Waste not, want not 

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Turkey is the talk of the town.

Whether it's turkey sale stories or a turkey recipe rundown, the feathered friend is top of mind.

This Thanksgiving weekend, though, why don't we change the conversation a bit around this great time of harvest (whether that's for new winter mountain supplies or dinner with all the trimmings) and talk about the leftovers.

Oct. 16 is World Food Day and in Canada some are hoping that it will also become a day where we think about the amount of food we waste.

MPs returning to the Commons last month were asked to consider a private bill to observe food waste awareness in the wake of a report earlier this year, which found that Canada wastes about $31 billion worth of food each year — that's higher than the combined GDP of the world's poorest 29 countries.

According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about one in four calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten.

For some perspective, Food Banks Canada reports that one in eight families struggle to put food on the table.

It seems incredible to consider that on one hand people in Canada do not have enough to eat yet on the other every household is sending five pounds of wasted food to the landfill every week of the year.

The just-released Vital Signs report by the Community Foundation of Whistler found that 2,484 people used the Whistler Food Bank in 2015 — up 192 people from the year before.

This food waste has to stop.

Bill C-231 calls for implementation of the Fight Against Food Waste Act, which would comprise a national day of awareness about food waste; and, a national strategy aimed at raising public awareness of food waste, putting tools in place to help consumers reduce food waste; facilitating donation of blemished but edible food to community organizations and food banks, studying various ways to reduce the environmental impact of the production of unused food resources, and establishing food waste reduction targets. 

The bill is being put forward by MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau (Berthier-Maskinongé, Que.), the New Democrat agriculture critic.

Most waste, 51 per cent, occurs in the home, according to a 2013 study by the George Morris Centre, a Guelph, Ont. agricultural think tank. Eighteen per cent is wasted by processors, and 11 per cent by retailers.

We have already seen other nations take a leadership role on this issue.

For example, France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Now it must be donated to charities and food banks. The law follows a grassroots campaign by shoppers, anti-poverty campaigners and those opposed to food waste. These same people are hoping to persuade the EU to adopt similar legislation.

Italy is also poised to pass a law that will make supermarkets donate their food waste to charities.

Want to change your own food waste habits? Try making a list before you go shopping and sticking to it and to not go shopping if you're hungry as there is credible research that shows you buy more when you are hungry.

Also, be an inventory manager at home, check your cupboards and refrigerator — what do you have and what do you really need? Be creative and re-purpose leftovers, and if you have too much food, or you know you won't use it — donate it.

But this is about more than just waste.

When food ends up in the landfill it decomposes releasing methane. As Environment Canada puts it, "Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. Emissions from Canadian landfills account for 20 per cent of national methane emissions."

If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, after China and the U.S., and a major contributor to global warming.

Whistler is working on by law to ban organics from its waste stream tackling in particular commercial and residential strata organizations, which make up 64 per cent of Whistler's garbage. It was supposed to be in place this summer but has been delayed until 2017 "as the scope of the bylaw proved to be more complex and comprehensive than originally envisioned," according to an email from the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

Problems such as food waste have to be tackled at the grassroots first — so as you enjoy your turkey dinner this weekend, think about any waste it might produce and try looking up some recipes for those leftovers.


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