Today is Earth Overshoot Day – the day we’ve used a year’s worth of the Earth’s resources – a little over halfway through the year. OzHarvest says that one simple way to reduce such food waste is to “use it up.”
To inspire householders to pay closer attention to the food in their fridges and pantries, and reduce what they throw away uneaten, OzHarvest research identified some of the ways to do this.
These actions broadly fall into five categories:
- Planning for shopping;
- Storing food at home;
- Cooking; and
One idea that emerged from the study is simply to “use it up” – making a weekly meal that combines any food that needs to be used up and creating a shelf in the fridge or pantry so you can see it.
OzHarvest used this insight to create a national campaign and develop a product.
The bright yellow Use It Up Tape acts as a visual prompt to remind householders of food that needs to be eaten before it spoils, before it passes its best-before date, or before a replacement item is purchased. Simple, well-designed visual cues have been shown to be effective in encouraging sustainable behaviour.
Early results from studies of the tape have shown it can lead to significant food-waste reduction. From a sample of about 70 households, surveys completed before and after the tape was used showed a 20 to 40 per cent reduction in food waste. The largest reduction was in the amount of fresh vegetables, fruit and bread products that households discarded.
Participating households said they use the tape as a visual prompt and a reminder, as predicted, but they also reported it was a useful planning tool for the next meals they’d be preparing.
Smaller households tend to buy less food and can keep better track of what needs to be used up. The tape was most effective in larger households, especially those with children.
It was a communication tool so other members knew what should be eaten or could be taken to work or school – put simply, “Eat this one first.”
Larger households with children also tend to waste the most food, showing the potential for such a simple device to have a significant impact on reducing household food waste.
To reduce runaway consumption of natural resources, and to tackle the urgent issue of climate change, reducing household food waste is one of the most impactful things individuals can do.