Food for Thought: Let’s Talk About Food Waste

On Pancake Day – a day that traditionally was about using up your food before a period of fasting in Christian religions – Zero waste chef Max La Manna discusses the impact of food waste on the environment and shares his tips for how to start reducing your waste at home.

There was one villain in 2018 and yes, I’m talking about single-use plastic.  Yet a new villain lurks in the cold dark depths of your fridges and pantries: food waste.

For many people on the planet, food is a given. But for the staggering 821 million people who are hungry, food is not a guarantee.  In an age where almost one billion people go hungry and world hunger is on the rise, an estimated 1/3 of food produced globally is lost or goes to waste.  How did we ever get to this point in time where we needlessly without consciousness toss food in a bin?

We all have a part to play in reducing food loss and waste, not only for the sake of the food, but for the labour, water, energy, land and other natural resources that went into producing it.  Food embodies much more than what is on our plates. It is, therefore, important that we recognise, appreciate and respect the value of food.

Did you know, when food goes to the landfill, it’s similar to tying food in a plastic bag? The nutrients in the food never return to the soil. Once this food gets to the landfill, it then generates methane – a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere.  So, that sandwich you made and then didn’t eat yesterday is increasing your personal—and our collective—carbon footprint.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 30% of food is wasted globally across the supply chain, contributing 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of its impact on global warming.

If you follow me or know me, then you will know that I am a vegan zero waste chef.  I started making small daily impactful choices to eliminating my waste 16 months ago (which you can read all about in my Life As I Know It). 

I am passionate about waste: wasted food, plastic waste, and wasted potential.  

The first place I looked when making this change was in my bin. The moment that changed my life forever was when I saw wilted spinach and kale in the bin because I had poorly managed my time and stored my produce improperly, resulting in wasted food.  Not to mention the fact that my apartment building had a compost bin, but I wasn’t educated on how to use it.

I had to make a change.  I was tired of seeing food end up in a landfill.  I no longer wanted to contribute to the harmful environmental impacts of loss and wasted food.  I don’t want to see perfectly edible or inedible food go to waste because I failed to not cook my food in time or store it properly.  I couldn’t walk by another homeless person begging for food and money knowing that I had just chucked food away.  I couldn’t be lazy anymore.  I couldn’t make anymore excuses.  I had to make a change. 

It’s now been 500 days and counting that I have diverted food from ending up in landfill and what I now know is that food is precious and sacred and should never be wasted.  By diverting food from landfill, we can reduce the amount of methane produced and therefore reduce our climate impact.  We can also save resources like water, energy, labour, land, transportation and much more – not to mention save money by not throwing away the food that we have bought!

To get started and waste less food at home – here are some of my tips:

  • Shop smart and realistically by making a list of what you need before you shop. 
  • Review what you already have in your kitchen cupboard and eat what you already have before buying. 
  • Cook smaller portions to reduce food waste and if you want more, there’s always room for dessert. 
  • Save your leftovers and actually eat it. 
  • Store your produce properly. 
  • Try pickling or fermenting vegetables and freezing extras.  
  • Save your vegetable scraps and make your own homemade stock. 
  • Donate your food to shelters and to those in need.  Food can also be donated to farms for livestock.
  • Lastly, my personal favourite – compost.

If you can’t prevent, reduce or donate wasted food, you can always compost. By sending food scraps to a composting facility instead of to a landfill or composting at home, you’re helping to make healthy soils. This helps to improve soil health and structure, improve water retention, support more native plants, and reduces the need for fertilisers and pesticides.

Together, we can all help to reduce food waste and make a difference!


Try Max’s zero waste broccoli stem fusilli recipe and make your own waste-free pasta at home.

Read more tips on how to reduce your food waste at home and Melissa Hemsley‘s guide on how to get started with bulk buying.

See our guide on how to make your own fermented vegetables.