Waste Not, Want Not

Food waste.  This topic deserves attention, everyone’s attention.  I actually wrote the following at the beginning of the year.  The content however doesn’t need to be changed as it has only increased in relevance and importance.

We live in a throwaway society.  The older I get, the more I can conceptualise how the lifestyle of each individual fits in the bigger picture.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of things wrong with the bigger picture.  It is easy to think that what we each do doesn’t make that much of a dent but putting all those dents together accumulates into a lot of damage.  Think outside the square that is your home, your life and consider how everything comes to be in those environments.  For example, take food.  It does not simply just come from the supermarket.  It is planted, fed, watered, grown, harvested, produced, packaged for the consumer, packaged for transport, stored, refrigerated and transported more times than we realise in the process. We then purchase our food, transport it (once again) and store it in our cupboard or fridge.  Only we forget about the broccoli in the bottom of the fridge, find it 2 weeks later discoloured and soft, so in the bin it goes alongside the mouldy bread, leftover dinner and remains of that can of baked beans.  You could say that the entire process of getting that food to you was a waste of resources and to add fuel to the fire, the food and packaging itself is now waste.  Harsh points but with that said, it is easier to change something when you understand it.

Earlier this year, I attended ‘Waste Not, Want Not?’ a Sydney Festival free talk.  The subheading of the talk was ‘A sustainable future through eating well, reducing food waste and maximising resources’.  With an obvious passion for nutrition and a growing interest in sustainability, off I went.  The discussion was hosted by Sarah Wilson and the panellists included:

  • Georgie Somerset, an Australian beef producer
  • Natalie Isaacs, the Founder and CEO of 1 Million Women
  • Jane Fullerton Smith, Managing Director of Greenshoot Pacific
  • Professor John Crawford, Chair of Sustainability and Complex Systems in Agriculture at the University of Sydney

The discussion highlighted how much food we waste, both prior to even reaching the supermarket and also at a household level.  The panellists also provided the audience with an abundance of tips on how to reduce food waste on an individual level including (but definitely not limited to):

  • Plan, plan, plan your meals
  • Freeze leftover meals, meats that you not going to use before the expiry
  • Make meals from you have in your fridge opposed to buying something new
  • When out, don’t order more food than you can eat, simply because you perceive it to be better value for money
  • Compost your food waste, as the less in land fill, the better

Portrait

All useful tips for reducing waste at a personal level.  I was hoping that the talk would delve more into what needs to be done at a larger scale but I valued the information that was discussed nevertheless.   There were particular topics and comments that I particularly valued and I’d like to share those with you:

  • The talk reinforced the importance of teaching children.  Teaching children where food comes from and that it simply does not come from the supermarket. This can be achieved by growing your own vegetables/herbs or taking them to community gardens.  To also teach children that they should eat for a reason, being good health, rather than simply eating because it tastes yummy.  Someone needs to work out a way to make vegetables trendy for children (hint hint).  Similarly, we as adults also need to remember to eat foremost for health.  We should buy what we need, not buying excess simply because we are in a position to do so.  Also on the whole, fresh food tends to have less packaging, so it is a win: win situation from both a food waste and general rubbish perspective.
  • To elaborate on the point of food waste before it has even reached the supermarket; a lot of fresh produce is thrown out, as aesthetically it is not good enough.  We stand over the apples in the supermarket, judging each one and only picking the ones that we perceive to be good enough for us. We drive this need for perfect, uniform produce.  I understand that it is our money and we can choose to spend it on what we want but really, does it matter if an apple has a tiny mark?  We are spoilt for choice and every time someone doesn’t buy that apple, it’s closer to being thrown out.  Maybe we should all personalise the fresh produce and buy the ones we feel sorry for, the bruised and unusually shaped ones that no one else wants 😉

Be aware of how much food waste and general rubbish you produce AND think about how you can reduce your waste (you may just save some money too).  Break the habit of being compelled to buy aesthetically perfect produce.  If you’re lucky, you may just find one of these (that is brilliant in its own way)…yes, that’s a sweet looking sweet potato!

Sweet potato_wtr

For more information, the following sites may be of interest to you:

www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/community/participation/community-gardens

www.communitygarden.org.au/

www.foodwise.com.au/

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5 responses to “Waste Not, Want Not

  1. This is definitely a serious issue! I don’t do much to bring awareness to it, but I always try to not waste food. It bothers me when I go out with people to eat, and they only eat 1/3 of their food and let the waiters take away the rest to throw away. Even if I only have less than 1/4 of my food left, I still save it for later.
    Great post on a serious issue. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think it is a serious issue too. Things need to be done on a larger scale but I’m not quite sure what the best solutions are. On a smaller scale though, we can each do something (such as minimising our own food waste) and combined our efforts are multiplied. There are some fab organisations out there too, such as Love Food, Hate Waste and Foodwise, which are helping to spread the word. Thanks for your comments too 🙂

  3. This is a good topic. I think the hard part is that we live such busy lifestyles so planning and reducing waste of our food in this sense is just hard when we are working so many hours, then rushing home to get chores done or take care of our personal matters. So sometimes it’s a matter of time that we care more about the convenience of food rather than the waste it produces. It is sad. I think it would be great if someone made a product that would would promote less waste yet still offered the convenience of quick food. There are some biodegradable food wrappings nowadays, such as for chips in vending machines. Even shampoo bottles can be biodegradable and also bags from grocery stores. So things like that can really help in this regard, since the masses need to take on the challenge, and we need to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Necessity breeds invention!

  4. You’ve worded that so well David. It is true that people are time poor and changes need to be implemented on a higher level such as making packaging materials biodegradable. The amount of energy and packaging that goes into some products though is absurd when you think about how quickly the product is consumed. Ahhh…food for thought indeed!

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