Food production and consumption

Whilst many people are concerned about the energy in food in the form of calories, few people stop to consider the amount of energy (and other resources) used to get food onto our plates before we eat it. The amount of energy used to make the food items in our diets varies considerably, and includes the energy used on farms to grow plants and raise livestock, the energy used to process the raw ingredients into finished products, the energy used by shops to sell us the food, and the energy used by all transport between farms, factories, warehouses, shops and our home.

If we waste food, either by buying things and letting them go bad in the fridge or cupboard, or making too much for our meals and then not using the leftovers, that energy use is also wasted. If we also throw the food waste in the bin we’ll end up using even more energy for the bin men to come round and collect it and transport it to a tip, where it will then rot and produce more greenhouse gases.

So we need to reduce the amount of food we buy, try where possible to buy food with the lowest impact on the environment (that we like to eat!), make good use of the food we have at home and try to minimise the amount of food going to waste.

Ideas that are free and easy to do.

  • Practice portion control to reduce wasted food. We often cook more than we can eat at one meal, and the excess can go to waste, especially if it has been served up and then left on plates.
    Impact: by serving smaller portions, the amount of waste food left on plates can be reduced. If you keep track of things you regularly make too much of, you can then cut down when buying/preparing food in the future.  For example if you find you often throw away pasta after meals, note how much you put in the pan per person and then reduce it the next time until you’re cooking exactly what you and your household can normally eat. 
  • Save leftovers.  The remains of a meal that are not eaten don’t have to be thrown away as you can often use them to make other meals and snacks.
    Impact: Again this obviously cuts down on food waste, but it can also cut down on the amount of food you have to buy and the amount of energy used to cook it.  For example if you only have to have the oven and hobs on for one meal and then the next day you can make a meal from leftovers heated quickly in the microwave, you can save quite a lot of energy (and money).