Food Waste

Sophie Gorissen, 9-5-2024

Dear Life Enjoyers,

Almost one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This is a total of 1.3 billion tons of food per year. Even though food waste happens in all stages of the food supply chain, private households have been recognized as a main contributor (Schanes, et al., 2018). All energy put into food production, processing, transportation, cooling, and preparation have been for nothing when food is spoiled in this final stage.

How I got motivated

The funny thing is, that in the process of writing this blog, I suddenly experienced so much fun in being creative with my leftovers. The other day my friend really wanted aioli as a dip, so the next day I had the rest of it sitting in my fridge. I also had broccoli left because I like to buy random veggies in season to cook with later. In looking for recipes with broccoli, I found a good one with a base of tzatziki. Instead of making or buying new tzatziki, I used up the aioli. And it worked! So right now, I try to fully empty my fridge, before I get new fresh stuff. I must say that supermarkets being closed on Sundays and holidays in Germany helps, as I keep forgetting this. Because, honestly, that is how I often had to throw stuff out: having newer, fresher products, with a cool recipe to try out, and forgetting about the leftovers until they turn bad. It seems that I find enjoyment in the creativity with food that you have, and accepting that for these 3 days, I mix and match these few vegetables, and try to make it interesting. I cannot accept that we do not eat something anymore, just because it is boring.

Why do we waste so much?

Schanes, et al. (2018) reviewed people’s behavior in food waste and found that even when people have a high intention to reduce food waste, this often does not translate into action. This made me think of Jip van den Toorn’s illustration called Milieubewust ( = eco-conscious) which says ‘Brenda decided to live more environmentally consciously.’. You see a “before” image in which she and her partner relax in an airplane, and an “after” image of them in the same position, again in an airplane, but saying ‘So actually this cannot be…’. So people are becoming more aware, but this is not resulting in different behavior per se. Personal concerns, e.g. saving money, seem to motivate people more to reduce spoiled food than having environmental or social concerns. The conviction here is probably that money is lost when food is thrown away. Also, social norms do not necessarily seem to matter to get people to reduce their food waste. This might be the case because people can not actually see each other wasting food, and therefore cannot be blamed for wasting as much. So when will people (you, I, we)  reduce food waste?

Influencing food waste

People who trust their ability to reduce their waste and consider reducing waste under their control, are more likely to reduce their food waste directly or have a higher intention to do so (Schanes, et al., 2018). Let’s briefly look at a few influences that stood out to me:

  • Using a grocery shopping list is proven to reduce food waste;
  • A big problem contributing to food waste is too big package sizes (being cheaper);
  • Regional products have a smaller food print as they are stored for a shorter period, they have less long-distance transport and they support local products;
  • Growing food yourself creates awareness about the effort that has been put into growing food and seems to reduce food waste;
  • Learning how to store certain products is a major factor in reducing spoiled food! The same can be said for using a freezer;
  • The unpredictability of life and thus eating patterns, e.g. unexpected dinner invitations or spontaneous meetings with friends, leads to food remaining uneaten and as a result wasted;
  • There can be a problem with assessing the durability of leftovers, or one feels bored of eating the same food or feels guilt when serving leftovers;
  • Food that is fed to a pet or that is composted is often not viewed as wasted. But is that true…why do feed or compost it?

What are easy helpers for us?

So what can we take from this? There seems to be a conflict between having good intentions to reduce waste and having preferences regarding food safety, taste, and freshness. And there are lots of fixes!!! As I briefly mentioned in my last blog, Too Good To Go is on a mission to reduce food waste and they also saw that most food is wasted in households. Their Instagram pages are full of tips on storing products, assessing their durability, and using scrappies in recipes. The key is to inform yourself and find enjoyment in cooking (skills). So follow Too Good To Go! For example, they say that when your veggies look sad, you can give them a water bath, and they will be crips again, or you can save pots upside down to prevent it from molding. What Too Good To Go stresses most is ‘Look-Smell-Taste: trust your senses for a greener planet.’ This applies to products with a THT expiration date, as this is about the product’s quality. They often have a longer shelf-life. Also, check out @plantyou on Instagram. This page shares many Waste Scrappy Recipes and tips.

I hope this blog gave you some insights on food waste, and I hope you will consider it in your daily life, simply starting with today. Do you have fruit (peels) left over? Make infused water! Are you spontaneously meeting friends, but you already have food at home? See if you can prepare it already and put it in the freezer, or make it a shared dinner party. Another idea can be to start using a grocery shopping list, and only buying what you need for the next few days, so your veggies don’t go bad before you have time to eat them (when plans change in our busy and fun student life). Maybe try it out, and see what suits your lifestyle to make this planet a bit greener.



Sophie, your sustainable choice supporter.



Schanes, K., Dobernig, K., & Gözet, B. (2018). Food waste matters – A systematic review of household food waste practices and their policy implications. Journal of Cleaner Production, 182, 978–991.

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