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Advice to avoid food waste

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Today, for the third time, we commemorate the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. Unfortunately, for a large part of the global population, food waste has become custom. Purchasing more products than we need, or than we can consume, letting fruits and vegetables spoil in our kitchen, or serving larger portions than we can eat.

All of these customs subject our natural resources to greater pressure and enormously jeopardize the environment. When we waste food, we also waste work, effort, investment, and resources in their production, preparation, and transport. Ultimately, one more action that contributes to one of our worst enemies, climate change.

At MAPFRE, we contribute to the reduction of food waste with projects such as “Zero Waste,” through which we have managed to recycle 351 tons of the waste we generate.

Every year, 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption is wasted

Focusing on the figures, on a global scale, tons of perishable foods are lost or wasted daily. Each year, it is estimated that one third of all foods produced (the equivalent of 1.3 billion tons) ends up rotting in the trash bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to transport and some deficient practices. Just between harvest and the retail level, close to 14% of all foods produced worldwide are lost. These losses represent between 8% and 10% of total global greenhouse gases (GHG), which contributes to climate instability and extreme weather phenomena such as droughts and floods. And it is a vicious cycle, as these weather changes impact crop yields, reduce their nutritional quality, cause disturbances in the supply chain, and jeopardize food safety and nutrition.

This event is also reflected on the Sustainable Development Agenda for 2030. SDG 12 intends to change the current production and consumption model to attain efficient natural resource management, implementing processes to prevent food loss, ecological use of chemical products, and decreased waste generation. Specifically, goal 12.3 of this objective asks that, between now and 2030, global per capita food waste be reduced by half in wholesale and at the consumer level, and that food loss be reduced in the production and supply chain.

With only eight years to go to reach this 2030 Agenda goal, today it is worth remembering some tips to avoid food waste, and to stress the urgency of scaling up measures to reduce it. Achieving this goal provides the opportunity to obtain health benefits for millions of people who right now do not have access to a healthy diet, and at the same time, immediate climate effects, which represent a necessary transformation, to guarantee better results related to nutrition and in favor of the plant, to benefit current and future generations.

How do we do this at MAPFRE?

At MAPFRE, the implementation of a circular economic model in our strategy allows us to reduce the use of resources, reduce our waste production and limit energy consumption. The transition to a circular economy is one of the main commitments we have made and is included in our new Sustainability Plan. We want to be a benchmark in the circular economy. At the beginning of 2021, we started the “Zero Waste” project with the objective of classifying the waste we generate so that it can be reused or recycled. In one year, this project has allowed us to recycle 351 tons of waste, and thanks to this milestone we have been certified in four buildings under AENOR’s Zero Waste standard.

This project has also brought other benefits aimed at promoting recycling and waste reduction, such as reducing food waste, reusing 241 pieces of computer equipment for internal use and donating 600 pieces of computer equipment that were no longer being used professionally for non-profit organizations and schools to extend their useful life. It has also made it possible to set up recycling stations in the buildings’ cafeterias and to ensure supplies of napkins and coffee cups made of biodegradable material. In addition, last year we held a staff training course for the three cafeterias in our Majadahonda site, including subjects on food waste, and we implemented measures to avoid it in the cafeterias. Our commitment is clear, we want to keep improving, so we want to implement and maintain this model in our buildings in five countries: Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and Puerto Rico.

Advice to reduce food waste

To demonstrate our commitment, we share some advice recommended by the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization), which you surely know, but is worth a reminder on a day like today.

  1. Only buy what you need

Preparing a shopping list and planning meals will help us not to buy more than we need, in addition to avoiding falling into compulsive buying. Not only will we waste less food, we will also save money.

  1. Choose ugly fruits and vegetables

Never judge food by its appearance. Often bruised or strangely shaped fruits and vegetables are thrown in the trash because they don’t meet aesthetic norms. With ripe fruits and vegetables, we can prepare juices, smoothies, or some desserts to delight our families.

  1. Store foods smartly

Every time we put food in the refrigerator or the pantry, put the oldest ones in the front and place the new ones in the back. You can use airtight containers to keep foods fresh in the refrigerator.

  1. Try to understand food labels

There’s a big difference between “best by” and “expiration” dates. It is important to always check the labels, since often foods are still suitable for consumption after the “best by” date, while the “expiration” date indicates the time after which it cannot be consumed.

  1. Start with the smallest

It’s better to serve smaller portions and take a second portion if we still feel hungry, rather than loading the plate with food we can’t finish. In restaurants following this advice, we can share larger plates, so that if one of us can’t finish it, someone else can help.

  1. Make the most of your leftovers: trash cooking

If for whatever reason we can’t eat everything we have prepared, we can freeze it for later, or use the leftovers as ingredients for our next meals. This is known as trash cooking. It originated in times when food was scarce, and our ancestors had to reuse all the ingredients without wasting anything.

  1. Take advantage of leftover foods

Good advice to take advantage of our food leftovers and thus avoid food waste is to use them to make compost rather than throwing them in the trash. This way we return the nutrients to the soil and reduce our own carbon footprint.

  1. Support consumption of locally sourced products

You can do this by buying local products and supporting farmers and small businesses in your area. This way, we contribute to the fight against pollution and climate change, reducing the distances vehicles transporting these foods from one place to another must travel.

  1. Use less water

Without water, we can’t produce our foods Although it is important for farmers to use less water to grow foods, the reduction of food waste also saves those water resources used in their production. Try to avoid wasting water at home: it’s as easy as fixing a leak as soon as possible, or turning off the tap while brushing your teeth. Every drop counts and we will be contributing to more efficient use of resources.

  1. Keep the soil and water clean

Some household waste is, potentially, hazardous and should not be tossed in a general trash can.  Chemical products, batteries, paint, medicine are products we can easily find in our homes that could filter into our soils and our water supply, endangering the natural resources with which we produce our food.

  1. Sharing is essential

Donating foods that would otherwise go to waste is a good example of altruism and caring for our environment. There are more and more ways of doing this, for example there are apps with which we can buy surplus food from local companies to prevent them from ending up in the trash. 

The culture of compulsive consumerism in which we live is largely responsible for this situation, which is not only a negative for our health and economy, but also, as we have said, contributes to global warming. Small changes in our daily habits can have a large impact. Put an end to food loss and waste, for yourself and for the planet.