One billion tons of food are wasted each year © Unsplash

Food (waste) for thought
Highlighting the fight against food waste in Geneva on Sustainable Gastronomy Day, 18 June
1 Jun 2024

On average, each person ends up throwing away the equivalent of 1.3 meals every day. While it doesn’t seem much at first, the food you throw out rapidly adds up.

More than a billion meals are wasted around the world every day, according to the new UN Environment Programme Food Waste Index Report released earlier this year. Annually, Switzerland generates 2.8 million tons of food waste, marking considerable economic losses, with each household throwing away around CHF 600 worth of food per year. Despite that, food insecurity remains rampant and hundreds of millions of people around the world go hungry every day.

Based on the UNEP Report 2024, substantial amounts of food are produced, more than enough to feed the world, causing negative environmental, social and economic impacts. 

Food waste has an important and significant environmental cost. Food and agriculture are among the leading sources of pollution and waste around the world. The land, water, energy and transport involved in the food system exacerbate the ongoing climate crisis, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and pollution. Food thrown into landfills also releases huge amounts of methane into our atmosphere. The types of food with the biggest environmental impact include coffee, cocoa beans, beef and dairy products.

On June 18, the UN General Assembly marks Sustainable Gastronomy Day as an international observance to bring to light how food can be sustainably produced, delivered, prepared and consumed worldwide. Sustainable gastronomy celebrates local food and cuisine prepared and consumed in non-wasteful ways. Improvements for more responsible and sustainable food consumption is essential to reduce the negative environmental, social and economic impacts of food waste. Various initiatives in Geneva are working towards this goal. 

Between 30 and 40% of the food that restaurants serve
is wasted © Unsplash

Anti-food waste initiatives in Geneva

‘Free-Go’ is a free self-service network of shared community refrigerators to help combat food waste. Anyone can put in any excess unused food in these fridges, while others can come and take the food they need. This simple solution has already helped save 3.2 tons of food going to waste in just a year of operations. Drop by the ‘Free-Go’ fridges at the Maison Internationale des Associations, Centre de la Roseraie, or Espace de quartier Le 99.

‘Refettorio’ is a sustainable local restaurant in Geneva that sources straight from Geneva farms, using local produce, and donated surplus ingredients to prepare their dishes, keeping waste and transportation use to a minimum. With each meal, the restaurant supports individuals facing food insecurity. Check out ‘Refettorio’ at Rue de Lyon 120, 1203 Genève.

‘Fondation Partage’ is a non-profit food bank that collects unsold food around Geneva and distributes it for free to disadvantaged people. Two times a year in June and in November, they hold ‘Samedi du Partage,’ where people can pick up pink shopping bags usually in front of supermarkets and donate food to families in need. ‘Fondation Partage’ saved 245,000 kilos of unsold food in 2023, fighting both food waste and food insecurity.

‘TooGoodToGo’ is a popular mobile app that connects shops, cafés, supermarkets, and restaurants with customers to sell unsold food at the end of the day. Meals are much cheaper than usual, so you get to save money and restaurants don’t have to waste food. A win-win solution! The application has been downloaded nearly 2 million times in Switzerland and is available for free on the App Store.

How do we reduce food waste at home?

Food waste at the consumer level is significant, but also avoidable. A lot of food waste comes from bad planning and mishandling at home, therefore it’s important to make plans on how you buy, consume and store food.

Think in advance and create meal plans for the week. Although it takes some time, being organized saves you effort and money, and keeps food waste to a minimum. Bring a shopping list with you when you go to the supermarket and only buy what you need. For example, since vegetables and fruit have a shorter shelf life, buy less of them or more frequently as you need. Cook portions that are sufficient without being too much, so you don’t have to throw food away.

To make food last longer, store food properly and try preserving methods such as freezing, canning and jamming. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recommends freezing leftover food, which not only extends the storage life by several months but also allows the preservation of taste, texture and retains a higher nutritional value in foods better than any other method.

Keep track of expiration dates so that you don’t forget to eat the food you buy. To get the most bang for your buck, buy local and cook meals based on seasonal produce. In addition, don’t forget to save your food scraps to be composted and used as fertilizer.

Future outlook

The Swiss Federal Council has set a target to halve avoidable food losses by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Food waste is a solvable problem, we can all do our part as individual consumers and be an example for others to follow. Every step taken towards reducing food waste adds up and makes a difference in the long run. 

Gabrielle Gervacio was recently the Top Award Winner of the 2024 National Geographic Slingshot Challenge. Watch the video that she created to fight food waste through the creation of a new app here.

* Gabrielle Gervacio is an OS Biology Chemistry student at Collège Sismondi.
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