Waste Not, Want Not
What I’ve learnt from my new cook book and what we can all learn from Octopus Energy.
Globally, 25–30% of total food produced is lost or wasted.
If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter after China and the USA.
According to the most recent report by the charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the UK produced around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in 2018– 70% of which came from households!
WRAP estimated that this waste had a value of over £19 billion a year and would be associated with more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
25 million tonnes!
For reference, this is what just one tonne of carbon dioxide gas would look like.
It would fill a cube 8.13 metres high.
This volume is illustrated in comparison with semi-detatched houses on a typical English suburban street.
I was reading through this cook book by Anna Jones — a great cook book for all — Anna provides wonderful recipes as well as covering a host of information about how cooking and food, is intrinsically linked to our planet.
What jumped out to me most was how much food waste we produce.
The above figures are shocking.
There is a rising demand for food banks (Between April and August 2022, nearly 90% of IFAN food banks saw a rise in demand) and it is really worrying to think that so much food is going to waste when there are so many people across the UK who are struggling and going without.
The environmental impacts of this huge amount of food waste is as alarming as the societal aspect.
We have a very strange relationship with waste in this country.
In 2013, the Guardian published this article;
Britain’s damp, leaky homes among Europe’s most costly to heat.
And yet here we are, nearly a decade on and nothing has changed…
UK homes losing heat up to three times faster than European neighbours.
Our homes are the biggest energy-wasters in Europe.
A 2020 study by intelligent home climate management company tado° has found that UK homes lose heat significantly faster than European neighbours, even when factoring in outside temperature.
The Future Homes Standards for new build homes (2025) will drastically improve the performance of homes, fabric improvements as well as fuel switching (banning gas) will help save homeowners money on thier bills, reduce energy usage as well as carbon emissions.
But that doesn’t cover our existing homes.
We have approximately 28 million homes in the UK.
28 million homes which are wasting huge amounts of energy, costing homeowners/ occupiers a fortune on bills — and emitting an obscene amount of carbon.
Housing is responsible for 14% of the UK greenhouse gas emissions.
The ONS estimates that the UK produces 505 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).
Housing is therefore responsible for ~ 75 million tonnes of CO2e.
That’s 100 million tonnes of CO2e that housing contributes from waste food and heat, and energy.
80% of the buildings we will use in 2050 have already been built, so we must also urgently address the state of the existing housing stock in the UK.
Improving the fabric of a building; be it insulating the walls and roof, windows of floors — helps reduce energy demand.
In improving fabric, we keep the heat in.
Irrespective of if you have a boiler or a heat pump (or any other form of heating system) — if your property isn’t very well insulated, then the heat you are paying for is just leaking out of your home.
You are throwing money out the window.
Fabric First doesn’t actually mean before doing anything else, we should always upgrade the fabric of our buildings.
Fabric First involves maximising the performance of the components and materials that make up the building fabric itself, before considering the use of mechanical or electrical building services systems.
Whether new build or retrofit, we should do what we can to minimise the energy usage of our buildings as much as possible.
Improving the thermal performance of a building (fabric first), reduces heat loss, reduces heat demand, reduces running costs.
What improving the fabric of your building won’t do however, is improve the efficiency of your heating system.
The heat will stay in your home for longer, and so your heating system won’t need to work as hard.
The output of your heating system will be lower (as your demand for it will be lower) — and so your energy bills will be lower.
The efficiency — how much (heat)kW can we produce per (energy)kW we put in — will remain unchanged.
If you improve the thermal performance of your building AND you fuel switch — i.e. change from a (gas) boiler to an (electric) heat pump- then you have the potential to save even more money based on the efficiency improvements of these competing technologies
-Average boiler efficiency 90%
-Average air-source heat pump efficiency 300%
Why Fabric shouldn’t be first
There are plenty of market mechanisms at play (changing regulations and policies, new schemes available releasing grants and funding, private sector innovations) that will help market adoption of these technologies and materials — but something we can all do now, without spending any money — is change our behaviour.
In February 2021, WRAP published the results of a series of surveys into UK adults’ attitudes to and behaviours around food waste during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Four surveys were undertaken in total (in April, May, September, and November 2020) and each had over 4,000 respondents.
Overall results from the surveys showed a decrease in reported levels of food waste.
On the 15th November, Octopus Energy encouraged their members to take part in the first test session of the energy firm’s new energy reduction scheme.
The Saving Session scheme pays households for reducing their energy usage at peak times of the day.
Over 200,000 households took part in the scheme —and the group managed to reduce the country’s demand for energy by 108MW.
The results show that customers with smart meters installed who opted to take part in the trial on 15 November last week were on average able to reduce their energy usage by well over half — 59 per cent — compared to their regular usage, according to the energy giant.
Typical billpayers received over £1 for the hour’s test, which ran from 5–6pm, on top of the savings to their bills from cutting down on energy, with the top five per cent of participants earning £4.27 on average, Octopus Energy said.
The company has said customers could save up to £100 over the course of the winter by participating in the trial.
See here for the Octopus Energy community interaction!
Behaviour Change. Fabric Improvements. Ditch Gas. Use Data*
*More on the importance of data later…
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you’ve found it informative and potentially interesting.
Across the UK we are seeing huge rises in the need for food banks as thousands across the country struggle with the cost of living crisis, unfortunately this has also meant that food banks and charitable organisations have recently struggled with donations and supplies.
If you are able to help, by donating money or food to charities such as the Trussell Trust (or any local food banks in your area) please do; it all adds up and makes such a difference.