Sustainability Goals Update: March

Another month flown by, another update! If things seem vague it’s simply because I’ve forgotten ha, but I’ve now created a system whereby I jot things down during the actual month to write when the month is done, so I’m not stuck thinking ‘what did I actually do???’

Reduce plastic use:

Three items! Much better than the last month, with my jar only collecting:

  • A plastic bag + packaging from items bought from Go Vita
  • Snack wrapper
IMG_0363

The culprits

So the plastic bag, as with any plastic bag, was totally avoidable on my part. It is seriously that split second when you look away or begin to day dream and before you know it-wham!- you’ve just been handed a plastic bag. And the items I bought did not need a plastic bag to carry them. Two little glass jars of essential oils? They could have easily just fit in my handbag. In the packaging of the essential oils is the second bit of plastic, with a little plastic screen in the box, plus a plastic lid for the oil containers. But in actual fact the oils tiny amount of plastic helped me avoid a bigger amount of plastic. You see I was using the oils to make toothpaste (well, powder really).

Say what?! You can make your own toothpaste? Yes, yes you can. Following the guidelines from the lovely Rogue Ginger I made up my very own tooth powder and can gladly say that it is working quite well thank you very much. It allows me to not buy a plastic tube of paste and also know all the ingredients which I stick in my mouth.

teethyRG

Image from RogueGinger

Plus the ingredients (bi-carb, cinnamon, essential oils + coconut oil) can all be bought in bulk and you only use a little to make a lot, so it is quite cost effective too! 

Winning!

Oh and the plastic snack wrapper was from a Middle Eastern sweet I tried from a friend. Basically a rose petal muesli bar, it was nice, but yep, wrapped in plastic. Another one of those incidental moments when you just don’t realise it till later (I threw out the packaging too).

Buy nothing new:

I actually didn’t buy anything this month at all. I literally had to check my online banking statement to check if I had bought anything because i couldn’t remember if I had or had not! But alas my only expenses were the essential oils, which yes, were new but isn’t something you can really buy second hand anyway. And of course the usual petrol and occasional food items. 

I did however, and this fits into this category kinda, receive some new things on my birthday. I did say to my parents I didn’t want anything, but still receive stuff anyway. Mind you the clothes I got were too small so they want to my sister. But books, chooks (still coming actually), and a lunch-bag was what I received.

Vegetarian:

IMG_0337

I read this super interesting book on vegetarianism during the beginning of March. “The vegetarian myth” by Lierre Keith was a very, very interesting read. I stumbled across its recommendation in the back of a Sarah Wilson cookbook of all things. Coming from a background of veganism herself Keith breaks down the typical arguments vegetarians and vegans have for not eating meat and/or animal products. 

Broken up into chapters on each of these points, ethics, nutrition, and environmental, Lierre argues some strong convincing points as well as some (in my opinion) bordering on conspiracy theory (read: ridiculous) points. Some of the points I loved was from a systems view of things that “plants eat too”, in fact plants eat animals including us and actually can’t function without minerals and nutrients derived from the decomposition of animal materials. Removing animals from agriculture will eventually starve us all. 

She also very carefully explained that what is suitable and ‘sustainable’ for us to eat is very much tied up in the characteristics of our local climate and environment. For everyone to just grow vegetarian protein instead of animal protein or a combo of both would be detrimental and absolutely environmentally unsuitable for some places. This article (conversation) totally hits the nail on the head with it.

Overall I did enjoy reading it, but definitely took all the things said with a grain of salt (especially the ‘agriculture is responsible for war’ bit) also seeing as some of the facts and studies quoted are now a bit out of date. It was published in 2009. I would still recommend it to people to read though, especially if considering the qualms surrounding eating meat.

Garden:

Some wins for the garden-hurrah!

IMG_0347

Beetroot seedlings- a success!

Able to harvest a couple of radishes from my wild seed adventures a while back, unfortunately though the only thing that did really take (the carrots forever stayed as seedlings). Our wild pumpkin has truly gone wild, taking over a good chunk of the garden and now making its way up and over the chicken coop. Currently we have a grand total of three pumpkins on the vine- at least their mammoth size makes up for their limited number!

