Denial is no longer the main obstacle to fighting climate change because only a minority – the dodos and the deeply disaffected – still cling to this duck. No, the real problem is an overwhelming sense of fatalism that there is nothing we, normal people, can do to change something.
It should be the role of our political leaders to implement policies that will bring about the change needed, but politics and its practitioners in general are something that is manipulated by business and industry, a sector that is naturally allergic to everything, which has a negative effect on the balance sheet, and must be pulled into the naughty corner by the ear, kicking and screaming, in order to bring about change this quarter.
But instead of waiting for that to happen, we need to realize that we are part of the problem when we are not part of the solution. And we can do something. We can do many things, little things, little deeds. We can establish new daily habits and routines and the kitchen is a great place to start because what happens in kitchens around the world adds up to a large part of the problem.
Our current consumption model – shopping and eating – is fueling the deeply unsustainable effects of industrialized agriculture and food systems, especially the colossal amount
Energy expenditure for production, processing, packaging and transport.
If food waste were a country, it would take third place on the podium as the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, only behind the USA and China: around 3.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year.
The amount of global food waste, estimated at 1.3 billion tons each year, would provide well over a ton of food to each of the estimated 900 million people who go hungry every day.
Even if your own waste is tiny, it means that you are part of the problem. As you change your habits, you will become part of the solution and will gradually transform the way you think about waste in all areas of your life.
Action is empowering, but it requires changes from all of us, as individuals, as nations, as a planet. And yes, change is very difficult. It takes us out of our comfort zone and we like it a lot.
The most effective change usually starts with small actions that eventually add up to something much bigger. And that change has a by-product: hope. And right now, humanity desperately needs hope.
Plan meals for the week ahead, make a grocery list, and stick to it. Personally I find it boring, but it makes life easier and works in terms of staying on budget and reducing food waste.
In my work as a cook, daily and weekly menu planning and pre-orders were just as much a basic requirement for the job as cooking skills. It is a good model to emulate at home.
A single trolley hop through the supermarket to refill the cart once a week is convenient and time-saving, but the benefits end there.
My shopping system places the supermarket at the end of the stack, resulting in better and healthier eating, less food waste, and furthermore, an improvement in mental well-being and a greater contribution to the local communities we live in, especially if you shop in a foreign one Owned multiple. (The New Economics Foundation in London notes that “every € 10 spent in a local grocery company is worth € 25 for the region, compared to just € 14 if the same amount is spent in a supermarket, which is the local economy brings twice as much income “.)
At the top of the list is the farmers’ market, which buys directly from the primary producers: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, dairy products and cheese. Stallholders become our friends and shopping becomes sociable; Try chatting with auto weigh stations in the supermarket!
The next specialist dealer: craft butchers, fishmongers, independent retailers: products are invariably better, superior knowledge of their origin is always available and here, too, social interaction is very often a pleasure.
CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture Schemes) allow you to join a group of buyers who all pay a fixed amount to a grower at the start of the growing season in exchange for a weekly delivery of fresh, local, often chemical-free products throughout the season, without wasteful packaging. Also, look for weekly boxing programs near your own home or form a group of like-minded souls and convince a local producer that it is worth starting one for them. My weekly box-scheme delivery of Food for people is an enormous value for money for excellent and delicious products.
I also source most dry goods (grains, pulses, pasta, spices, salt, flour, sugar) in large quantities, buy them as part of a buyers’ cooperative or in refill stores (see below). Shopping once every two or three months more than makes up for the “lost” time by not using the supermarket.
After all, you use supermarkets for all other items, but since they generate the most packaging waste, think twice about each purchase and urge your local to make changes for the better.
The energy and materials used in the manufacture and subsequent disposal of the packaging that so much of our food arrives in can often be charged even higher fees. The recycle bin is insufficient; It still takes a lot of energy to drive the recycling process forward.
It is my policy in our house to reuse, clean and save for a second use every plastic container at least once. The added clutter annoys my wife deeply and is by and large a pointless gesture, but reminds me and others in the household that it is better to avoid prepackaged groceries.
One of the best ways to avoid this is to shop at refill stores or buy in bulk. In recent years, refill shops have returned: Leafling Mercantile in Ballinspittle; Organico in Bantry; Branch refill in clonakilty; Dirt road in Midleton; and the newly opened Cork Rooftop Farm Shop on Coal Quay, which also sells its own fresh produce with no carbon miles.
Number one: compost raw waste from the kitchen, sign up for a waste collection service to pick up your cooked food waste, or better yet, get yourself a sealed, vermin-proof composter. Whatever you do, you are composting food waste that cannot be reused elsewhere.
Search the internet for tons of brilliant tips on how to be creative with food waste and by-products.
Check out the really great ones FoodCloud‘s new six-part online series All Taste, Zero Waste, a show where celebrity chefs compete against charity chefs and fight to help the planet as part of a food waste awareness campaign.
In each episode, the chefs create delicious dishes from surplus food generously donated by food industry partners, provide advice and tips on reducing our food waste, and hear stories about the positive impact diverted food waste can have on communities across Ireland.
There are few things better than growing your own food. It completely changes your mindset, offering serious nutrition and taste right on the kitchen doorstep, fresh, local, seasonal produce with no CO2 miles.
A hypothetical experiment: buy carrot seeds, prepare the soil, sow the seeds, grow and harvest young seedlings – and then throw everything in the bin!
I say ‘hypothetical’ because being able to take care of a plant from seed to plate cannot actually do it. But too often we buy carrots or other fresh produce, bury it in the back of the refrigerator, and weeks later toss all of the mushy, rotten mass straight into the trash can without thinking about it. Growing your own food teaches the real value of food and how sinful it is to waste it so casually.
Doug McMaster is the head chef / owner of the award-winning Silo restaurant in London, the world’s first zero waste restaurant and author of one of the most important food books of the past few years, Silo: The Zero Waste Blueprint.
“I’m a total zero food waste fan at Silo,” says Doug, “but it’s very hard to do the same at home – sometimes I want a cup of tea with a drop of milk. In Silo I can buy milk directly from the farmer in large containers that we can reuse; at home i have to buy a plastic container with milk. What you essentially need is a complete system change, meaning the entire supply chain is different. It works in a restaurant because we order and process a large amount of food and that is the business. Since it is impossible for most people at home to have a direct supply chain with farmers and other producers, the system change required is much more complex.
“To avoid trash in a home kitchen, businesses and the food processing and retailing industries need to go online and share the same values and commitments.”
By making our own small changes, we can inspire others, but we need to do more and advocate for changes in the system.
We need to tell our politicians to do what they have avoided and get real changes: taxing industrial food packaging; Promotion of bottle return systems; and creating industries for the recycling of household waste, which process our own waste and create jobs.
We have to push back the extreme, often ridiculous laws of recent years on feeding waste to animals: in the past, most restaurants had a pork bucket that was picked up weekly by a local farmer.
The UN says that if farmers and ranchers fed their animals legal food waste, enough grain would be released to feed another 3 billion people worldwide.