3 August 2021

Sourdough and List Making – Shifting to a Zero-Waste Kitchen

By Jenn Wint

“My food waste eureka moment came when I was at a talk by Massimo Bottura. People in the audience kept asking him, ‘what can I do?,” shares Chef Christine Tizzard, cookbook author and zero-waste advocate. “The event was at George Brown Culinary School where I graduated from. Battura was there speaking about the work he’s doing with food insecurity and sharing stories from his book, ‘Bread is Gold.’ I realized then, the only thing I know how to do is start on a personal level. I eased my mind and frustrations by making changes myself and educating others about what I was learning.” 

Food waste depletes resources, time and money. Producing food only to waste it requires all the environmental impact of food production without any of the benefits of nourishing bodies. The United Nations Environment Programme Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimates that around 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019. This indicates 17% of total global food production was wasted, 11% of that waste in households. The report also suggests household food waste is comparable across income groups and similar across high, upper‑middle and lower‑middle income countries signaling food waste is truly a global issue.

Stuffed mini squash. Photo: Christine Tizzard
Stuffed mini squash. Photo: Christine Tizzard

“Bottura’s talk really inspired me but no individual can solve climate change,” says Tizzard who has worked in the food industry for many years as a food stylist, recipe developer and culinary expert in production for TV and film. Her experiences continually left her frustrated as she frequented food supply stores, large grocery chains and independent grocers observing the amount of packaging used and then the food inside that was wasted, literally left on the table. Tizzard felt helpless leaving production sets or trade show stages with overflowing garbage bins and no waste management plan. 

“Food waste, food insecurity and climate change are huge issues and I’m relieved to see they’re now becoming part of a global conversation. We’ve begun talking about these issues which is great but we need to find solutions on all levels. Awareness and education are key to making lasting change.”

One way Tizzard is sharing her message and expertise in zero waste cooking is through her role as an ambassador for Love Food Hate Waste Canada. Launched in 2018, Love Food Hate Waste Canada is an initiative by the National Zero Waste Council, modelled on a similar campaign in the UK which, in its first five years, helped cut avoidable food waste by 21%. “Love Food Hate Waste’s primary directive is to educate households across Canada about food waste,” she explains. “They work with businesses, governments, and community groups to share resources and create awareness; it’s amazing. Their website has incredible recipes and users can search by specific fruit or vegetable and they’ll tell you how long it will last, the best way to store it and what to do if it’s going to wilt or get rubbery.”

Food insecurity remains a certainty for millions of people around the world and climate change is a reality. So addressing and understanding food waste is crucial. In addition to cost and community impact, wasted food carries a considerable carbon footprint.

In 2017, the National Zero Waste Council found that the average Canadian household wastes 140 kilograms of food per year, equal to $1,100 per household. That’s 2.2 million tonnes of edible food and $17 billion dollars Canadians wasted every year. The good news is that behaviour is changing. In 2020, the National Zero Waste Council found that 94% of Canadians are more motivated to reduce their household waste while 84% are in agreement that food waste is an important issue. 

Where you store food in your fridge matters.
Credit: Love Food Hate Waste Canada - National Zero Waste Council

“COVID-19 has been a horrible, horrible global situation but something we’ve been forced to do is think twice about why we’re leaving the house. We’ve had to prioritize what we need, plan how we’re going to get it and how long it will last in our fridge. Right there, people are taking the first step to reducing their waste,” explains Tizzard. “The pandemic has forced people to make a list of what they need that week and plan ahead. It’s made people buy food for their neighbour, batch cook for a family member and be mindful of their budget.”

In early 2020 when grocery store shelves were empty, Tizzard saw people across social media getting creative. Around the world, people were sharing alternative foods when they could not access an ingredient, and googling recipes to use up what they already had in the cupboard. She saw the pandemic’s impact on consumption and has been pleased to see families being more conscious of their food waste at home, cooking more and opening the fridge on a daily basis to use everything up inside before restocking.

“Going back to doing things those old school ways gives me a sense of calm,” says Tizzard and the sourdough craze of 2020 proves she’s not alone. “My grandparents tried to do everything themselves from scratch, then the next generation discovered the microwave and instant foods. They outsourced and many stopped creating from scratch. But we’re back, we want to learn how to do things for ourselves. It has become popular to do canning and preserving, make bread and swap sourdough starters. Thankfully, restricting food waste is also becoming trendy. It’s now fashionable to be zero waste.”

Chef Christine Tizzard
Chef Christine Tizzard

Tizzard’s latest cookbook ‘Cook More, Waste Less’ offers basic strategies, over 100 recipes, and tools to work towards zero-waste through planning meals, buying and preparing food. The book demonstrates how simple shifts when buying, cooking and eating food make a significant difference to the amount of food wasted.

In addition to tips, Tizzard offers cautionary tales. “Don’t do what I did by becoming obsessive and letting it keep you up at night,” she warns. “Awareness is key. Before you leave your house make a list. Look in your fridge, look in your freezer, look in your cupboards, see what’s already there and plan accordingly. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry. It’s small things like re-inventing leftovers that add up to big change. Educate yourself; we’ve been over-consuming, overbuying and wasting money for so long. When it comes to reducing our food packaging and waste at home we have to change our habits, which happens slowly but truly does make a difference.”

Learn more from Christine Tizzard at The Zero Waste Kitchen website. For tips like how to puree overcooked vegetables into soup or sauce, or five ways to use broccoli stalks, visit Love Food Hate Waste Canada.

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