IMG_0332

We’ve also had a lot of our herbs having babies, that is, sprouting up new mini-versions of themselves next to their Mother plants. As such my best friend, who just moved out of home, has received a number of plant-y gifts. The joys of having plants! 

Still a lot to work on in the garden though, let’s be honest!

Until next time folks! Xx

Sustainability Goals Update: February

IMG_0339.jpg

Cherry Guava’s found growing on my campus.

So I’m a bit late in doing this. Just a bit. March is in fact almost finished and I’m only just getting over February.

It’s going to be a super quick year.

I think the reason why I’m struggling to write posts is simply time. Ugh it just so irresponsibly runs away from me ALL THE TIME! Just not enough hours in the day, and i’m yet to sacrifice my precious sleep for it so i’ll just continue to try and reign in the naughty thing. Any who, I regress..

February! Well i’ll jump straight into it…

Avoid disposable plastics and plastics in general

 

I collected a total of six plastic items during February. SIX! And the most unfortunate thing was that in most cases I threw it away, just completely forgetting that it even was plastic and that I had used it. First up, packaging from a new shirt. This was a shirt I received as a part of my new role as Community Advisor in the Academy at my University, so of course to be professional we all got some fancy shirts. In plastic. I do quite like the shirt and it will get used, but it was kinda like “Oh poo” when i received it all wrapped in plastic with plastic tags to boot. Wasn’t much I could do about that one unfortunately. 

Another piece I collected was a produce bag. The zucchini’s automatically came in it, already packaged up as the were reduced priced seconds. I could try and justify that saving food-waste kinda outweighs the plastic but reality is it’s still another piece of plastic in my possession that I can’t avoid. Apart from the unfortunate fact that I actually threw it away (truth: it got recycled).

But the one-serve peanut butter container I could have done something about! Darn my obsessive love of the nutty spread! At a training retreat, breakfast buffet, one-serve condiments, you get the drift. Used upon a piece of toast to satisfy my PB-loving soul and then into the bin the little container did go. It probably wasn’t until later that afternoon that I realised I had actually used plastic. Major “D’oh!” moment. And another such moment was similarly had using one of those free bathroom soaps at a motel on another trip later in the month. 

“D’oh!”

Final (two) pieces of plastic came curtesy of a piece of second-hand clothing I bought on eBay. The parcel satchel was of course made of plastic, and this I accepted and acknowledged would happen (is there a way around this when buying online?) but then the clothes themselves came in a plastic bag within the plastic satchel. Lovely. 

Buy nothing new:

Apart from food which you can’t really buy secondhand anyway I don’t really buy much stuff truth be told, so this one is progressing rather nicely. Clothes really are the only things I do buy and I’m finding it quite easy to get stuff (good stuff too!) second-hand. So in February I bought myself a nice pair of second hand cullotte-style pants from eBay. Plus they are actually an ethically made product to boot from an awesome label so I was quite happy with the double win of second-hand and ethical!

Vegetarian:

Love me vegetables. Though I will say i’m struggling to keep the cooking creative when it comes to dinner in particular, as I do have to cook it myself rather then just share in with the family what mum cooks. So I have kinda reverted to having the same dish over and over for multiple dinners (Bibimbap anyone?) and also snacking on the same thing over and over (muggins are the bestest, look them up), which does tend to get a bit boring after while. That and I did get a massive craving to have bacon one day. But i’m getting there!

Maintain my veggie garden:

This is still the hardest one by far. Just because there is always something to do in the garden, and don’t always have the time to do those things. What is really needed is a whole day just dedicated to getting stuck into the garden, weeding, planting, organising, mulching, pruning, soil amending and watering. Pretty much a working bee. Because some parts are productive, others not, mostly on the merit of the plants themselves that are in fact productive because I haven’t done much with them. Our seedlings that came up last month haven’t been able to get that far simply because a rogue tomato jumped the gun and stole all the sunlight as it grew and spread across the bed, shading out the other seedlings. We got tomatoes but haven’t got much else from it. Again, could have stopped the tomato but eh i was lazy and time-poor. We got tomatoes at least.

So March’s update I hope to be bringing to you soon rather then later, so expect something in the next week or two! There will also be more photo’s in that post to make up for the lack of them in this one!

