How Grocery “Happy Hour” is combatting food waste
HELSINKI, Finland — “Happy hour” at the S-market store in the working-class neighborhood of Vallila happens far from the liquor aisles and isn’t exactly convivial. Nobody is here for drinks or a good time. They’re looking for a steep discount on a slab of pork.
Or a chicken, or a salmon fillet, or any of a few hundred items that are hours from their midnight expiration date. Food that is nearly unsellable goes on sale at every one of S-market’s 900 stores in Finland, with prices that are already reduced by 30 percent slashed to 60 percent off at exactly 9 p.m. It’s part of a two-year campaign to reduce food waste that company executives in this famously bibulous country decided to call “happy hour” in the hopes of drawing in regulars, like any decent bar.
“I’ve gotten quite hooked on this,” said Kasimir Karkkainen, 27, who works in a hardware store, as he browsed the meat section in the Vallila S-market. It was 9:15 and he had grabbed a container of pork mini-ribs and two pounds of shrink-wrapped pork tenderloin.
About one-third of the food produced and packaged for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. That equals 1.3 billion tons a year, worth nearly $680 billion. The figures represent more than just a disastrous misallocation of need and want, given that 10 percent of people in the world are chronically undernourished. All that excess food, scientists say, contributes to climate change.
From 8 to 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are related to food lost during harvest and production or wasted by consumers, a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changefound. Landfills of rotting food emit methane, a gas that is roughly 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. And to harvest and transport all that wasted food requires billions of acres of arable land, trillions of gallons of water and vast amounts of fossil fuels.
For consumers, cutting back on food waste is one of the few personal habits that can help the planet. But for some reason, a lot of people who fret about their carbon footprint aren’t sweating the vegetables and rump steak they toss into the garbage.
“There’s been a lot of focus on energy,” said Paul Behrens, a professor in energy and environmental change at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. “But climate change is as much a land issue and a food issue as anything else.”
Reducing waste is a challenge because selling as much food as possible is a tried, tested and ingrained part of all-you-can-eat cultures. Persuading merchants to promote and profit from “food rescue,” as it is known, is not so obvious.…Read more…