Finnish Supermarkets Use 'Happy Hour' to Fight Food Waste

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CC BY-SA 4.0. The Photographer

After 9 p.m., shoppers snatch up heavily discounted foods that are close to expiry.

One supermarket chain in Finland has come up with an ingenious way to reduce food waste. All 900 S-Market stores throughout the country knock 60 percent off already-reduced meat and fish at 9 o'clock each evening in an effort to move it off shelves before expiring at midnight. The name of this last-minute liquidation? Happy hour. The New York Times reports,

"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."

As the NYT article points out, food waste is not often enough seen as an effective solution to the climate crisis. Energy, for example, receives more focus than food, and yet food is something that individuals can – and should – tackle on a personal level. A recent UN report stated that a shocking one-third of food produced for human consumption never gets eaten. This, the New York Times writes, equals 1.3 billion tons of food worth $680 billion. From the report:

"Causes of food loss and waste differ substantially between developed and developing countries, as well as between regions. Reducing this loss and waste would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve food security."

Supermarkets are well positioned to make a difference when it comes to food waste, but they have to be willing to accept some financial losses. Slashing prices on nearly-expired food is an excellent place to start, as is doing away with bulk discounts, e.g. two for the price of one, which encourages over-buying.

Individuals have a responsibility, too, to eat more of what they buy. Take a moment to assess the contents of your refrigerator and pantry before shopping and work with what you have, in order of how soon items will expire. Buy with care, and don't be swayed by in-the-moment cravings that are unlikely to get used in their entirety. Consider mentioning the S-Market initiative to your local grocery store, in hopes that it, too, will consider implementing a happy hour of sorts.