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The food system is the “single biggest way in which we’re currently trashing the planet,” says Tristram Stuart, environmental campaigner and founder of Toast Ale, a brand which transforms food waste into beer. “It’s a major issue.”
Tristram was an environmentalist from an early age. “I rescued wasted food from school kitchens and local bakeries, butchers and greengrocers as well as supermarkets,” he explains. “I knew that the environmental impact of food production was the single biggest impact that humans have on the natural environment in terms of water usage, biodiversity loss and deforestation.”
“It struck me as totally irrational that we were chopping down the Amazon rainforest while wasting so much food,” Tristram says. The issue of food waste has been thrown into the spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic. During lockdown, food waste in UK households decreased by one-third, according to Love Food Hate Waste, while Google and social media searches for leftover recipes skyrocketed.
The issue is beginning to be addressed by retailers and foodservice outlets too – but for many consumers and business owners alike there is still a dangerous knowledge gap.
Tristram works to draw attention to the “huge and global scandal of food waste, and to do it in a way that was appealing, delicious, nutritious and fun.” First, he started organising meals where he would feed people with food that would otherwise be wasted.
“After I published my book Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, I scaled the idea up to feed 5,000 people with perfectly good food that would otherwise get wasted by the food industry,” Tristram said.
“That kicked off a movement that would come to pretty much take over my life. Toast Ale was a continuation of the campaigning career that I’d developed, and was a way of turning a colossal problem – bread waste – into something engaging, fun and easy to interact with and understand,” he continued. “My motto is that if you want to change the world, you’ve got to throw a better party than the people destroying it.”
Tristram’s tips for getting involved with the movement
“The time has come to move from having a few window-dressing environmental initiatives to rebuild and have sustainability as part of every decision,” Tristram says.
Businesses can take a progressive and proactive role in encouraging governments and international institutions to put in place a regulatory framework that stops companies from acting in conflict with humanity and the health of the planet.
“Food waste reporting is a good example of regulatory frameworks, and after many years of campaigning, the organisation FeedBack (which I founded) is working on a government consultation on mandatory food waste reporting for large food businesses,” Tristram said.
Tristram also suggests reducing the amount of land that your product requires in order to reduce the demand for deforestation on a global scale. “As a business, you can do this by using food that would otherwise be wasted (therefore not wasting food yourself), and following other efficiency measures.”
Looking for more ways to boost your eco credentials? Download your free copy of A Sustainable Future 2020, produced in partnership with Speciality & Fine Food Fair for more exclusive insight from sustainability pioneers.