Food Waste in Our Homes- What Can We Do?
When people throw food and other household waste in the bin, it is out of sight, and for most people out of mind. With people becoming a lot more environmentally conscious, consumers and companies are having to adapt to help tackle the growing issue of food waste. This month, we decided to do some research on this global issue, and learn what we as customers can do to help limit food waste at home.
The average Irish household throws out just under 1 tonne of rubbish each year. This includes all waste and is around the weight of a small car. That means we are throwing out the equivalent of 1.6 million small cars worth of rubbish each year. Currently we are recycling just under 50% of this. That means that each household is still throwing 1/2 tonne of rubbish into landfills each year, or 800,000 small cars worth of rubbish landfilled annually! Of the waste that goes to landfill almost 40% is organic waste, the majority of which is food waste. Another 30% is different recyclable materials. So, if we were able to prevent some of this waste going to landfill, as well as recycle more, and compost at home, we would be able to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill by at least 50%. This is equivalent to 400,000 less cars worth of rubbish going to landfill in Ireland every year. These facts were found on the stop food waste website at Awareness Food Waste in Our Homes.
Just take in that info for one minute! 40% of rubbish of which the majority is food waste is equivalent to 320,000 small cars a year!!! Ahhhhhh!!! You might think your small amounts of food waste does not make a difference but it does! Therefore it is extremely important that you attempt to reduce this number no matter how small you might think it is!!
It’s also so important to look at where you buy your food from. Shopping from local farmers markets or small businesses means you are almost always guaranteed good produce that is sourced locally and the best quality.
At Clara Cooks, we have a passion for educating people on the importance of limiting food waste, and teaching people ways to preserve food at home, with the aim of helping people to have zero food waste at home. There is so much that we can do at home that will make a difference in tackling food waste. What are you currently doing to tackle food waste? Do you have a waste management system in place?
Here are some of Clara’s top tips for limiting food waste at home:
CLARAS FOOD WASTE TOP TIPS
Meal planning. Every week, have a plan of the recipes you want to make for the week, create a shopping list, so you are minimising waste as much as possible. Honestly, it makes a difference. You’re more likely to have very little leftover if you do that!
If you have leftover food, there are many ways that you can utilise it rather than waste it. One of my favourite ways to use up leftovers is making a herbed pesto from leftover herbs and greens from my fridge. This could include using leftover coriander, flat leaf parsley, rocket or even carrot tops! Carrot tops are so full of nutrients, and rather than throwing them out, they’re great in pestos and soups. I also love roasting leftover vegetables and keeping these in the fridge to use during the week. They are great for salads, fish dishes, and make a perfect topping for eggs. I also love to make fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha at home using leftover fruit and veg. I even use the pineapple skins when making pineapple kombucha to ensure zero waste! So this week, instead of clearing out the fridge and throwing away the leftovers, have a look at what food you have left and get creative!
Peeling ginger to avoid waste. Get a small spoon, grip the spoon upside-down, while holding the ginger in your other hand and firmly scrape the spoon over the skin in a repeated forward motion. Continue until all the peel is removed from your desired amount of ginger. This helps to ensure that you are limiting the amount of ginger that is wasted. I know this again might seem like such a small element of reducing waste but it all matters!
Freezing your fruit and veg. Freezing leftover fruit and vegetables is a great way to preserve them, and it is also a great way to enjoy your favourite seasonal produce all year round! When freezing fruit, spread them on a flat tray that will fit in your freezer in a single layer. This will stop them from sticking together. Freeze for an hour and then transfer into a sealed container and use as required. I use all my frozen fruit for smoothies and ice-cream and it never goes to waste.
Increasing the shelf-life of greens. Now more than ever, our greens are covered in plastic, and they are one of those foods that can rot quite quickly if kept in plastic packaging. Leafy greens can keep fresh for nearly a week when they are stored correctly. To make your greens last longer, take them out of the plastic packaging. Wash them with cool water, and dry them fully with a salad spinner, or if you don’t have a salad spinner, a colander would be fine to wash them, and then pat them dry with kitchen paper. The best way to protect and prolong their freshness is by storing them in a large container. Don’t pack them too much as that can cause bruising to the leaves, and cover with a damp, but not too wet paper towel. A damp towel will give your greens the humidity they need to stay crisp, while continuously soaking up the excess moisture that causes rotting. Finally, store the containers in the lowest/coolest part of the fridge, preferably in the drawer if not the bottom shelf. Now you have fresh leafy greens, ready to use when you want them, and they will last longer in your fridge.
