|In line with this year’s United Nations Environment Programme World Environment Day theme; ‘Think. Eat. Save’, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has called for the public to reduce the amount of food waste in the Emirate by adopting habits that avoid excess and impact the environment negatively.
Inspired by the spirit and values of the Holy month of Ramadan, EAD is joining hands with the UAE Red Crescent Authority’s Hefth Al Ne’ma (Saving Grace) and Quattro Group, which runs a chain of food and beverages outlets within the UAE, to donate approximately 250 meals daily of untouched and safe leftover food to needy people in Abu Dhabi over the next five years to reduce food waste and the ‘food print’.
EAD has already helped to raise awareness throughout the community with a series of activities that demonstrate the environmental impact of food choices, and encourage the public to make decisions that ensure there is as little waste as possible.
Organic waste makes up approximately 39 per cent of total household waste in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This leads to an increase in the percentage of waste in the landfills, and an increase in carbon emissions and a subsequent impact on climate change. UN experts have said that this kind of waste is often coupled with harmful impacts on the environment, as decaying food in landfills releases large quantities of greenhouse gases such as Methane.
Fozeya Ibrahim Al Mahmoud, Director of Environmental Outreach Division, EAD, said: “This campaign is in line with EAD’s commitment to spreading awareness and instilling a culture that advocates reducing our daily consumption which, in turn, will result in reducing waste in every home.”
Al Mahmoud added: “In light of the natural resource limitations we face in the UAE, including water resources and food production capabilities, food conservation and the reduction of its waste should be key priorities. We must adopt the best use of available resources, as well as raise awareness about reducing our collective ‘foodprint’ during Ramadan.”
In a further commitment to reducing food wastage, EAD has partnered with the Saving Grace Project and Quattro Group to donate approximately 250 meals daily to the poor and needy. The agreement runs for the next five years and coincides with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.
Commenting on the ‘Saving Grace’ (Hefth Al Ne’ma) Project, Sultan Al Shehi, Director of the project, said: “Through its collaboration with the Saving Grace Project, EAD is playing a significant role in raising awareness among community members on the importance of conserving our environment by reducing food waste at social events, restaurants, hotels, governmental organisations and in private entities.”
The food-handling team has established a timetable to collect and distribute meals efficiently, as well as ensuring that health and safety are top priorities. To take part in this initiative, interested parties can call a toll free number; 800-5011.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), each year, an estimated one third of all food produced- 1.3 billion tonnes, worth around US$1 trillion-ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices.
Aside from the moral implications of such wastage in a world where almost 900 million people go hungry every day, unconsumed food wastes both the energy put into growing it and the fuel spent on transporting produce across vast distances.
Added to this, significant amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane emanate from food decomposing on landfills, while livestock and forests cleared for food production contribute to global warming-for example, agriculture and land-use changes like deforestation account for over 30 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
To help the public change their behavior, EAD developed awareness material that can help them understand the importance of reducing the amount of food waste in the country including “Top 10 tips on how to reduce food waste”:
1) Cook less: Make enough food for the number of guests at the table. If you are six people, don’t cook food for 10. The prophet (peace be upon him) said: 'The food of two people is enough for three, and the food of three people is enough for four.' (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
2) Measure your portions: This removes the guesswork by suggesting how much to cook which will lead to cooking the needed amount and not throwing away excess food.
3) Plan your meals: Keep the cupboards and fridge stocked with the basics (milk, eggs, yoghurt etc.), so that when it comes time to writing your shopping list, you will only buy those ingredients you need. This tip will not only cut down food waste, it will also save you time and money as well!
4) Be aware of expiry dates: Keep an eye on the 'best before' or 'use by' dates
5) Don’t go grocery shopping when hungry: Ever noticed that if you go grocery shopping when hungry you end up buying unnecessary amounts or kinds of food that might not end up consuming? Avoid impulse buys and take your grocery list with you.
6) Make use of your leftovers: Go online or get creative and make the most of your leftovers by making delicious, innovative dishes.
7) Be a food saving hero: Make the most of the food you buy and find out what types of food can be frozen, stored, dehydrated etc. so that you avoid throwing anything away.
8) Avoid piling up your plate: When you are out at a social event or gathering which boasts an open buffet, avoid piling food on your plate. Be sensible when choosing what to eat, this way you avoid throwing excess food.
9) Feel with others: Remember that there are always people out there who are in need of food, so instead of throwing leftovers, give them away to those in need! Please make sure that the food is safe to eat before donating it to others.
10) Compost Your Waste: By composting your organic waste you are returning nutrients back into the soil, disposal of organic waste in a proper manner and protect the environment.