How the humble shopping list can help to reduce a major environmental challenge

13 Aug 2019

Food waste affects more than just your hip pocket. We’re not only throwing away the money that it costs us, Flower made from carrotswe’re throwing away fuel, water, energy,
and embedded labour. Environmentally, the United Nations estimates that food waste accounts for about 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, 24% of the freshwater pollution, and 28 million tonnes of the fertilisers and pesticides used in agriculture. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates the full cost of global food waste, including environmental, economic and social impacts, at US$2.6 trillion dollars annually.

National Food Waste Strategy

The Australian Government has developed a National Food Waste Strategy. In 2019, an implementation plan was released that sets out the short, medium and long-term actions that will be undertaken to support reductions in food waste, and a monitoring and evaluation framework to measure our progress towards achieving the 50 per cent reduction target.

Implementation of the strategy will help fulfil Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12—­ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

In March 2019, the Minister for the Environment announced the key findings of Australia’s National Food Waste Baseline. In 2016–17 (the base year), Australia produced 7.3 million tonnes of food waste across the supply and consumption chain. Of this, 2.5 million (34%) was created in our homes, 2.3 million tonnes (31%) in primary production and 1.8 million tonnes (25%) in the manufacturing sector.

However, on the up side, Australians recycled 1.2 million of food waste, recovered 2.9 million tonnes through alternative uses for the food waste and disposed of 3.2 million tonnes.

Ronni Kahn and OzHarvest

One of those who have lead the charge in Australia for recycling food waste is Ronni Kahn, founder of OzHarvest.

OzHarvest is Australia’s leading food rescue organisation, collecting quality excess food from commercial outlets and delivering it directly to more than 1300 charities supporting people in need across the country.

Founded in 2004 after Ronni became aware of the huge volume of good food going to waste from the hospitality industry, OzHarvest now operates nationally, rescuing over 180 tonnes of food each week from over 3,500 food donors including supermarkets, hotels, airports, wholesalers, farmers, corporate events, catering companies, shopping centres, delis, cafes, restaurants, film and TV shoots and boardrooms.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, OzHarvest’s Sustainability Strategist, Annika Stott, said that Australians no longer understand the process of where their food comes from, that we have lost our connection to food and where food comes from. Also, the supermarket culture of fruit and vegetables having to look perfect, with everything being available year-round and being relatively cheap has created an illusion that food is disposable.


Ronni Kahn has started her own four-word campaign for us all to take every day actions to help reduce food waste. Roni is imploring all Australians to LOOK, BUY, STORE, COOK:

  • LOOK at what’s in your fridge and pantry before going shopping for more
  • BUY only what you need — make a shopping list and stick to it
  • STORE that food properly, so it doesn’t go off too soon
  • COOK it and also the leftovers.

Fresh Food Friday at UQ Sustainability Week

Inspired by this sentiment, as part of UQ Sustainability Week we are hosting Fresh Food Friday on 23 August, with a number of events. For example, our Fresh Food Market (10am–2pm, Campbell Place), which will include a stall from Brisbane City Council’s Love Hate Food Waste. Brisbane City Council’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign aims to raise awareness about reducing the volume of food waste going to Brisbane landfill each year. Learn about food waste in Brisbane and simple changes to make Brisbane a cleaner, greener city with less landfill. If you can’t wait until next Friday, you can get some great recipes for leftovers from Love Hate Food Waste to get you started.

We will also be hosting a screening of Food Fighter (12–1pm, Global Change Institute). Food Fighter is the inspirational story of Ronni’s crusade to save perfectly edible food and create global change. This event is free, but we will be collecting gold coin donations for Oz Harvest to help support them to deliver nourishing meals to those in need.

Feature event: Fresh Food Markets, featuring the Brisbane City Council’s Love Hate Food Waste stall where you can learn some simple changes to Learn some simple changes you can make in the kitchen to create delicious meals, reduce waste and save $$$!

Campus life: Gatton Solar Farm tour and St Lucia Community Garden workshop

DIY: $2 Dine below the line

Film screeningFood Fighter 

Health & Wellbeing:  Gentle yoga

Workshop: Terrarium making

DIY Challenge

Throughout UQ Sustainability week, we are issuing some DIY Challenges. On Frisday 23 August, we are challenging you to $2 Dine Below the Line.

Raise awareness of extreme poverty by feeding yourself on $2 today. Get some friends on board to pool resources for better variety and nutrition!

How does it work? It's simple.

Create your event. Invite your friends to attend and donate. Serve your budget feast on just $2 a head.

Gain a small glimpse into a world with limited choices.

And raise funds that help fight poverty.

Dine Below the Line is a Oaktree initiative as part of the Live Below the Line campaign.



ABC Breakfast News (2018) ‘Ronni Kahn's four-point plan to halve our annual $20 billion food waste bill’, ABC News, 6 June,

Brisbane City Council, ‘Love Hate Food Waste’ campaign,

Cooper, L. (2017) ‘Australians Throw Away Nearly $10 Billion In Food Waste Each Year’, Huff Post AU, 25 October.

Department of Environment and Energy (2017), National Food Waste Strategy — Halving Australia’s Food Waste by 2030, Australian Government, Canberra.

Department of Environment and Energy (2019), ‘Implementing the National Food Waste Strategy’, March,

Food and Agriculture Organization (2014) ‘Food Wastage Footprint’, FAO,

Milsome, J. (n.d.) ‘Ronni Kahn: “Be brave and courageous, because all you have is NOW”’ Business Chicks,

OzHarvest (2019) ‘What we do’ OzHarvest,

World Wildlife Fund (n.d.) ‘Reducing Food Waste’, World Wildlife Fund - gs.vlx7sn