The Zero-Waste Tip Nobody Talks About: Buying Single Bananas

The zero-waste movement can be intimidating.

If you’re anything like me, hearing others preach about how they fit all of their trash into a small mason jar can be a rather shameful experience. But zero-waste doesn’t have to be an ambition reserved for affluent eco-influencers. It’s not all or nothing.

Reducing your food waste is a fantastic first step that can have a major impact on the environment. Each year, one-third of the total food produced for human consumption is wasted (1). That’s 1.3 billion tonnes!

This unconventional zero-waste tip is an easy way everyone can contribute to reducing food waste.

Buying Single Bananas and Food Waste

Technically a berry, bananas are undoubtedly among the world’s most popular plant foods. They’re also the number one culprit of supermarket food waste.

In the U.S. alone, 5 billion bananas are thrown way every year (2).

In fact, a study from Karlstad University in Sweden found that bananas are the items that are thrown away the most by supermarkets (3).

Danish supermarkets came up with a creative solution to the banana problem. One large national supermarket chain offers discounts for single items, including bananas, instead of multi-buy offers (4). Raising customer awareness for food waste via financial incentives can substantially contribute to reducing the overall amount of tossed fruits and veggies (especially in times when grocery prices are rising and most of us pay special attention to expenses).

Undoubtedly, supermarkets must find solutions to disposing of produce in a less wasteful, more sustainable fashion.

But in many countries, legal regulations make it difficult for willing grocery vendors to simply give away or donate unwanted produce. In the short-term, the responsibility to reduce food waste lies with us, the consumers.

How to Reduce Your Food Waste: Buying Single Bananas

Do you always buy your bananas in a bunch? On your next grocery haul, skip the cluster and go for the singles.

Why, you ask?

Single bananas are 60% more likely to be thrown out than bananas in bunches.

In fact, consumer habits are the culprit of why so many bananas are tossed. Most people are extremely picky about choosing their bananas. Everyone wants the impeccable, bright yellow banana that’s not too small and not too long. They shouldn’t be too green, but no one wants bruised or spotty black bananas either.

The bananas that aren’t “perfect” are torn off of the bunch and tossed aside. These are the ones that end up in the trash.

For the musically inclined, Going Zero-Waste dedicated a song to single bananas:

What’s the Perfect Banana?

What we perceive as the perfect “window of ripeness” needs to change.

Dark, spotty bananas are by no means bad. Actually, they’re quite the opposite:

“As the fruit ages, bacteria turn starch into sugars – and the peel turns from green, to yellow, to black. So, the older – and darker – the banana, the sweeter the taste. A green banana will be starchy; a yellow banana a tad sweeter; yellow with black spots a bit more sweet; and a fully black banana, though mushy, has the highest sugar content of all” (5).

Related: Why Ultra-Processed Foods are Terrible for the Environment

How to Use Spotty Bananas

Unsure what to do with your rescued spotty bananas?

Even if you don’t like them overly ripe, darker bananas are fantastic for baking and desserts.

Not convinced? Try it for yourself!

Conclusion

Individual consumer choices matter. Rescuing single bananas destined for the bin is an easy first step to reducing food waste produced by retailers. 

Nevertheless, the global fight against food waste requires the combined efforts of both consumers and corporate players to be effective.

Still, changing consumption habits, even seemingly trivial ones, is one step in the right direction.

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References

(1) https://www.unep.org/thinkeatsave/get-informed/worldwide-food-waste

(2) https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-food-waste-20210409-3k3llled4fbmlp3nwhiej3o354-story.html

(3) https://sciencenordic.com/food-handling-forskningno-society–culture/these-are-the-fruits-and-vegetables-we-waste-the-most/1452912

(4) https://www.be-the-story.com/en/food-waste/the-claim-of-a-banana-to-reduce-waste/#

(5) https://modernfarmer.com/2018/02/supermarket-food-waste-most-wasted-banana/

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