Real-World Food Waste Solutions

Musings after seeing the film Just Eat It by Vancouver filmmakers.

Monday, November 9, FarmFolk CityFolk put on a fabulous event where they invited members of the community to join them and 13 other vendors (including me and my kombucha!) to eat, drink and learn. (The most fabulous combination, I think!)

They talked about all the food wastage that households' produce. The statistics they had were mind-boggling. Learning about the landfills should always motivate us to continue to do our part in recycling, since it is so hard on the environment when our landfills grow with things that cannot be broken down.

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I spoke with a friend who attended the event, who commented "the film left me feeling really inspired - but also really guilty" and I couldn't have agreed more. While watching the film, you remember all those times that you've "cleaned out the fridge" and found all that half-eaten and rotted food, and just chucked it.

It does make one feel guilty. Plus, it can lead to heart ache knowing how much we are hurting our Earth with our poor choices, especially when photos of landfills are filling your minds' eye.

But there is always something to improve on, and that's what I'm going to talk about today. Nothing major, a few easy steps and something new to think about.

In the film, in addition to mind-boggling stats and horrifying footage of our household waste sitting in landfills, they talked about all the places they found food that was going to be thrown away - and how many grocery stores throw food away because of reasons unknown. They were unable to find the food on the "re-call" list, and it wasn't on its expiration date.

The question to think of here that was brought up after the film - who is responsible for the actions of those places? The corporations are also part of the problem in this regard. Why can't they donate the food if there is no legal responsibility on their part after giving it away? Why can't they be more selective in the food they are bringing into their store?

What is the governments' role in this?

Where is the responsibility on the corporations' part? The governments' part?

Brushing Big Brother negatives aside, there is always more that we can do personally, taking responsibility in our own home to start making an impact and that is what I want to focus on today.

Why is recycling important? Why is the issue of food waste important?

Choices. 

Globally, an estimated one third of all food produced is wasted. However much energy has been used to make food and its packaging, all of it is wasted when it is thrown away. We aren't just disrespecting the food we throw out - we are wasting everything that worked to get it to us, too. Food waste is also usually rots, so when mixed into other waste, it spoils materials that could have been recycled and gives off gases that contribute to climate change.

Why does it matter if we care or not?

Responsibility.

Taking personal responsibility not only makes you feel good, but we can teach others' around us (kids especially) that respecting the earth is always the better path.

What can we do?

OH, just a few small things.

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Because giving a shit about the environment is not only cool, it's NEEDED.

In addition to brushing up on your localities' recycling rules (Kelowna here, Penticton is here, Osoyoos here, Oliver here) so that you are recycling as much as you can (check your local listing, there are often items you didn't know you could be recycling!) and feeling good about that, here are a few more great tips I got out of this amazing movie.

  1. Have an "Eat Me First" labeled compartment in your fridge. You don't have to invest in this - a piece of tape and a Sharpie written on one of the crispers' is all you need. This is where all the freshest (or "about to go") fruits or veggies go, and even packaged foods that are past their expiration date can go here, so you know what you need to make a meal out of every night, instead of looking in the fridge, seeing nothing and ordering in instead. (This leads to waste a couple days later when you have to empty out your crisper.)
  2. Educate yourself around Expiration Dates. They aren't what you think. See below.
  3. Don't throw out food just because you can't finish it. Whether you are out at a restaurant or at home you can always save it for later - if food was scarce, we wouldn't just throw bits away, would we?
  4. Have a friend with chickens? or get yourself a chicken! You can give your backyard or farm hens scrap foods (they can eat any vegetable or fruit) and you can feel good about feeding them because it's feeding the soil, too!

Clearing up confusion on Expiration dates.

The confusion for the consumer is that there are so many different numbers on packages that make it tricky to know whats happening with that product. For instance...

Best Before

Sell By

Use By

Expires

Enjoy Before

What does it all mean? Some are codes for grocery store workers, but the rest are for us and they are just an estimation on the food products' taste and texture - not its actual lifespan.

We do not need to throw food out on its expiration date - the manufacturer does not know the actual time of when the food has gone bad - the Expiration date just means the quality is best in that time frame. For instance, the pastry will be the puffiest in that time - unless you see mold or it smells bad, it is still good to eat, even past the expiration date!

This stuck with me most out of the whole film:

Instead of going straight from our plates (or the back of the fridge) to the garbage can, we have the choice to think about other options first.

Can we wrap it and put it in the fridge for use later? Leftovers snack later?

Can we feed it to an animal? (According to my mother, my great-grandmother had a "Slop Bucket" on her farm & any food waste went to goats, dogs or chickens.)

Can we recycle it in any way?

Can we compost it?

If none of these options are available to us - then our last resort is the garbage.

This little triangle can completely transform the way we think about garbage. 

For even more awesome education, take this little quiz from the film's website.

I think we need to think simpler. Imagine a time when we don't have access to tons and tons of food. What if we did have to save and be conservative and not throw away a crumb?

I do love taking people back in time, to a simpler time when real foods nourished our bodies, and this is another "way of life" that we have lost touch with - feeding the earth properly and not wasting. One day we will find a way to get back to recycle everything - we're already really good at recycling good music right? Join our friends at the Green Vanity who are obsessed with recycling makeup containers, and get to know your new friends' at the local bottle depot.

Comment below and let me know if this post about food waste strikes any thoughts or feelings with you, or how easy some of these changes could be, or weren't for you! Do you have any more tips to add? Would love to hear!