Worldwide, at least one-third of all food produced is squandered every year. With an extra two billion mouths to feed by 2050, global food waste is an escalating issue that is difficult to ignore. And waste from hotels, resorts, restaurants, cafes and airports – the haunts of the global travel community – are a large part of this growing problem.
We throw away or waste 1.3 billion tons a year at a cost of $1 trillion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation(FAO), a United Nations body. In industrialised nations, almost half of the food spoiled – roughly 300 million tons annually – is still fit for consumption. This is more than the total food production of sub-Saharan Africa, and enough to feed the estimated 870 million people currently hungry in the world today.
The FAO set up a Think.Eat.Save campaign in January 2013 to try to change the way we view food. In partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), they are trying to reduce food loss along the entire chain – from farm to fork; boost awareness both on a household level and at a national level; and help both individuals and properties such as hotels measure and recycle food waste.
In the UK, the government-funded recycling programme WRAP has signed up hotels and restaurants to a campaign to reduce food waste, including the Accor, Jury’s Inn, Red Carnation and Travelodge hotel groups. Some hotels distribute unused food to local charities. The Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas donates meals from its 21 restaurants and 19 bars to Hands for Hunger, a local humanitarian organisation that supports poor local families, while the Pret a Manger sandwich shop chain donated more than 2.5 million food products to UK charities for the homeless in 2012.
Certainly travellers can finish up meals, avoid buffets, enquire about food waste when they check into hotels and choose properties, cruise-lines and tour operators that have programmes in place to reduce or recycle wastage. For those looking to spend their money with socially responsible companies, the Green Hotelier website is a useful resource.
At the Good Life on Syros, food wastage is limited as meals are picked directly from the organic garden. Direct collection of ingredients is the single most effective way to guarantee nothing is wasted. Not a possibility for average households, but growing food has become far more popular in the last five years. Eco tourism has also grown exponentially in recent years for the same reasons.