The dirt on dirt: The importance of soil for having good healthy food

dirt

Image from milkwood.net

It’s something you don’t usually think about when you sit down to a nice meal. Dirt. For one thing it ain’t that appetising to imagine a mud pie instead of your meat pie or a bowl of dirt instead of a bowl of dessert. Let me just eat my food, thank you very much.

But the reality is that without dirt you wouldn’t have food! Without good, healthy, nutritious dirt you can’t have good, healthy and nutritious food. Because the nutrients in your food are directly correlated to the nutrients available in the soil in which it was grown.

So we are pretty much eating dirt.

Being such the life giving substance that it is, it deserves to be treated with a bit more respect and tender loving care. So let’s get down and dirty to learn more about the lovely substance that is soil. 

This will be a quick run down and really doesn’t cover the breadth or scope of the intricacies in soil. Heck, soil science is still discovering things itself! There’s chemistry, biology, geology, hydrology and mineralogy all mixed up and involved in the study of soil so to really get a good knowledge of it you may just have to dedicate your life to it!

But nobody got time for that.

Anyway, back to eating dirt, ahem, soil.

Soil is formed through a number of factors such as climate, topography, the parent rock material, biological factors, and time. 

All this influences the fertility of the soil, it’s nutrient content and pH, as well as various biological and chemical characteristics. 

Volcanic soils for example are rich and lush, chocolatey brown, envied by all for its fabulous properties allowing for great crop production. As you can gather, these soils are produced from…volcanoes! The leftover broken down remains of lava flows from an either extinct or active volcano.

Unfortunately for us here in Australia, most of our soils are old and weather beaten, with not much nutrients remaining in them. We do have pockets of really nice soil, such as the Liverpool Plains region in North-West NSW, but these soils only cover a small % of the total Australian landmass.

ASC_ALL.ai

As you can see, many soils, much confusion, but pretty colours. Source: ASRIS, CSIRO Australia

When plants are growing, they all require a certain amount of macro and micro nutrients to grow sufficiently. Just like us humans, the right diets keep them in their prime, in tip-top shape, but not enough leaves them deficient and impairs growth. Also like us too much of a good thing, like donuts or chocolate, can be bad. Though the plant equivalent would probably by phosphorus or nitrogen.

Mega appealing to plants, not so to us, phosphorus and nitrogen are two out of three essential macro-nutrients plants need. The third one is potassium. All these nutrients plants get through the soil.

If a soil is deficient in these nutrients (like a lot of Australian soils) then the plants won’t grow to their optimum level. Instead of the big-bulked up iceberg lettuce we are use to we’d instead get scrawny smaller, probably yellowed, lettuces instead.

Enter fertilisers. 

Fertilisers add nutrients to the soil for plants to utilise. Like a dose of medicine, fertilisers help aid the deficiencies of the soil. But again not all fertilisers are created equally, and depending on the fertiliser used, can in some cases further propagate problems rather then fixing them.

It depends on the speed of which a farmer desires results. If they want a quick-fix solution then modern fertilisers are the go, because these provide a big hit of readily available nutrients to the soil that the plants can rapidly access and utilise. Problem with a lot of modern fertilisers though is they disguise the problems of the soil, like a band-aid just aiding the wound for only a bit, but not actually allowing it to heal fully.

dirt2

Image from Matthias Ripp, CC BY

The long-term result fertiliser scenario aims to heal the soil. To treat it with a long-term outlook so that the soil can support itself, not requiring additions from quick-fix fertilisers. Things such as manures, blood and bone, cover-crops and nitrogen-fixing plants are management practises that target the microbes and life in the soil, as mentioned before, to make nutrients more available. Yes they provide nutrients, but they make the soil work for it.

Just as the personal trainer yells at the gym “The more you train the stronger you get!” 

These fertilisers provide ‘locked-up’ chemical forms of nutrients as well as the microbes to unlock it. So by developing the microbes the nutrients are slowly unlocked, all the whilst the microbial life community of the soil flourishes with the resources the fertilisers provide. Results in the plants will take longer to show compared to the other modern fertilisers, but it’s effects are longer lasting as the soil itself is more capable of providing nutrients.

