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10 words you should know about food waste

You've probably heard a lot of talk around food waste, CO2 emissions and sustainability. But what does it all really mean? Here are the top 10 key words related to food waste that you need to know.

Sustainable development

"We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."

According to this Native American saying, it's important to respect available resources and not exhaust them. In other words, our planet earth is not infinite. By understanding the planet and how to protect it, we'll ensure resources are left for future generations. Sustainable development means ensuring that our way of life and economic development is not at the expense of future generations.

July 29th, 2019 was Earth Overshoot Day. On this day, humanity has consumed all of what the planet is able to produce in a year. The United Nations addressed this challenge by defining sustainable development goals (SDGs) and is helping companies and states to implement them. SDG #12 relates specifically to consumption and production; helping us tackle food waste.

Carbon footprint

Every day, through traveling, working, partying, eating (pretty much everything we do) - we produce greenhouse gases. Our collective human activity has contributed to the 'greenhouse effect' and this is what impacts global warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A carbon footprint is a way to measure how these actions are impacting the planet. 

It is possible to lower your carbon footprint by making smart choices. With the food you eat, ensure you choose products that are in season and locally produced as these will have a lower carbon footprint. It's easy to unknowingly increase your carbon footprint; exotic fruits that require transportation and storage generate a staggering amount of CO2, likewise tomatoes grown in European greenhouses in the dead of winter. Plus, both increase the risk of food loss.

Becoming clear about your own carbon footprint is extremely complex but a simple way to measure it is through “tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent”. There are different tools for calculating your personal footprint, but we love the BBC one, as it focuses on food!

Food Waste

Food waste simply refers to any edible food that ends up in a bin. It can be thrown away by farms, shops, restaurants, or at home. Food waste also happens as a result of industry standards. Producers assume that people will only buy the most 'normal' looking products. As a result, they throw away the 'ugly' ones before they even get on the shelves.

Food Loss

Unlike food waste, food loss refers to inedible products, lost along the process.

It can be due to natural causes before harvesting, such as a storm. But it is also happens during storage or transportation, where the food gets contaminated and is deemed no longer safe for consumption. Misplanning and accidents can also occur, where external materials enter the production process and the full batch goes to waste. This can be as simple as a leaf getting into a harvest of fruit, or a small piece of egg shell when dealing with eggs.


A flexitarian is someone who has consciously reduced their consumption of meat and fish, almost to the point of being a vegetarian.

Of course, becoming flexitarian can be the result of many different reasons, such as health, religion, ethics or even just taste preference.


Put simply, strawberries do not grow in the winter.

Eating according to the seasonality means eating fruits and vegetables that grow naturally at that time of the year. This reduces imports from far away places and decreases agriculture production in greenhouses.

Ripe fruits and vegetables are better for your health and the planet. They contain more nutrients and vitamins - and they are tastier! Growing veggies out of season means extra energy to heat greenhouses, transport across the planet and store in fridges while producing the loss along the cycle as we know it today.

Zero Waste

Zero Waste is a movement that is finding new solutions to reduce as much waste as possible for individuals. The mission is to generate 'zero waste', by rethinking most of our activities and following the 4 R's: refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Bea Johnson is one of the most well-known pioneers, due to her incredible challenge of reducing her waste to only half a jar of waste per year! In France, the 'Almost Zero Waste Family' also enthusiastically share their tips, successes, and disappointments.


Recycling means taking a used product, shredding it back into raw material and making a new product out of that material.

Using food, the best example is compost. By decomposing naturally, or with the help of earthworms, food scraps can become a powerful fertiliser! Some people also call it downcycling, as opposed to upcycling.


Upcycling is all about finding a new purpose for a used object.
In upcycling, the product is not shredded back into raw material (like the process for recycling) but repurposed just as it is. Upcycling requires less energy than recycling and extends the cycles of the use of a product. At home, upcycling can be a creative process. Do you drink coffee? I bet you do. Use your old coffee grounds as a body scrub. Create a wallet from an old milk carton. That's upcycling.

The best part is, you can upcycle again and again - and after upcycling a product to its greatest extent you can then recycle it!

Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is about moving away from society's “take, make, dispose” culture, towards a more sustainable "nothing is lost, everything is transformed" way of living.

This new economic model, also known as ‘cradle to cradle’, seeks to reduce or even end waste from production lines. In other words, one person's waste is another's raw material! This implies thinking in a global and upstream way. For example, you can bake bread with beer leftovers. Then you can brew beer from breadcrumbs! What a magic (and delicious) circle.

To view more on initiatives worldwide that try to close the loop, watch here.

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed by all these concepts?

No worries! Change towards a more sustainable future happens one day at a time. To get started take a look at our list of food hacks. Be part of the solution and share some good Karma!