Think about the last time you stayed at a hotel.
What’s the first thing you ask the receptionist when you arrive? Quite possibly, it’s “Do you provide breakfast?”. They respond with a quick “Yes, we do sir. We serve a complimentary continental breakfast from 6-10:00 am. The food is great!”. Awesome, you think to yourself, while yours kids eyes light up like it’s the Fourth of July.
After a full day with the family, you get a good night’s rest. Just as you enter a peaceful forest where birds are chirping, Brandon—you’re seven-year-old, begins tugging on your ear. He screams “Wake up daddy, wake up!”. Brandon remembered the breakfast comment from yesterday, a close second to the community pool. You, your wife and son walk down to the lobby where a few have already started to congregate and eat. It’s the usual. Three cereal brands, milk, apple juice, coffee, fruit, muffins and the ominous waffle maker. While cranking the handle for your combo cereal (hello there, second grade!), someone burns a waffle, rotating the skillet upside down in a frenzy. Meanwhile, Brandon devours pastries and milk at your small table. You notice many of the people leave, but NOT empty handed. Nope, not here. Instead, they grab a banana and an orange on the way out. Do they eat it, or does it spoil? This is just one small example of how our actions can contribute to a major global issue our civilization is facing.
Approximately a third of the world’s food is lost or thrown away each year, and the broader tourism industry in particular, is no different. When you take into consideration how large the tourism sector is, the food waste generated by travelers is a significant source of methane. Methane is created when food breaks down in landfills and has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
In addition to the tremendous environmental impact of wasting 1.6 billion tons of food annually, the loss represents a large financial cost worth about $1.2 trillion dollars.
In order of hierarchy, food waste prevention is number one, followed by food recovery. Food recovery, the process of donating food to those in need, can provide a tax incentive depending on the country you live it. This is especially important to note for restaurants and hotels.
To make matters worse, many of the world’s population struggles with hunger. According to the United Nations report on world food security and nutrition, hunger affected 815 million people in 2016, or 11 percent of the global population. The issue is not limited to developing countries either. Per the USDA, 11.8 percent of households in the United States were food insecure in 2017.
What Can You Do About Food Waste
As you can see, global food waste is an important issue, but also a solvable one. A few things you can do is only buy or take what you can consume. Second, select hotels or eco-resorts that are environmentally friendly when traveling. Look for places that go above and beyond the simple bathroom sign asking you to reuse your towel. Use this mindset in your daily life too. As organizations and associations begin to take a holistic approach to food recovery and waste reduction, know that your small actions add up over time. Together, with governments, nonprofits and the private sector, we can achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of reducing global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.