Photo: Too Good To Go (Spain)
We’ve all been guilty about this before.
In my native language, we call it having “takaw mata” — literally “gluttonous eyes” — when you’ve piled your plate with so much food and end up not eating half of it, so perfectly good food just finds its way to the garbage.
I never used to think twice about it, until a couple of years ago when I happily caught the sustainability / circularity bug and started reflecting a lot more about my patterns of consumption, from the clothes I wear to the things I buy, and down to the food I eat.
Each time I discarded perfectly good food, it also meant that I also just needlessly wasted all the resources needed to get that food onto my plate: freshwater, energy, fertilizer, land use and labour.
It’s even more alarming when you think that we’re now living in a world of rapidly dwindling resources, where 1 in 9 people are suffering from hunger (reaching 821 million people in 2017) and is on the rise, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018.
So why does so much food go to waste?
Apart from being unsold, perfectly good, fresh fruits and vegetables get discarded during the sorting stage if they don’t pass the colour, shape or size test. So you could have a perfectly ripe and edible tomato, for example, that would be tossed away if it’s not the ideal round shape. Moreover, many shops and consumers discard food that are close to the “best-before” date.
Consumers at restaurants also leave significant amounts of food on their plate, which the establishment just tosses at the end of the service. (Just think about all those still-full bread baskets you’ve left after dining at a restaurant!).
Multiply this behaviour and you get some unappetizing numbers — the EU generates around 88 million tonnes of food waste every year, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros.
Looking at it from a global perspective, about 1.3 billion tonnes of all food produced globally is either lost or wasted every year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Wasted food also has a heavy carbon footprint , because as food rots in a landfill, it soon starts emitting methane, which is much more potent that carbon dioxide.
All good to go!
The fight against food waste may be a monumental battle, but there is a growing global movement of “Waste Warriors” addressing this critical problem.
These food waste fighters have recently taken the fight to Madrid with an innovative, digitally-enabled solution — Too Good To Go is an award-winning, Danish-born app that is now a European-wide initiative connecting users to restaurants, shops, bars, fruit stands, bakeries and shops, providing them with an easy (and profitable) way to ensure their surplus food doesn’t go to waste. Too Good To Go owes its incarnation in Madrid to food waste warriors Oriol Reull and Marta Galarreta.
I recently had the privilege of meeting these two visionaries, who in just over a year of operations in Spain, have already significantly reduced food waste through the app.
“We’ve already saved a quarter of a million meals in Spain and globally 20 million meals,” revealed Oriol, “and if you measure the impact on CO2, it’s more or less double, so we’re talking about 40 million kilos of CO2 that were not emitted.”
“The good news is that in the past 3 to 5 years, people have been more willing,” said Marta when I asked her about the reaction in the Spanish market about finding solutions to the food waste problem. “People want to change, and currently, based on our experience here after 1 year of operations, we are implementing something that hasn’t existed and now we have almost 2,000 shops, about 300,000 users.”
My Magic Boxes
The idea is very similar to a delivery app as it shows you the nearby establishments that offer “Magic Bags” or packages with unsold food that you can buy for a huge discount — sometimes up to 70% off its selling price — and then pick up at a specific time. A lot of shops even encourage you to bring your own tuppers or bags, to further reduce plastic use. It’s an ingenious win-win solution — establishments are able reduce their food waste, increase their earnings for products that would have otherwise been discarded, and even introduce customers to new products.
Here are some snaps of the very generous Magic Boxes and establishments that I’ve tried with Too Good To Go Madrid:
Tim Horton’s assorted donuts for only 3,69:
Wok Garden buffet assorted sushi for only 4,99:
La Franco Argentina dark chocolate alfajores (sandwich cookies with dulce de leche, which we gobbled halfway through before I remembered to take a photo) and pack of mate for only 4,99:
Efecto Fruta assorted fruit pack for only 2,99:
Okinawa sushi and gyoza dumplings for only 3,99:
Too Good To Go has been my happy discovery this month that’s not only helped me contribute to lessening food waste, it’s also made me explore more restaurants, stores and cafés — and even sustainable flower shops! — around my barrio.
More importantly, the growing anti-food waste movement that Too Good To Go represents is a springboard to becoming more conscious about our eating habits and how they affect the planet and people. Food is more than just what keeps us alive, it is inherent in a cycle that we are a part of. Respecting that cycle, acknowledging our interconnected world means closely examining our actions that have an impact on this world.
This app is a good first step – really, if you’re living in Madrid or in any country in the EU that offers Too Good To Go, it’s a no-brainer to download it and enlist in the fight against food waste today!