Appetite for change: How to do your part in tackling food waste

Sustainability is a hot-button topic at the moment and we all want to do our part for the environment — whether that means taking reusable shopping bags to the supermarket or getting rid of the plastic straws in our drinks.

A huge global concern is the issue of food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, around 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food is ‘lost or wasted’ every year, amounting to around one-third of all the food produced for human consumption. When you consider how many starving and malnourished populations there are around the world, it is an extremely worrying statistic.

Here in the UAE, the issue is arguably even more poignant, as anyone who has attended a lavish brunch or simply marvelled at the portion sizes in a restaurant will agree. Last October, Dubai Municipality announced a #ZeroFoodWaste campaign on World Food Day, on behalf of the UAE Food Bank, to encourage the population to be more mindful of their food wastage. Khalid Mohammad Sherif Al Awadhi, assistant director general for Environment, Health and Safety Control Sector, said that “everyone has a role to play”, from residents to restaurants.

So what can we do? There are a number of steps that the everyday consumer can take. One of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on the environment and reduce food wastage is to eat a more plant-based diet. Even if you don’t switch over completely to veganism or vegetarianism, eating less meat is a positive step. Meat farming and commercial fishing are both known for their negative environmental impacts, from climate change to overfishing. On a similar note, try to shop as locally as possible to minimise your carbon footprint — check out your local farmers’ market. This will help you to eat more seasonally as well.

When it comes to diets, try cooking smaller portions. Pack up any leftovers and have them the next day (just label them so you know how long they’ve been in the fridge). Modifying your shopping habits can work wonders, too. Make a grocery list and stick to it. Buy only as many loose items as you need for a recipe so that you use them all up, and don’t be afraid of opting for ‘misshapen’ produce — it’s often sold at a reduced price because it’s not perfect looking but it will be just as good, which will save on food waste and money. Before you head to the supermarket, take inventory of what you already have in the fridge and the freezer so you don’t overshop or overspend.

Food inventory is a key aspect of a new initiative at Emaar Hospitality Group, one brand that is tackling the question of food wastage head on. The homegrown hospitality firm has partnered with tech company Winnow on a new initiative that aims to cut food wastage across its properties by half.

Winnow’s data-driven methods begin right at the source of the food waste — in the kitchen. The tech firm estimates that this is where 70 percent of wastage occurs, due to the fact that chefs simply don’t have the requisite tools to combat overproduction.

That’s why Winnow has developed special digital scales connected to a tablet that chefs can use to weigh and record their food stocks, ultimately helping them to identify which items in the kitchen are being wasted. Previous studies suggest that this could reduce food costs by up to 8 percent, as well as minimising food waste.

The new technology is going to be rolled out across 12 properties under the Emaar Hospitality Group brand, including Address Hotels + Resorts, Vida Hotels and Resorts and Rove Hotels.

It is part of a partnership between Emaar Hospitality Group and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE). The latter has committed to halving per capita food waste by 2030 and has called upon the hospitality sector to help save one million meals in 2018, two million in 2019 and three million in 2020. Needless to say, Emaar Hospitality Group has stepped up to the challenge.

Adam H. is a writer and an expert on hospitality and environmental issues

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