For many of us, at least some of the weekend just gone will have been spent planning and shopping for the big festive meal. With so much sustainability debate on wasted food in 2014, have our minds begun turning to food waste this Christmas?
A glance at the stats for wasted food makes for some grim reading: Here in the UK, we waste the equivalent of 2M turkeys and 74M mince pies at Christmas; whilst 5 million Christmas Puddings go unconsumed each year. On top of that, 35 percent of people admit to throwing away more food at Christmas while last year the average cost of a turkey dinner neared £120 per household, yet we still wasted 20 percent of it! And US consumers waste as much as 25 percent of food during festive seasons. Clearly Christmas food consumption is ripe for a rethink.
Rethinking Christmas Food Waste
Faced with such indulgence and excess, Oliver Cromwell famously, and unsuccessfully, tried to banish Christmas from 15th-century Britain, which has always seemed Draconian at a time of celebration and giving. More recent food waste solutions maintain more of a semblance of the Christmas spirit, with campaigns (such as Love Food Hate Waste) urging us to consume food with care, entrepreneurs (such as Rubies in the Rubble) finding clever uses for wasted fruit and vegetables, and charities (such as FareShare) donating surplus or unwanted food to the underprivileged.
On top of all this great work, one further thing we must do is develop solutions that actively engage consumers in food waste reduction or elimination during the buying, preparation and consumption of food, rather than after waste has been created — effectively designing-out food waste from the get-go. As designers, we’re always looking at making this sort of thing better.
Getting real on Christmas dinner
Looking in further detail, the Christmas meal itself is full of obstacles and inefficiencies that allow food waste to occur. It is a meal you only cook once a year, plus you will most likely be cooking for more people than normal. Cookbook and online recipes are usually set for a family of four, not easily adaptable to increased guest numbers, making planning unnecessarily clumsy and again potentially wasting food. For instance, vegetables ordered online come in pre-determined quantities with no consideration for your meal size. Even those managing to cook a decent Christmas meal will then face the tricky challenge of turning leftovers into edible treats. Your taste buds may not stretch to that second turkey sandwich and your hard-fought Christmas dinner ends up in the bin.
Clearly over-ordering, poor preparation and your leftover limits lead directly to food being wasted, but on top of that, the planning and prep fill you with anything but the Christmas spirit, as you shop for the meal in a busy, stressful supermarket. All this sounds designed to deliberately catch you out; so surely there’s a better way?
To resolve all this, we created a service concept that tackles food waste and eases your shopping and cooking experience; delivering a waste and hassle-free Christmas meal.
Introducing the ‘Waste-Free Christmas Dinner Maker’ (WFCDM)
The Ghost of Christmas Future?
Of course this isn’t a real service or app — it’s a concept we dreamt up to help tackle Christmas food waste, a sort of ‘Ghost of Christmas Future.’ Crucially this doesn’t use any new technology or services that aren’t in existence today to have a real impact, plus wouldn’t demand a huge sacrifice or dietary change that many seem unwilling to make. This simply requires things to be reconfigured to tackle food waste.
Our concept is a piece of creative thinking for this most traditional of times, and if that’s what can be done for a single meal, on a single day, just imagine what we could do about food waste for the rest of the year.