tedx: In September, food waste activist Selina Juul gave a talk...

January 23, 2013


In September, food waste activist Selina Juul gave a talk called, “Stop wasting food” at TEDxCopenhagen, asking global citizens to be more mindful of the food they let go to waste.

Unfortunately, since Selina’s talk went live, it’s become clear that the problem of global food waste is a lot worse than even she thought.

Just this month the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)publisheda study that revealed that — as The Guardian reports — “up to half of the food that is bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers,” and almost as much as half of the food produced in the world (2 billion tons worth) winds up in the trash instead of in people’s mouths.

And just yesterday, the UN launched a new campaign to fight global food waste: the Think.Eat.Save campaign. The new initiative seeks to educate consumers and retailers on the issue of global food waste, and provide strategies, ideas, and resources to ameliorate this worldwide endemic. 

In her talk, Selina explains the problem, and her hopes for awareness and future solutions:

I was born in Moscow, Russia. When I came to the West some 19 years ago, I was shocked to see the amount of food [available]… I mean, I was born in Communist Russia — we didn’t have that much food … And I was also shocked to see the amount of food waste. People wasted food everywhere, without giving it any second thought.

…We do it all the time: We buy more food than we actually need; we stack it into the back of our fridges, and then we let it die —slowly. And let’s say that after a week or two, when our carrots get all wrinkled and sad, we just take them out and throw them all away, because, you know, you can always buy some more.

Does it matter?It actually does.

Good edible food — your money, your time, farmers’ work, carbon emissions, all of that — [we throw it directly away to feed our garbage can.]

Ladies and gentlemen, we have to be smarter than that. We have to wake up…

In just some 20 years, we are going to need two planets to sustain the demand for our consumption: The population is growing and the resources are already lacking … We are running out of time.

It’s all too easy, Selina says, for people to become “consumer zombies” — never thinking about the choices they make at the grocery store, the office cafe, or the local farmers’ market. Whether it’s buying a super-sized sandwich you probably won’t eat, an extra pint of milk just because it’s on sale, or ignoring perfectly fine leftovers in favor of shopping for more food, so many shoppers in the western world make choices that lead to food waste every day. She wants that to change.

She suggests that people use their leftovers, share food with neighbors, be wise about our portion choices at restaurants, even start consumer movements to change how food is sold and bought in consumer markets, and how food waste is perceived in society.

“The power of ordinary people like you and I,” she ends her talk, “is extraordinary … This food .. is not only food. This is your power. This is your personal power to change the future. Don’t waste that power. Stop wasting food.”

For more tips on reducing food waste, you can visit Selina’s website at http://www.selinajuul.com/ or the Think.Eat.Save website at: http://www.thinkeatsave.org/

Photos: Left, by Flickr user szczel; Right, Selina Juul at TEDxCopenhagen

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.