FOOD WASTE ADVOCATES
We reached out to Conor Spacey, the Culinary Director of FoodSpace Ireland, to get some tips on how we can help tackle the problem of food waste at home.
According to Conor, food waste is a huge problem that needs to be talked about ‘with 1/3 of all the food that is produced globally going to waste, and 1 billion people are starving with no access to good food. It is also one of the biggest contributors to climate change’.
He believes that there are different solutions to this problem, and that we as consumers need to be responsible when it comes to the waste we generate, and that we as consumers, can make a difference. ‘Talking about waste and understanding where our food system is failing is the first step to fixing it.
As individuals, we should never think that we can’t make a difference. We are the end-user in the food chain, we decide what we eat, buy and waste. It’s so important that the changes we make are then pushed back up the food system to the large corporations who decide what our food system is. It has always been accepted that the problems within our food system are coming from us, the consumer. But changing the narrative and understanding that the problems are far bigger and further up the chain is what is important. The changes we make as individuals can in turn change what is being done at the other end of the food system and revolutionise our entire food program. Never think that we are too small to change a planet.’
Conor focuses on helping to provide a food system that is sustainable, and he does this through using seasonal Irish ingredients, he works directly with farmers across Ireland and implements a zero-waste policy that helps to reduce their carbon footprint. FoodSpace Ireland began five years ago, with a mission to change ‘how catering is done on a large scale’. He was frustrated at seeing how catering was being done in Ireland, and how companies using clever marketing, were able to ‘greenwash what they are doing’.
FoodSpace Ireland’s ethos is ‘being transparent in everything that we do, ensuring that the decisions we make are better for the planet and our food system’. Despite only starting up five years ago, they have grown quite quickly, and have been able to work with clients throughout Ireland that are ‘like-minded and totally understand the changes we make and why’ and they have become ‘a platform to help others be more sustainable in what they are doing’.
They have achieved a lot in their five years, including ‘removing single-use plastics, clingfilm, avocados, farmed fish, imported wheat for flour, ensuring we only use Irish rapeseed oil, total removal of Palm Oil, 100% Irish poultry, working directly with the seasons and Irish farmers, only using Irish sea salt, ensuring that we do not waste any food throughout our production, and working with farmers to ensure that we can use their waste too’. However, despite all these achievements, he believes that more needs to be done. ‘We are still nowhere near where we want to be. It’s always good to look back at what we have done, but we have a lot more that we want to do, and the more we deep dive into the food system, the more changes we need to do’.
Conor believes that there are several steps that we can take at home that will make a difference in limiting the food waste produced at home, and this starts with how we buy food and plan our food shop. ‘It’s important to plan out what you are doing for the week, how many meals you will need to make, and what you want them to be. Then write a list of the ingredients you need and stick to that. It’s very easy to go into a supermarket and get caught up in special offers and buy items that you don’t need which will eventually end up in your bin. When writing out the meals you are going to make, allow for the leftovers, for instance, if you are going to have vegetables leftover, then what are you going to do with them. This may seem like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. 10 minutes a week would make a plan, save food waste, your money, and make it a better planet’.
Fermenting is also something that he is passionate about. There has been a huge increase in the demand for fermented products over recent years, and he believes this is mainly down to ‘people wanting to eat better’. These products are good for you, he explained. ‘It’s full of great probiotics that ensure your insides work well but also your brain too’ and fermenting also helps to prevent food waste. ‘Through using vegetable skins, over ripe fruits, excess milks etc, we have been able to use fermentation methods to turn these into great products’.
According to Conor, the best thing we can do to become more sustainable at home is to ‘start with planned steps rather than trying too much at one. Some easy wins and swap outs also help to build your confidence, and sets you up for other changes that may be more difficult’.
You can check out FoodSpace Ireland’s website here, or you can follow Conor on social media using the following links, Instagram, and Facebook. Not only is he an advocate on everything food waste, he also has some amazing dishes, he works with the seasons and uses predominantly Irish produce. His passion for teaching us normal folk how to have a well run kitchen is great, and he is also involved in many projects helping people grow their knowledge of food and cooking.