But by nourishing the soil in this way you can propagate all the good things. Those aforementioned microbes? They are the good things. The more life in the soil the better. Bacteria, fungi, bugs, grubs and all that microscopic stuff. They are our friends breaking down compounds and releasing nutrients, creating breathing spaces for more microbial life, and allowing passages for water to pass through. Proverbial soil superheroes they are.

Tend to the soil and you tend to the health of not only plants, but yourself too.

Life begets Life.

It’s sad to think a lot of our microbe buddies are often overlooked in a lot of modern day industrial agricultural practises. But things are slowly changing which is a good thing, as researchers and farmers realise and work together to start implementing long term soil nourishing practises. Timely too, because as a resource nitrogen and phosphorus (those two yummy essential plan macro-nutrients) are just about at their limits. 

Research has already shown that we’ve surpassed the nitrogen limit and subsequently outbalanced and impaired the natural nitrogen cycle. For phosphorus, a finite resource which can’t be substituted synthetically, it’s getting harder and harder to find as mines and deposits run out. Soon there won’t be much left.

But we all still gotta eat right?

So now more than ever soil-loving practises are needed, as well as soil-loving people.

IMG_0063.JPG

The best way in which you can help support our microbe friends is by ensuring the produce you buy and eat is produced using these practises. Go to the farmers market and talk with the farmers about the methods they use, or better yet, ask if you can visit the farm to see it all in action! 

If you grow some of your own produce, then invest in a compost bin or worm farm. Not only are you saving food scraps from landfill, but you are then adding nutrients and microbes into your soil. Hurrah!

So next time your outside, in the wild or in your backyard, take a moment to get down close to the ground and thank the millions of microbes and nutrients and fungi and bugs in the soil for all the good work that they do. 

Sustainability goals update: January

I’ve decided to do a monthly round-up of how i’m tracking in relation to my sustainability goals (if you missed my first post you can find it here) so as to keep me accountable and also document the successes and failures of this venture. It’ll also be great to reflect back on once the year is up and something other people can hopefully use too if they ever do something similar.

So seeing as one month of the year is already complete (craaazy right?!) and we are in fact in February already, here’s a look back over the January just gone. 

Avoid disposable plastics and plastics in general

Plastic sucks and it is seriously everywhere! You really have to be prepared and committed, to avoid it and in doing so be different, in order to stick at it. Because this is already proving harder than anticipated. Directly I am responsible for plastic packaging from a gift*, a parcel bag, clothing tag, and two straws from two separate occasions. I say directly because these are items that I paid for and could have avoided the plastic if i had been a bit more prepared. 

*- This was a gift to me, so i didn’t pay for it, but it became mine anyway. Along with the plastic.

IMG_0224

My plastic jar and it’s contents

Indirectly I am probably partly responsible for a whole lot more plastic which I haven’t accounted for. Again it’s the whole dilemma of living differently to the people that I am currently living with i.e my family. It’s a bit unfeasible for me to go out and buy all of ‘my-own’ plastic free things that no-one else can use but me. For one thing it’s expensive and another thing it’s excluding me from my family and would frankly be rather rude. 

So it’s really quite tricksy determining what should go into my plastic jar, whether i’m responsible or not.

The straws though I could have totally avoided and am annoyed that I didn’t. On two separate occasions going out with friends I ordered a drink and just simply forgot to ask for no straw. It’s just automatic nowadays to get a straw with your drink (unless its a hot drink of course) and is really easy to avoid them by simply asking. But I forgot. Twice. And so now I have two straws in my jar, and hopefully they will be the last!

Buy nothing new

Ah yes, well, i must confess i have bought something new. The parcel bag and clothing tag rather give it away don’t they? Let me explain. I won a voucher for a clothing brand late last year and was yet to use it. End of year sale, reduced prices, so i decided it was time to use it. I purchased a sports bra with the voucher and really only had to pay $2.50 + postage for it as the voucher covered the rest. I didn’t consider it buying something new at first because well, it wasn’t really me buying it, as it was the gifter of the voucher who had forked out the money.

IMG_0227

The culprit

But in reality it was a new piece of clothing. It didn’t come from a second-hand shop. To be honest though i’m not that beaten up about it though, because I was needing a sports bra and I think it’d be a waste for the voucher not to be used. Still pondering it all though.

