By Tessa Cook, Co-Founder of OLIO
OLIO is Britain's first food sharing service that is tackling food waste. The free app connects neighbours with each other and with local shops and cafes so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. In so doing, OLIO tackles food waste by combining cutting-edge mobile technology with the power of the sharing economy and an engaged local community.
This week, we see the celebration of Zero Waste Week, the annual campaign to encourage people to cut the amount of material that they send to landfill. It's a great idea to raise awareness of how much we throw away, but there's no reason why we should curb our wastefulness for just one week a year.
A third of all household waste is food waste, and so here are five great reasons why we should all cut down on the food we throw in the bin, and five top tips for making the best out of the food we buy.
Why cut food waste?
UK families throw away an average of £700 of food each year, while over a third of households admit that they don't reuse leftovers. That's an astonishing amount of money, especially in such precarious economic times.
It's bad for the planet
More than 1.3 billion tonnes of food gets thrown away globally each year, producing some 3.3 billion tonnes in carbon dioxide. In fact, if food waste were a country it would be the third biggest CO2 emitter, after the USA and China.
We are privileged to live in a society of plenty, but there are many people at home and abroad who don't have enough to eat. One of the best ways to show our gratitude for having enough to eat is to treat food with respect.
Missing great food
Much of the food that we throw away is both nutritious and delicious. Cauliflower leaves can be steamed as a healthy snack, carrot and beetroot tops just need dressing to turn them into a summer salad - the list is endless!
Missing out on feeding friends, family & neighbours
What's the fun in food if we can't share it? Whether it's delicious leftovers or unneeded ingredients, there's no excuse to put food in the bin when someone near you could eat it instead.
How do we reduce food waste?
Don't browse in the supermarket - make a list and only buy the items you need. This will enable you to plan menus and use ingredients before they go out of date.
Long before electricity, our ancestors learned how to preserve food by pickling, smoking and salting, so there's no excuse for not putting leftovers in the fridge or freezer. If it was good enough to eat the first time, why throw away what you've got left?
Get the right temperature
Three quarters of Britons have their fridge at the wrong temperature, which is one of the main causes of avoidable food waste. Cutting your fridge temperature from 7C to 4C adds an average three days to the life of many fresh foods.
Don't be a slave to "best before"
How did we survive before "best before" dates? The answer: perfectly well. Remember that these dates are advisory only. Our noses, fingers and taste buds are much more adept at knowing whether food is still good enough to eat, so don't throw food just because the packaging has an arbitrary date on it.
Share the love
One of the simplest ways to avoid food waste is to give it away. If you have ingredients that are going out of date, why not drop around to a neighbour or relative with a bowl? If that's not practical, then you can use services such as the food sharing app OLIO to find people in your area who will gladly take your surplus food off your hands - and it's surprisingly fun!