Another amazing chef who is a huge advocate of food waste and has great tips on his Instagram page about how you can make a difference is Martyn Odell, aka ‘The Lagom Chef’. He is a no-nonsense, honest and humble trained chef that has over 15 years of experience in kitchens across the world. He is another person that is definitely worth following! He has a genuine passion for healthy eating and saving the planet. Martyn draws on his years of teaching, performing and cookery experience to teach practical cooking skills, showing people how they can use everyday ingredients in creative and clever ways, making sustainable cooking at home easy, digestible and fun!
He is passionate about educating people on the issue of food waste, and believes that it comes down to a bit of creativity and education!. According to Martyn ‘What else do we buy that is fundamental for our survival then we just throw it away!?’ To him it makes no sense. He is also a big fan of outdoor activities such as surfing and trail running. Food waste contributes heavily to global warming, therefore it affects the hobbies he is passionate about, and he wants to do something about it.‘The saying protect our playgrounds resonates deeply with me’.
His top tips for limiting food waste include simplifying your life and your fridge. ‘I bang on about perishable and on-perishable foods. We need to look at fresh ingredients (perishable) as ticking time bombs, they are the ones that we will waste because they go out of date and unusable. So if we plan and can make use of these ingredients then we will win’. He also believes that it is important to take the stress out of the kitchen. ‘It should be enjoyable, explore flavour combinations, learn new ways of cooking, look to spices for inspiration’.
Many small changes can make a difference. His advice is to ‘make it a challenge to eat all the food they buy before going to the shop again. We are so used to doing top-up shops that food gets pushed to the back of the fridge, just cook and get creative with ingredients… it will force you to be creative because you are limited with ingredients’.
You can follow him on social media using the following links, Instagram and Facebook, and you can check out his website here.
There are so many other great people on Instagram who are educating people on the importance of limiting food waste, so go and search for them. It will change how you think about food in your home.
LET’S TALK ABOUT FERMENTATION
Fermentation is a recent and growing trend in Ireland, and it is a great and enjoyable way to preserve foods, helping to reduce food waste. Many foods and drinks that we consume daily are actually fermented, including bread, cured meats, and vinegars. Historically, it was a fundamental way of extending the shelf life of food in the absence of refrigeration. It is a great way to preserve foods, especially when your favourite seasonal vegetables are in season and the shops are full of them! If you have never done fermentation before, a simple pickle is a good place to start, and it is easy to do at home.
Clara has some lovely pickling recipes on her website which you can find by following the links, cucumber pickle, gherkins, piccalilli, and pickled beetroot. It is not exactly fermentation, but will help to preserve foods such as vegetables, and has a similar tangy taste to fermented foods.
Until 2013, fermented food products were not readily available in Ireland, instead, they had to be imported. There are now many great Irish companies that have launched over the past number of years who are making great fermented products to cater for this growing market and are providing great solutions to tackling food waste which can be done at home.
Hayley Milthorpe is the owner and founder of the Cultured Food Company and I had the opportunity to ask Hayley a few questions about fermentation. In 2013, she set up the business, and since then, she has been able to build a market-leading brand in raw, live, and fermented foods in Ireland. She has also been able to expand her business further into Europe and the UK.
Her interest in fermentation, and the idea for her company all began when she was researching the diets that our ancestors had, and she came across fermentation, which was a technique they used to preserve food.
‘It began when reading about the diets of our ancestors, as they used fermentation as a way to preserve foods. I absolutely loved experimenting with fermenting different types of foods and the wonderful flavours’.
After qualifying as a nutritionist in 2011, and knowing the health benefits that fermented foods were having on her health, she started to ferment different foods at home. In 2013 she started selling the fermented food that she was making because she noticed that no company in Ireland was producing fermented products, and that the fermented products in Ireland were actually being imported from countries such as the US. She decided to see if she could sell her fermented products, and make good quality fermented foods available to everyone in Ireland.
‘I started the business as I wanted to make good quality fermented foods available to everyone in Ireland, as seven years ago fermented foods were not really available to buy. I had seen through my own experience and practising as a nutritionist the positive health benefits eating fermented foods had on my health’.