Vegetarian

January was a completely vegetarian month. Yay! It’s been quite easy adapting to a vegetarian lifestyle and i’ve quite enjoyed it. I will say though that in the last week or so i have been a bit more tired of late and with a previous history of being on the lower side iron-wise, it’s blood test and off to the doctors for me! I probably just need to balance out what i’m eating more, making sure i eat more iron-dense foods such as amaranth and spinach, or might need to take a supplement, which i’m cool with. We’ll see what the results say and go from there.

Maintain my veggie garden
IMG_0228

Tomato seedlings- yay!

Well, i can gladly report that it is looking slightly better than last time! Though to be honest not too much has happened in the garden. Our zucchini plant has finished, so that’s gone now, and so too is most of our lettuce. The basil plant has been pretty plentiful (mhmm pesto) but has now gone to seed, which means it’ll be done soon, but i’ve got some seedlings ready to replace it.

One Sunday i went through all our seed packets and threw into the garden all the out-of-date seeds, some over 5 years old, in the hope that some may germinate. And they have! 

Thing is though i don’t remember what went where. 

I kinda just did the wild scattering of the seed thing like a pigeon feeder in the city. So now i have little seedlings everywhere, some which are identifiable some not. Again another wait and see thing, but i’m pretty certain that we have some cucumber, tomatoes, radish and a LOT of carrots.

IMG_0229

Shonky photo but these are the suspect carrots (if they really are carrots)

Now let’s see how February goes!

2016: A year of sustainability

So I set myself a new years resolution. I’ve never done one before for the precise reasons that they are so cringey. Because most of the time you know they will never be seen fully through. So instead i have labelled this a challenge, to hopefully avoid said cringiness, that just happens to run over the course of this year, because, well, a year is a nice set period that suites my A-type organising mind. 

And this is the challenge:

  1. Avoid disposable plastics and plastics in general
  2. Buy nothing new (so everything second-hand)
  3. Vegetarian*
  4. Maintain my veggie garden

You see these points are things I had always talked about doing after I had moved out, when I had my own place, because I thought them too hard to implement whilst still living at home with my family. So it was always “once I move out i’ll do all these things.” And I loved to plan it all too, how I would use reusable bags for everything, furnish my house with op-shop goods etc etc 

But then I had one of those lovely brain wave ‘Aha!’ moment that made me realise WHY DON’T I JUST START NOW?!

What’s holding me back? 

And so I have ventured on this challenge to start being more sustainable.

Now sustainability has a very convoluted and oft contested meaning. It can mean different things to different people, depending on what angle you are coming at it from. Typically the most referenced meaning is that from the UN:

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

I agree with this as an overarching principle of sustainability, and will now delve into each point and explain the why of each, as they actually all address different aspects of sustainability.

1- Avoid disposable plastics and plastics in general
plasticfree

I’m collecting any incidental plastic I do end up with in a jar, just like this one from trashisfortossers.com

Many people inherently know that plastic really isn’t that great for a number of reasons. It can be harmful to not only animals and the environment, but also to people too. For starters plastic is made out of crude oil, a finite and unsustainable resource, with production of plastics damaging, pollutive and resource intensive. Plastic is then used in a multitude of products, from packaging to toys, bags, homewares, toothbrushes and medical equipment. A large majority of these plastic items will also be single-use items, disposables, intended to be used only once as it is more convenient for us the consumer. Plastic bags for example are a proliferate disposable item used by many. They are also collected by many on Clean up Australia day, with an average half a million plastic bags being collected on the ONE DAY every year! Plastic bags in our oceans are also being mistakenly eaten by sea creatures, along with other small bits of plastic, often fatal to the poor unsuspecting creature. Plastics are also toxic for us too, with BPA-free everything now pretty common after the revelation it could cause brain and reproductive development problems amongst a range of other ill-health effects. Many other plastic compounds are currently being investigated into their effects on human health as the leach and exude a range of possibly toxic substances.

