A Complete Waste

One of the Top 5 things I hate is waste. I hate wasting time, although have learnt the importance of relaxing when I used to see that as time wasting. I hate wasting money, giving fees to banks is a lowlight. Wasting lives through war or poverty is usually avoidable. The thing I most hate wasting though is food. Especially when I know I’m lucky enough to have regular access to it.

Food is wasted before it even arrives at the supermarket because we as consumers have demanded ‘perfect’ products – and nature doesn’t always make things look perfect – so the producer uses otherwise healthy food for some purpose other than to feed us, often by simply throwing it in the bin. Like it or not, we have demanded ‘perfect’ products – think back to the last lot of apples you bought, surely there was a choice between ones that looked blemish free and some that had a few spots. Pretty sure you took the blemish free ones, naturally, that’s a reasonable thing to do. Then when the supermarket has 2 boxes of apples left that are a bit old, guess what they look like. So they tell the supplier to not supply those spotty apples.

It is hard to find Australian statistics for fresh food wasted in supermarkets, but if it’s anything like in Sweden (and it probably is), then plenty is lost on the shelves too. Part of the problem is individuals not taking responsibility for their actions, by eating food that has soured and then blaming the supermarket for selling it to them, which has created a need for government regulations. So many supermarkets must throw out food at a certain point, even when it is still edible. There is also the issue as mentioned above about consumers demanding perfection. The cost of all this waste is built into supermarket prices we pay on the shelves, so in effect, we are paying for waste. Now we’re wasting two things – food and money.

By far though, the biggest generator of waste is when we let our eyes do the shopping and end up with too much food in the cupboards. Here are some recent stats on Australian food waste and tips for avoiding it; and a great concept I found trying to bridge food waste and hunger. Personally, I try to use everything in the fridge and pantry – experimenting with new dishes etc, and I would almost prefer to eat meat than see it thrown out. I also try to only buy for the next few days rather than a whole week or two, living in Sweden helps in that regard because of the tendency for apartment living means smaller storage space. Shopping locally also helps with only buying our immediate needs, when I walk to the shops I’m limited to how much I can carry in my backpack.

Waste from the paddock and the supermarket shelves are big societal problems, and cannot be fixed just by my actions, but not wasting food at home is easy. Cecilia just threatens to throw something out and I leap to it’s rescue….that occasionally happens, but more often we just make sure we make something out of the older items, and I eat it no matter what it tastes like….but with spices most things are pretty tasty! It was suggested to me that carrots are a regular item that get lost in the veggie crispier, I reckon veggies are easily turned into delicious soup, here’s a great carrot soup recipe I use. Fruit can often go off pretty quickly, but luckily tastes just as delicious at that point in a smoothie, with a little cinnamon or honey it’s hard to go wrong, like in this recipe.

Finally it’s not often I say this, but go out and buy something….the little tool featured in this photo – kind of like a mini spatula – is amazing at getting everything out of jars!

Small Habit, Big Change – Turn old fruit and veggies into smoothies and soups.

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My waste-saving efforts are wasted

I grew up being taught that recycling is the way, so it came as some shock recently when I read two different books that suggest it’s not the best solution to reducing waste.

Household waste only makes up a very small fraction of all man-made waste – the majority is output that is never seen by us, from the factories that produce everything that we can’t live without (and plenty of what we can). The position the books take is that it whilst it is commendable to recycle, you should not think that your duties to a healthy planet stop there. One author even suggested that big industry lobby groups actively promote household recycling as the best solution – and try to make you feel guilty for not doing it – just so that your attention is focused on your own small contribution rather than their massive one.

The author’s preferred household contribution would be to continue recycling of course, but understand that until regulations are in place to limit waste upstream then nothing will really change. Taking this one step further, they suggest putting your plastic to paper by writing a letter to your politician demanding regulation action is much more effective than sorting your paper and plastics.

There are two parts that prevent me from taking this action, the first – which is a no-brainer to solve – is that I’ve never written to my parliamentary representative before, and find the concept a little daunting. The second – which I’m happy to have debated out of me – is a growing belief that they actually don’t do much unless there’s a bit of ‘something’ behind a suggestion to ‘push them in the right direction’. I don’t have that kind of ‘something’.

I’m planning on procrastinating about writing a letter, and remain conflicted that this is the best mode of action. At least I’m aware of the facts now. Until I put plastic to paper, I’m going to continue to try and take the first step in producing less waste – by avoiding it in the first place. The best way I know how to do this is to buy food from bulk food stores – they stock a wide range of products in big sacks direct from the producer, and you take either your own container or fill a paper bag there, thus not using yet another can or box or disposable container.

My favourite store in Adelaide is Goodies and Grains in one of the Central Market Arcades, I have found one in Göteborg called Fram Livs near Linnégatan, and don’t know much for Melbourne – suggestions for there and any other city welcomed, along with good tips for avoiding waste!

Small Habit, Big Change – Find a bulk food store to start avoiding waste. It means soaking beans etc overnight, but what where you doing at 4am anyway. It’s cheaper and you can store more, therefore spending less time and energy shopping.