Have you ever thought about how much food people waste every year? Not just the scraps you may leave on your plate, but perfectly good food that restaurants, retail stores and bakeries throw out that otherwise could have been eaten.
Each year, around the world, 3.5 trillion pounds of food get wasted. That’s equal to 7.2 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere annually. And we wonder why hurricanes, drought and wildfires have gotten worse?
Now, imagine being able to do your part to help the climate by simply ordering dinner or a snack through an app. Sounds pretty easy, right? That’s the idea behind the global food-waste innovator Too Good To Go (TGTG), an app that connects users with businesses that have surplus food.
‘Thinking we throw away close to 40 percent of food is disgusting,’ says TGTG co-founder Lucie Basch. ‘I was shocked by that, but more shocked people aren’t talking about it. I wanted to create a solution anybody could use every day. It’s simple.’
The app launched in Denmark in 2016 and today has 44 million users across nearly 20 countries in Europe and North America. It has saved more than 91 million meals, which is equal to about 364 million pounds of food saved since TGTG launched.
So, how does it work? Most restaurants and shops that sell food have unsold perishable goods at the end of each day and likely have three options to deal with its disposal: compost it, which can be expensive; donate it, but getting an able charity partner to collect food daily isn’t always feasible; or toss it in the garbage, which is wasteful yet all too easy.
Restaurants need to focus on a pathway to zero food waste.
With TGTG – which works with more than 110,000 global partners from giants like Pret in the UK and SPAR convenience stores and markets across Europe to smaller players like Maison Parisienne in Chicago and Brooklyn Fare in New York – food service companies can post an offer on TGTG, usually for under $5 and at a third of the original cost. Customers can then snag an offer and pick up their surprise bag. And just like that, you can help reduce carbon emissions.
‘I really enjoy it’s food that would be going to waste and that I can alleviate some of that,’ says Chicagoan Paul Ramsay who works as an in-store instructor at REI. ‘And I really enjoy walking home and not knowing what’s in the bag and it’s a surprise.’
People get to enjoy a meal or a snack, and whether they use TGTG to be altruistic or just get a deal, at the end of the day, they’re helping reduce carbon emissions while also supporting restaurants in being more mindful of how they dispose of their extra food.
‘Restaurants need to focus on a pathway to zero food waste,’ says Sandra Noonan, chief sustainability officer for Just Salad, which uses TGTG at their 30-plus locations in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. ‘It’s fascinating to see in the Too Good To Go dashboard how we avert carbon emissions to sell surplus food rather than disposing it and how many meals we’re saving.’
SPAR, which currently partners with TGTG in 2,000 stores in cities like Amsterdam and Vienna, puts fresh produce, baked goods, dairy products or a ready-to-heat meal in its surprise bags. Since starting to work with TGTG in December of 2020, it has helped save nearly 1 million meals.
All that saving adds up. TGTG keeps about 200,000 meals worldwide from being thrown out each day. Each meal saved, Basch says, is equal to the CO2 emissions of charging one smartphone fully 422 times.
‘We dream of a planet with no food waste, where all food produced is consumed,’ Basch explains. ‘We want to help people make a difference.’
Want to connect with even more sustainable eats? Read up on Michelin's new Green Star – and find a restaurant near you.