2- Buy nothing new (so everything second-hand)
Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.13.12 pm

One of my favourite instagram accounts about sustainable living @rocket_science

We are a materialistic and consumer-based society. Every where we look we are being encouraged to have more ‘stuff’, not only because it makes us feel nice or in-fashion, but also because products aren’t just built to last (termed planned obsolescence) so we are forced to keep updating. Initially this goal was mainly focused on clothes, but after having read ‘The Story of Stuff’ by Annie Leonard (highly recommend you go read it pronto!) I was compelled to extend it further to…everything. Of course though excluding things which you simply do not want to get second-hand, as in medical/health related items. To make stuff takes resources, and for some items in particular, a whole lot of toxic and pollutive resources, not to mention a labour force which more often or not nowadays is probably underpaid impoverished workers in a developing nation. These often unethical practises though pale in comparison, at least in my opinion anyway, to the extent in which we- consumers in industrialised nations- wallow in and waste mountains of stuff that accumulates in our wardrobes, our houses and in our garbage dumps. And all to often most of these items are still in perfect usable and working order. We’ve just grown tired of them that’s all, and they are so easy to replace anyway, what with shops offering thousands of items to appease our materialist appetite. I could write on and on about this, but actually Annie Leonard does it better than I in ‘The Story of Stuff’ (it really is that good) so if you do want to read more, read that. ‘To die for: Is fashion wearing out the world?’ by Lucy Siegle is another great read, more focused on the story behind fast-fashion.

3- Vegetarian*

veggielove

That asterisk is there for a very important reason because i’m still figuring out where i stand in terms of vegetarianism. There are pro’s and con’s to it, but here is my stance currently. So far i have been totally vegetarian, that is no meat products, since the beginning of the year. So 2016 so far has been meat-free. But the thing is for quite some time before that, actually probably most of last year, i had been hardly eating any meat anyway. On average I would probably have had meat around 3 times a week, and often in quite small portions. I had begun transitioning this way for a couple of reasons, with my main reason being because i love vegetables so much (true story) and then because i was still debating the sustainability of meat. First and foremost we Australians eat way to much meat. Period. This is a fact backed up by health research, because in fact too much meat can cause health issues, particularly processed meat. I think most Aussies had a possibly meat-induced heart attack when the World Health Organisation last year proclaimed processed meats, such as the beloved snag, a carcinogen to be avoided. Also its hard to avoid the other research backed facts that meat production is also not the healthiest for the environment either. Resource intensive to produce, livestock also emit a large amount of greenhouse gases and if not properly farmed can also cause environmental damage. But this is not to say all meat production is bad, because it is just not that black and white. Many farmers utilise agricultural land for livestock production that cannot be used to produce crops. A number of farmers, in fact quite a few, farm using many sustainable practises to ensure their impact on the environment is minimal, employing a range of techniques such as poly-farm integrated system as an example. Meat is also an undeniable source of protein and other macro and micro nutrients, so from a health point of view it has significant nutritional value to be included in a balanced diet. A major point that i have purposely skirted is animal welfare, not because i don’t care about it, but rather because it is so fraught with emotions. conflict and very strong opinions. I just don’t want to get into that. But what i will say is that the majority of meat production currently is not what i would deem ethical. So for the time being, considering all these points, i will continue being vegetarian. But watch this space.

4- Maintaining my veggie garden
IMG_0217.jpg

The large veggie patch as it is currently.

This is kind of an add on, and more a new-years resolution than any of the others, because it’s an area where i got lazy and ‘let go’ that I am now determined to turn around. We have a fairly large veggie garden, after i enthusiastically convinced my parents to allow a part backyard take-over of our humble patch. It has extended even beyond that now, with an extra raised veggie bed and possibly another on the way too! But our large one had got a bit neglected towards the end of last year and as a result unproductive. So i’m trying to dedicate 2 hours every Sunday to maintaining the garden, because according to many it’s the consistent work that makes all the difference. Plus there are so many rewarding benefits to growing your own food! Fresh and tasty food for one thing, organic too in my case, but also just getting out in nature, being beneficial to both mental and physical health. Love it. 

So there you have it, my four goals/challenges/not-new-years-resolutions resolutions. I’m challenging myself by also having this blog as a way to keep me accountable to these points, so i’ll try and keep you updated on my progress- the successes and failures. Any tips in regards to the goals would be very much appreciated!