Since its early beginnings, the Cultured Food Company has continued to grow and expand over the years, and they have gone from strength to strength.
‘My company has gone from my own kitchen, to a small shared commercial kitchen, to my own business premises. This year we are set to move to new premises allowing me to more than double the size of our production facilities’.
There is a deep tradition of fermented foods here in Ireland, and The Cultured Food Company is still the only company producing entirely organic, live fermented sauerkraut at this level. Hayley now has a hardworking team of staff working with her to produce their full range of products which includes Sauerkrauts (Natural – made with White Cabbage, Ruby Red – made with Red Cabbage, Carrot and Fennel, Chilli and Dill, and Juniper Berry), Kimchi, Beet and Ginger Kvass, Fermented Beetroot Pieces with Ginger, with their kimchi, ruby red, and beet Kvass being their most popular products according to Hayley.
She actively encourages customers to embrace fermentation and fermented products, and believes that both education of its benefits and word of mouth is critical in continuing to increase the awareness and consumption of fermented products.
‘Once people understand that health starts from your gut and the role bacteria play in supporting your immune system and mental health, they seem willing to explore the world of fermented foods! I think people generally feel the benefits from consuming these foods pretty quickly and word is certainly getting around resulting in more people looking to eat fermented foods’.
You can purchase their products online on their website www.culturedfoodco.ie for the best deals, or they are also available in Supervalu’s and Health Food shops nationwide
Hayley has a wealth of knowledge and worth looking into. You can check out the website here, or you can follow on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
Another great Cork-based business is Holo Organics owned by Adrian and Padraig Hyde. They have created a wonderful product Holo kombucha.
They launched Munster Brewery in 2013, and as the company grew, so did the brewery, which allowed them to have the freedom to try other brews like kombucha. They always wanted to do something with kombucha, but instead of just launching a drink, they wanted to put their business goal front and centre.
Their mission for setting up the business was to offer people authentic kombucha which had been brewed the way nature intended. According to Adrian and Padraig, this means that their kombucha is ‘certified organic, no pasteurisation, no filtration’, and they are delighted to say that they have been able to maintain this ethos over the years. They wanted to bring this great drink, which has such a long history and a great following in the US, to Ireland, where little is known about it.
Since its beginning, the company has grown steadily. Despite being in operation for a few years, they view themselves as a young company, and see every new shop, deli and café who stock their products as a major success. ‘We’ve grown steadily since the start, something I put down to producing quality kombucha, no shortcuts’.
With people being increasingly aware of the benefits of fermented food products and the benefits it provides to our microbiome, their mission remains the same, ‘to ensure that when people drink Holo Kombucha, that they are confident that it is real kombucha, not a mass commercialised kombucha that has been heavily processes’. According to Adrian and Padraig, keeping to this message of organic and not heavily processed products is their biggest strength as a company, and to them it is easy, as it is something they ‘eat, consume, think and do’. In their opinion, it is essential that businesses are ethical and responsible to the community in which it operates, and which supports it. By achieving this, they believe the business has been a success.
Their products include an original organic kombucha and a mango and pineapple flavoured organic kombucha, and are available to purchase from their website, and are also available in Lidl stores.
You can check out their website here or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
It is clear to see that there are so many wonderful food companies and entrepreneurs who are playing their role in educating people about the issue of food waste, and are providing solutions. However, don’t forget that there are simple and easy things we can do at home that will make a difference! As Conor Spacey rightly said ‘Never think that we are too small to change a planet.’
By Emma Wilkinson
Some other Irish fermenting food companies for you to check out!
- KO Kombucha, Offaly. You can check out their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- All About Kombucha, Galway. You can check out their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following link Instagram and Facebook.
- My Goodness, Cork. You can check out their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- SynerChi Kombucha, Donegal. You can check out their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- ProKulture Kombucha, Kildare. You can check them out on their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- Blakes Always Organic, Leitrim. You can check them out on their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following link Facebook.
- King of Kefir, Dublin. You can check them out on their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- The Cultured Couple, Kerry. You can check them out on their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- Lo Bros Organic Kombucha. You can check them out on their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
- Kerry Kefir, Kerry. You can check them out on their website here, or you can follow them on social media using the following links Instagram and Facebook.
By Emma Wilkinson