Why food waste should be avoided this Christmas holiday and always

Don’t throw away good food. Feed someone else and make this holiday a waste-free one!

By David Michael Terungwa, Climate Reality Leader, President of Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (aka African Green Movement).

As many of us celebrate this Christmas and Holiday season, let us please avoid food waste for the sake of the environment.

Between 30 and 40% of the food prepared during this period will not be eaten; it will end up in the dustbin.

Do you know that wasted food has a negative impact on our environment? We tend to not appreciate that greenhouse gas emissions are generated from the growing, transport, processing and storage of food before purchase. If food is thrown away, these emissions – and environmental impact – are double wasted!

In addition to money being wasted, discarded food has a negative impact on our environment as it contributes to global warming. This is because the bulk of wasted food ends up in landfills, and rotting food in landfills produces methane gas – one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Think about how much food you throw away

Food left over on your plate; too much food prepared and not used; food past its sell-by date; food past its use-by date; food gone off. These all generally end up in the landfill.

Many of us don’t give a thought to the quantity of food we waste daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. We may think about it for a moment when we’re scraping the leftovers off the plate, or when we dump some rot fruit in the bin. But it’s become so “normal” to throw food away that we just don’t give it any real thought, and we don’t think how the quantities add up over the year.

Half of the food thrown away need not go to waste. With some basic management in the food buying process and the food preparation you could have saved a substantial amount of money! Read on and we’ll explain further.

As you know only too well, food is so expensive that food thrown away is like throwing money in the dustbin. And we would never choose to actually throw money in the bin!

As mentioned earlier, when we throw away food we also don’t take into account the greenhouse gas emissions that are generated throughout the food supply chain; when the food was produced, processed, transported and stored before we even buy it.

We don’t perceive organic waste or biodegradable food waste to be in problem in the waste stream. But as we have highlighted wasted food has a negative environmental impact.


A lack of planning by or for home cooks often leads to a waste of food. Here are some tips to help us waste less food.

  1. Food management begins at home – before we even do the shopping. Check what stockpiled ingredients you have – whether tinned, frozen or fresh. Use them before purchasing more so that they don’t expire or spoil.
  2. Create a shopping list for what you need.
  3. Stick to your shopping list when shopping.
  4. Buying food in the right portion sizes can assist in reducing food waste in the home.
  5. Plan menus according to what you have in stock as well as what’s in season and available.
  6. When buying larger packets of meat, separate it into correction portion size before freezing so that you don’t have to thaw the whole packet and only the amount you need at the time you need it.
  7. Self-selection or self-dispensing is an option that allows consumers to buy only the amount they need – reducing the potential for waste. It also reduces the amount of packaging wasted. Reuse your plastic bags – next time you buy tomatoes use the same plastic bag.
  8. Although some people are aware of date labels when they shop – taking food from the back of the shelf, as this tends to be the freshest – we generally don’t follow the same principle at home.
  9. The ‘use by’ label generally applies to fresh meat and fish, dairy products, and fruit and vegetables that will either go off or rot
  10. The ‘best before’ date is a guide relating to foods with a longer shelf life (that are low risk). Food quality may depreciate after the ‘best before’ date has passed, but there are not likely to be health issues.
  11. Stack the food in your fridge and cupboards with the newly purchased at the back and use your existing stocks first. This process ensures that products won’t get “lost” at the back of the cupboard.
  12. Reseal packing properly to protect the food. Use reusable bags, zip lock bags, or clips to close the bags properly.
  13. By moving your food around it also serves as a reminder of what stock is in your fridge/freezer/cupboards.
  14. Reducing consumption is better than reusing.
  15. Reusing is better than recycling or composting.
  16. Reducing, re-using, recycling and composting are better than disposing of our food waste.
  17. Home composting is also a great way to make use of peelings and other compostable food waste. See our page on composting.
  18. Recycling compostable food waste into compost is a more cost effective method of waste management. From an environmental perspective, home composting does not generate the amount of methane produced
    by landfills.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project.