By Emily Robinson

WE are all conscious of the need to take stock of the environmental impact of our choices and to look for ways to make change. Food choices are often high on the list of options, but one of the easiest changes people can make isn’t about eating a plant-based diet or buying local and seasonal produce, though there are merits to both – it’s actually in limiting our food waste.

Limiting food waste and using food responsibly isn’t about spending more, it’s about knowing how to use what you already have. And with rising costs, making the most of the foods we buy can help us all to save money as well as to live more sustainably.

Today is Stop Food Waste Day, a concept Compass Group launched in 2017 to align with its commitment to halve food waste by 2030. The focus is on education: 33 per cent of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year, which is a statistic that tends to fly under the radar in conversations about food sustainability. And because eight per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions each year are due to food loss and waste, we know that if every person cut back even slightly on their food waste, it would have an extremely positive effect on mitigating climate change. If the hospitality industry begins to significantly limit food waste, the impact will be even more impressive.

At Compass Scotland, we’re committed to leading the way on this initiative and are working with Zero Waste Scotland on food waste measurement and reduction projects. We have tasked our chefs with thinking creatively about "root to tip" cooking to use the whole food item, and we look at food preservation within our kitchens to keep produce beyond its season, including freezing berries, tinning tomatoes or pickling. We also work with local partners to donate food when we know there will be a surplus after large events. As the primary catering supplier at last year’s COP26 conference, we planned in advance that we’d donate leftovers to Scottish charities.

There are a few simple ways we can all limit our food waste at home too, and here are some of my favourites:

Meal planning ahead of a big shop can ensure you only buy what you need, and then store it properly so it doesn’t go off before you plan to use it. Learning to use the bits of fruit and vegetables we normally throw away, like broccoli stalks and cauliflower leaves, also limits waste, as does leaving the fibre-filled skins on vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Produce that is starting to wilt can be chopped up finely and added to stews, chilli and pasta sauces, and scraps and cheese rinds can be used to make stock for soups and other dishes.

We know we have the size and scale to impact change and the environment. However, there are small, no-cost changes we can all make at home to save both money and the planet at the same time. Reducing food waste should be at the top of every menu.

Emily Robinson, RNUTR, is Senior Nutritionist and Sustainability Lead at Compass Scotland