At a time when the world is apprehensive about food security and the looming
dark days when humanity will run out of food, millions of tons of food are
wasted because of our poor habits of consumerism. In industrialized nations
especially, retailers and consumers discard around 300 million tons that is fit
for consumption. Ironically, one in every seven people in the world go to bed
hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
When food is wasted, two other vital commodities are also wasted - the energy
used to produce food and water necessary for producing and cooking food. Indeed,
Malaysians waste up to 8,000 tons or 8 million kilograms of food a day - and
this amount can easily feed 6 million people.
Environmentally, food waste also means that chemicals, such as fertilizers
and pesticides, and fuel used for transportation of these foods are also wasted.
It also leads to more rotting food, which creates more methane, one of the most
harmful greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. Methane is 23 times
more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Thus, the vast amount of
food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming.
The best way to help reduce waste is to adopt and practice the theme 'Think.
Eat. Save', as a way of saving the environment. If we observe what is happening
around us in school, we will see many students eating only half of the food they
have ordered and throwing away the rest. At home, we only eat what we like and
discard the rest of the food that has been served on our plates because we
dislike it. Some of us heap food on our plates without any intention of
finishing it. In restaurants, for example, many families order unnecessary
amounts of food and waste a lot of it.
In fact, Malaysians have for too long lived in affluence and have a
compulsive affinity for food. It is said that if Malaysians are not doing
anything else, they are eating. It is a fact that while the British may be
obsessed with the day's weather, the first thing two Malaysians ask each other
when they meet is "sudah makan?" or "have you eaten?" Malaysia could possibly be
the only country in the world where food is available in street corners
throughout the night, while the rest of the world is sleeping. Given this kind
of lifestyle and the resultant devastating effects on the environment, the theme
'Think. Eat. Save' will encourage us to become more aware of the environmental
impact of the food choices and informed decisions we make.
To put this theme into practice, we should start from the home and then
witness the power of collective decisions we have made to reduce food waste,
save money, minimize the environmental impact of food production and force food
production processes to become more efficient. If food is wasted, it means that
all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the foods are also
lost. For example, it takes about 1 000 liters of water to produce 1 liter of
milk and about 16,000 liters goes into a cow's food to produce a hamburger. The
resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the
food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food.
Therefore, we should eat only what we are able to eat. Do not heap your plate
with food you know you will not be able to finish eating. In restaurants, make
sure you or your friends or parents do not over order food, or even for that
matter, order dishes that many do not like. It is more prudent to order less
food than too much - if insufficient, you can ask for more.
Parents too, need to change their attitude towards food consumption and
educate the young about the downside of food wastage. Even in the school system,
some effective kind of awareness on food wastage must be impressed upon the
younger generation as they may not be aware of another world where food is
scarce or the looming food security issue which is threatening the world.
As for making informed decisions, it simply means that we purposefully select
foods that have less environmental impact. One example is buying organic foods
that do not use chemicals in the production process. No doubt organic food is
more expensive, but if more people buy organic produce, their production will be
increased and subsequently, production costs will fall. Foods that are produced
using fertilizers and pesticides only harm the environment and our health.
At the same time, we should also support our local market. Choosing to buy
locally produced vegetables, fruit and farm products can also mean that foods
are not flown halfway across the world. It not only saves our money but also
limits carbon emissions from planes.
Many countries are taking the problem of food wastage seriously and trying to
curtail it by imposing fines on people who wantonly waste food. Restaurants in
some countries fine diners who leave behind large amounts of food on their
plates. Food wasted for these restaurants means more rubbish, which will only
add on to the millions of tons of household and commercial trash thrown out
daily, leaving a greater impact on the environment. By imposing fines, people
will be more conscious of wasting food.
Lastly, we should all join hands to create a safe and green world. So think
before you eat and help save our environment.