Since 2012, Taste Before You Waste, an Amsterdam East based initiative has been raising awareness about the prevention of food waste at the consumer level. With the help of volunteers who cook, deliver by carrier cycle, who design and write blogs as well as small, independent grocery stores and an organic farmer in Flevoland, the foundation organizes free food markets two times per week, food-saving workshops, and cater no-waste dinners. They offer special pricing for organizations that are also trying to make an impact and all of the activities they offer on their own initiative are pay-as-you-feel in order to make it accessible for everybody. They also have an educational program that teaches children the benefits of food conservation as well as donating to charities. Taste Before You Waste has been starting up chapters all over the Netherlands; Bussum, Utrecht, and Bergen all have adopted the program. Recently, the initiative has gone international with a chapter in Canada.
Founder Luana Carretto is no stranger to social consciousness. She started traveling extensively after high school and doing volunteer work. She then spent a couple of years translating for the Venus Project, an organization that proposes a feasible plan of action for social change. After watching a documentary on food waste, Luana Carretto became an anti-food waste activist. She and her husband, Dennis, began picking up surplus food at 10 local shops and driving it to Amsterdam West to a large group of refugees (We Are Here). Later, Luana collaborated with “Op de Valreep”, a local squat in Amsterdam East with the goal of arranging an alternative food bank. Soon after, she decided that she needed to set up her own organization and with the help of friends and a carrier cycle, she began Taste Before You Waste. Luana, along with her friend, Sophia Bensch, decided to take on the project full time and as of the 10th of February 2016, Taste Before You Waste was registered in the Chamber of Commerce and became an official Foundation.
The environmental impacts of food waste are staggering. Food production creates pollution and agricultural problems such as the soil erosion and degradation that happened in America during The 1930’s (known as the Dust Bowl) that left millions starving. The packaging of food is usually plastic which when produced is extremely harmful as well as non-biodegradable. There is also the transport of food by truck and airplane which uses fossil fuels contributing to drilling in our oceans and fracking which pollutes drinking water and destroys ecosystems. When food starts to pile up in landfills, it starts to produce methane which is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gasses and has been tied to climate change and the damaging of our ozone layer. “Researchers say that if global food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses”, says Luana.
The social impact of wasting food is also something to be considered. Tristram Stuart, the award-winning author, speaker, and expert on the environmental and social impacts of food waste has written several books on the subject. He says that in a way we are all behaving murderously toward our fellow human being because we buy more than we need and cause starvation among the less fortunate. In a global market, prices are made on the basis of supply and demand. Nations buying more food than they can consume are driving up the price of food which makes it harder for poorer countries to buy food for their people. For example, the Netherlands buys three times more food than they actually need. Industrialized countries are the biggest contributors of waste, but that is “not a negative thing” says Luana. “It is good that we are responsible because then we have the power to change it. There are not many things we have control over on an individual level while food waste is one of those things you can have a lot of impact simply by adapting your own behavior.” She adds, “It is very disrespectful to your fellow human being to be throwing away food while there are still people going hungry.”
With 38% of food waste in the Netherlands coming from individuals, Taste Before You Waste wants to educate people about the amount of food that is thrown away and how we can prevent it on an individual level. With small changes like cooking smaller portions, using the entire fruit or vegetable (even the ugly parts), and thinking creatively (over ripe fruit is perfect for smoothies), one can promote change in the way we view and consume food. Food is the very basis of life on this planet. Without it, an organism cannot survive and we as humans often forget this. In an age of information, it is getting easier to organize and gather the necessary information to lead a more socially conscious life. Taste Before You Waste is “effective because it is a low threshold for consumers”, Luana says and that it is important that it is “for and by the people”. By simply educating yourself, you can take direct action in this social and environmental movement.
Check the website for information on how you can volunteer, donate, attend a workshop or dinner or to find out more about what you can do at home to be a food hero. You can do that here.
This article was written by win harms and originally appeared in Amsterdam Alternative