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Leon Kaye headshot

The Holidays Offer Yet Another Reminder About Food Waste, and Companies Are Responding in Kind

By Leon Kaye
food waste

Whether you braved the holiday weekend passing through airports, or took local guidelines or the CDC’s advice about Thanksgiving gatherings seriously, it’s clear that this is a holiday season like no other. Yet as always, food waste is still top of mind for many organizations, and increasingly more consumers, during this time of year.

Some of the recent news around food waste this fall has been on the grisly side: With more Americans staying home to cook, turkey fails appear to have surged this year. Just about every family with means who are staying home for the holidays will struggle with food waste, and much of that is tied to that favorite holiday icon, the turkey.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one environmental organization that, year after year, points out the waste linked to the copious amount of food cooked for the Thanksgiving holiday. The group’s researchers have estimated that families toss out 200 million pounds of turkey during this time of year. To put that into perspective, the NRDC says that food waste is equivalent to letting the faucet run for six hours; and in addition to that water waste, the amount of energy consumed by all that wasted food is equivalent to the population of Jacksonville, Florida, getting into their cars and going on a road trip to San Francisco.

One way to tackle the food waste problem is to decide on vegetarian options. With more animal protein wasted comes more carbon emissions and water consumption — hence in general, the science agrees that a plant-based diet can help curb the effects the global food and agriculture sector has on the planet.

With anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of all food wasted, more food companies are realizing that a more responsible supply chain, along with cajoling its consumers to change their habits, can help boost their sustainability credentials.

Earlier this month, for example, Unilever announced it would become more aggressive in tackling food waste across its operations. The company said it would strive to halve the food waste generated from factory to shelves by 2025, five years earlier than the fast-moving consumer goods giant originally planned.

And while not entirely a food company, Ikea said it would also work on taking on food waste across the 420 restaurants it operates worldwide.

While they do not link food waste to the providing of more vegan and vegetarian options explicitly, both companies have made it clear that one goal cannot be tackled without the other. Unilever has announced its food waste goal aligns with its objective to generate more than $1 billion in revenues from plant-based foods in five to seven years. And Ikea, home to the famous Swedish meatballs, said half of the meals offered in its cafes will be plant-based by 2025. Both companies have reiterated their pledges to reduce food waste at the same time they announced these objectives. Now comes the hard part: convincing consumers to buy those plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.

Image credit: Mike Von/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye