Climate action: reducing your food waste footprint

Graphic showing big hands and people throwing leftovers of dishes into trash.

Rayyan Yunus, a student on Imperial’s MSc Environmental Technology, shares some of the simplest ways you can reduce food waste at home.

Tackling climate change issues can be complex and overwhelming. However, as an individual, there are things you can do that can make a difference and it starts with the simplest thing you can do at home. In this blog, I would like to focus on one of the most commonly overlooked issues: food waste.

Up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food waste. According to the latest Food Waste Index Report 2021 by the United Nations Environment Programme, out of 931 million tonnes of food waste produced, 61% was from households.

Gif of a graphic showing an apple eaten away to reveal text saying "1/3 of all food is thrown away" "Plan meals, batch cook and freeze extras to help you waste less"

What is household food waste?

Household food waste is those random, expired, or spoiled items lurking in cabinets or your fridge – like those slices of bread that have developed mould before you get to finish all of them!

What can you do?

Planning meals is one of the most effective ways to reduce food waste – and it will save you money on your food bills too. Planning does take a little bit of your time, but it will help avoid those unnecessary dilemmas during grocery shopping that can lead you to overspend and produce more food waste at home.

There are 2 main ways to plan your meals:

  1. Check your cupboard, then plan. Before you step outside, you should know the ingredients available in your cupboards and plan around this. There are a lot of handy websites, apps and blogs that you can use to come up with ideas for different recipes based on what you have at home. Check out the Food Cycle website for inspiration.
  2. Plan your meals around what you already have. Plan a ‘kitchen sink’ meal every week – meals that use up the leftover ingredients available in your kitchen. The best part about this is you get to unleash your creativity in cooking your meals! Among the easy dishes that can be cooked with random and mixed ingredients are stir fries, burritos, bowls, casseroles, wraps, and pastas.

If meal planning seems like too much to fit into your routine, have a look at some ready-made meal plans available online:

These steps not only help to reduce food waste, but are an excellent way to add variety to your family menu and help with weekly food budgeting.

You don’t need to create a meal plan for seven days with every meal cooked from scratch – bet on there being leftovers some days and give yourself a day to treat yourself to a takeaway or eat out.

If you want to buy a takeaway, and at the same time minimise food waste, there is an app called Too good to go, that enables you to buy unsold food from shops and restaurants at a large discount.  Another mobile app that is worth exploring is Olio. You can share your unwanted food or household items for free in your local neighbourhood area. Next time, if you accidentally purchase too much food, share the food with your neighbours using online platforms. Technology is your friend here!

My final top tips:

  1. Make your own recipe lists: Apparently, most households have around 21 meals that they typically eat during the year. Draw up a list of your main meals and then make a shopping list for each. Build your store cupboard essentials around the list and try to incorporate some new recipes around these main meals.
  2. Leftovers: If you are making a weekly meal plan, do not plan on cooking every night. Plans change, leftovers are there to be eaten and be creative with the items available in your well-stocked cupboards.
  3. Family effort: If you have kids, involve them in planning the weekly meals. Keep in mind that they might have their own preferences, so it is very important to make them feel engaged in the process. Use this opportunity to teach them about a sustainable and healthy lifestyle with fun activities. You could start with creating a theme by the colour of the food – Monday could be a ‘green theme’, which means the meal plan must include green fruit and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, grapes or green apples.

With the right steps and mindset, helping our planet can be fun and easy. The key to live sustainably is to shift our focus and effort on the things that we can do. There are other ways what you choose to eat can help the planet too, such as buying locally sourced ingredients, and incorporating more plant-based foods in your meal planning. Whichever way you choose to help the planet, remember to enjoy the process!


To find out more about how you can take action on the climate and ecological crises, visit our Action Hub.

One thought on “Climate action: reducing your food waste footprint

Leave a Reply