat addition to your saving account.
Buying less food means we will be producing proportionally less packaging waste. All those trays of fruit, vegetables, meat, those bottles of milk, those pots of yoghurt, those egg containers we did not buy, we did not throw away either. 20-39% sounds like a huge reduction in plastic waste. But here is the really good news – your journey will not stop here.
Reducing the amount of food and packaging waste we produce makes us more conscious and motivated about reducing our waste in total. We start seeking package-free options in our grocery purchases, which includes remembering to bring that reusable bag each time we shop. We might make a significant cut on takeaway packaging, as we are likely to do more home cooking instead. Or, we will start remembering to tell the barman no straw with our Bloody Mary.
We might also find ourselves making more ethical fashion choices, like selling our unloved clothes on eBay and picking up second-hand options for things we need. We might forego buying as a whole and rent instead, for example, a drill, which we will probably use no more than 2 times a year.
Because reducing food waste means planning to buy, only what we need, we will cut on the number of mindless car trips we make for grocery’s, because we have no clear idea what we will be eating. We might gradually find ourselves less reliant on our car as a whole, and witness ourselves doing more walking, cycling, and public transport.
We might not adopt of all those habits, or we might not adopt them that fast, but either way, we will have built a solid core of waste-free living, just by reducing our food waste.
But by now you are probably asking the big questions: how do I successfully switch to food waste-free living?
We suggest adopting CozZo as your kitchen helpmate in fighting food waste. CozZo is a next-gen mobile app that helps you reduce your food waste by tweaking the food purchasing and management habits that lead to food waste. It helps you become more mindful of how you treat your food.
CozZo can be used freely if you live by yourself. If there is another person(s) in your home we can recommend our “Household Account” package of cloud-powered services and add-on features, designed to help you achieve lasting results quickly and easily. Going waste-free is a choice that everybody needs to make the next couple of years, so urge your housemates to join you today, because the sooner we all adopt, the more chances we have to reverse the climate catastrophe.
Here is how CozZo assists you throughout your food management journey in 6 key steps.
- Check what food you already have at home and what is about to expire, before your next shopping.
The key to reducing excess grocery purchases is knowing what you already have stored at home and what food needs urgent attention as it approaches its ‘use by’ date. This awareness will eliminate random or ‘just in case” purchases. A home update can be done remotely from the office. When you check the CozZo ‘at home’ fridge and pantry list you will immediately know what needs to be turned into a meal tonight. You can now add to your ‘to buy’ list only the ingredients that you are missing or you can try to substitute them with what’s already in the pantry.
- Share your to ‘buy list’ with other members of your household to avoid miscommunication, duplicate or wrong brand purchases.
There are 2 ways of doing it depending on if you have CozZo Household Account or for single use. Either share your ‘to buy’ list with all members in your household account or export it to a messaging app and send it to the designated shopper of the day. Users of the premium edition can also take pictures of their favorite brands, and add them to the product descriptions. This way, no one will have the excuse for buying the wrong brand of milk.
- To avoid premature repeat buys or forgotten fridge items, keep track of your purchases by adding them to your ‘at home’ list.
When you cross-off items from your ‘to buy’ list they are automatically moved to your ‘At Home’ list. If you have upgraded to our Household Account services you can use the barcode scanner add-on feature to add an item. CozZo’s scanner recognizes over 400 million product names, detects the specific package sizes and retrieves pictures for products offered in online stores. Barcodes are scanned quickly, regardless of the package surface, the direction of the barcode label on the item, or the angle of your camera. With all your purchases precisely transferred to you ‘at home’ catalogue, you will never be in doubt about the things you already have in your home.
- Avoid throwing away food prematurely or as a result of forgetting with CozZo precise expiry date tracking system.
An NRDC and Harvard Law School study found that 90% of Americans bin food prematurely. A staggering fact! Largely the result of the uncertainty in reading expiration dates, confusion between the different types of labelling, and the misconception that the ‘best by’ is a safety warning. To avoid all this label confusion, CozZo comes with a built-in Shelf-Life Adviser that prescribes a realistic shelf life for nearly 1500 common foods, which you are most likely to stock at home. It also advises you as to where best store a product – the fridge, the pantry or the freezer. CozZo precisely tracks “Best By” and “Use By” dates for all food, including cooked dishes. Depending on the perishability of food, a red or green icon appears for products that have expired. You can see the date it was bought by tapping on it.
- Adjust the quantity of future purchases by assigning quantities based on past usage
Wе are animals of habit and our habit of buying the same quantity of a product even if it too large for our household is stronger than our power of observation that we consistently throw a part of it away. We fail to make the connection between the two, so CozZo makes it for us. It presents us with precise information about the last purchase of a particular product- consumption time, the quantity bought and uneaten amount. Having this feedback in our hand we have no excuse not to adjust the quantity the next time we buy
- Monitor your monthly food reduction progress by following your personal or household food journal.
No progress is made without delight. Luckily, CozZo comes with a journal that gives you an up-to-date report of consumed vs. wasted food, as well as a detailed monthly product use breakdown. The stats accumulate as you mark the finished food with “Used up” and “Uneaten” buttons.
By reducing your food waste you have built a solid core for waste-free living. Many other changes in wasteful habits will soon follow.