By Iain Gulland

THE most appetising and effective way for everyone in Scotland to save the planet and help overcome the impact of Covid-19 is this: stop wasting food.

We must eat to survive, but we also must start taking seriously the fact that binning food is destroying the planet, our only home.

The single biggest cause of the climate crisis in Scotland is our ever-accelerating consumerism culture. It’s not widely known that carbon emissions are not only caused by cars and airplanes, but more so the wasteful way we produce, use and discard products and materials.

Many people are rightly taking stock of the single-use materials they use, like plastic packaging. We should also be tackling food waste because it is a bigger contributor to climate change than plastic.

Almost a million tonnes of food is thrown out nationwide each year. Wasting food also wastes all the resources used in producing, delivering and cooking it. And if food then goes on to rot in landfill, it produces methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

The Scottish Government’s ambitious 2045 net-zero pledge followed an earlier target to cut Scotland’s per capita food waste by a third by 2025. As we recover from Covid-19, we mustn't let up in our fight against food waste.

Before the pandemic, the Bowhouse in Fife was among hundreds of businesses to benefit from free Zero Waste Scotland food waste audits, saving cash and carbon.

However, like many others, the local food market moved online to survive lockdown. Trade boomed and Bowhouse is virtually zero-waste as producers meet customers’ orders placed in advance. This is what happens when supply meets demand, there’s nothing left over.

Zero Waste Scotland adapted to conduct food waste audits virtually, so we can still operate and cut our own emissions from staff travel.

We’re expanding audits to include the public sector, charities and communities and have recruited behaviour change experts to help people adapt as well as processes.

Pre-Covid-19, we estimate Scotland’s hospitality sector alone lost more than £200 million a year on wasted food.

Among the tastiest solutions to the climate crisis are sustainable biscuits produced by Maclean’s Highland Bakery using waste draff from the Windswept Brewing Company.

These Highland firms are two of hundreds nationwide pioneering the circular economy – reducing, reusing, repairing, remaking and finally recycling to make things last longer.

With Scotland’s food and drink manufacturers estimated to cause a quarter of the nation’s food waste, such collaborations are invaluable.

But most of Scotland’s food waste comes from our homes. We’re researching how people’s changing shopping and cooking habits during the pandemic could be used to help reduce household waste long-term.

We can all learn lessons from lockdown on how doing things differently can help end the climate crisis.

Iain Gulland is chief executive, Zero Waste Scotland