Did you finish your food?

Using a social media campaign to reduce food waste and change consumer behaviours.  

“Honey, finish your food.”

When I was young, my mom was always telling me to finish my food. She always said “think about the farmers who worked so hard to produce all this food” and emphasised the hardships of farming and the tremendous effort it takes to prepare just one meal. Indeed finishing your food is a way of showing respect to farmers and to your mother, but it is also respecting our environment. My mom’s words of wisdom became my inspiration to start a social media campaign #LickItClean. You just have to post pictures on social media of your food, along with the empty plates when you are finished - it is easy and anyone can get involved.   

How #LickitClean started

I started my environmental career working as the President of the Asia Pacific Youth Parliament for Water, followed by an internship at UNESCAP in Bangkok working on water resource management and green growth. From these experiences, the most interesting thing I learnt was the Water-Food-Energy Nexus, which means water, food and energy are interlinked, affecting each other in numerous ways. This concept triggered me to expand my interest beyond just water.

I wanted to meet people from different sectors, so I participated in YouthAgSummit, a forum on food security. At the conference, I met people working on farms and helping malnourished children in developing countries. Their personal stories inspired me to take real action. I noticed a trend of people posting delicious food photos on Instagram. However, I always wondered if they actually finish all that food. This is where the idea for the campaign #LickItClean was born. I wanted people to know you do not have to go somewhere to make a change, but that you can make small changes in your daily life.

Wasting Food = Wasting Water and Energy

Food waste is equivalent to water and energy waste. According to FAO, the total volume of water used each year to produce wasted food is 250 km3, which is equivalent to 100 million Olympic size swimming pools. According to Michael E. Webber, 2000 trillion BTU (British thermal unit) are wasted in the United States alone, which is 3% of global electrical energy consumption. Valuable water and energy resources are being wasted as we dump our food into the trash can.  

After the food is disposed, much of it ends up in landfills and emits methane gas. According to the FAO, if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor to CO2 emissions, behind China and the US. Another shocking fact from the FAO is that consumer food waste consumer in industrialised countries is 222 million tons per year, which is as high as the total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa. This means we could feed everyone in the sub-Saharan region from the food waste that industrialised nations create.

Simple, Fun and Easy.

Most people are not sure how to save the environment. It seems too vague and difficult to make a change as an individual. However, I wanted to find a method which was simple, fun and easy for everyone to follow. You do not have to do something great to make a change. Simply take a picture of your meal, enjoy eating that food and post a picture after you finish. To make it more interesting, tag your friend and encourage them to follow the campaign. Share the delicious food you eat and also show that you are a responsible consumer who leaves no food behind.

Impacts of #LickItClean

Currently, delegates from YouthAgSummit are participating in this campaign along with support from Bayer Crop Science. A famous Korean TV show has also become involved with the campaign as well. I hope more delegates from One Young World can participate in this campaign and when you go back to your countries, tell your friends! I believe #LickItClean can make a big impact and change personal consumption habits around the world. Next time you eat, don’t forget to #LickItClean.