First steps to combatting food waste in your own home

 

 

So you’ve become aware of just how big a problem food waste is and want to take steps to tackle it? Hurrah! Considering how significant the issue is, which you can read up on here, plus all the shocking stats that go with it, it’s little wonder that there is a growing movement to combat food waste.

It’s a tough road to navigate particularly when food wasting habits are pretty much ingrained into our society. But to help you on your way i’ve compiled some first steps to take plus some other sites and resources to check out, to use as tools along your waste-free journey.

So first off:

Go through your bin

Have you done it yet? The best way to figure out what you are wasting and your target areas is to see…What you are wasting! And a bin audit is the best way to do that. Yes, it may be smelly and a bit dirty, you may also feel a bit like a street cat as you paw through it looking for food, but hey this is something you really should do! (Just make sure to wear gloves and then take a shower after, ok, if you are really that concerned) Once you know what things are being thrown out you can start tracing back to the reasons it ended up a stinky mess in your bin.

 

Become a detective

Why was the food thrown out in the first place? Did it go off? Develop mould or go rotten? Was it past the use-by date? Or did you simply forget about it or never really intended to eat it anyway? Again, make an inventory of WHY you chucked the food away, and how it got to that stage. So for example, the tomatoes were thrown out because they had gone squishy. Why did they go squishy? Aha, because they were shoved to the back of the fridge, hiding behind other food, so you kinda forgot about them. Steps to take from here is then making sure you don’t lose them in the fridge!

 

PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE!

I cannot stress this enough, as this is really the most crucial and important point in combatting food waste. Preparation. You ain’t going to win a fight without a battle plan, and this yes siree, this will become your battle plan. These are your weapons in your arsenal (ok, enough with the battle talk!)

  • Check the supplies before you go get more! A.K.A before you go and buy more food, check out your fridge and pantry first to see what you have already got!
  • Make a shopping list! Based upon what you have already got at home, because we don’t need doubling up. Make sure you stick to your shopping list at the shops too, don’t impulse buy, as this is more likely to result in food waste.
  • Plan out your meals! This is harder said then done, something even I am still yet to perfect, but it is very helpful in allowing you to make sure you use the food you have, even integrating leftovers from one night into lunch the following day! Meal planning is also a time-saver if you are time-poor.

 

Doggy bags, all the way home…

When eating out and you can’t quite finish off the very last bite of your pad-see-ew, what do you do? Doggy bag it! Ask the waiter to bag it up for you so you can take it home and then eat it for lunch the next day (winning!). Or better yet, bring along your own container to use, avoiding the disposable plastics.

 

Collect yo’ compost

Organic matter such as fruit and vegetables can be composted, recycling the nutrients they contain back into a fertile material that renews soil and in turn allows more fruit and veg to be grown. Of course not everyone can fit a compost bin into their backyard, but you can get bokashi bins, which are small (odourless!) benchtop composters that you can use. Or in some council areas there are composting programs or community gardens that will gladly take your fruit and veggie scraps. Do a google search to see if there is one near you.

 

Make friends with your freezer.

This is actually one I stole from Sarah Wilson. Basically it’s all about utilising your freezer to extend the life of your food. Got veggies going limp? Throw them into a bag in the freezer, collecting enough until you can make your own veggie stock. Made too much bolognese? Freeze it in meal sized portions. Aunty Myrtle gave you a bushel of lemons from her lemon tree? Apart from making lemonade, juice them and freeze the juice into portions using an ice-cube tray for later uses in various recipes where it only calls for that 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Be careful to note though how to properly store different foods in the freezer, no one wants freezer burn!

 

These are just some simple first steps to take and to use during your battle against food waste. There is actually so many nifty hacks and tips out there on the interwebs and in books offering a plethora of information on saving and being resourceful with food. These are some of my favourites:

 

 

Anyone else got some nifty and handy food waste preventing tips that they’d love to share?

Food Waste 101

IMG_0690

Second-grade capsicums from a local grocer. These quickly became roast capsicum soup!

So, pushing aside the awkward first-post opening curtain, I thought i’d dive right into the nitty-gritty. Food waste.

Now let’s clarify from the get-go that there is a two distinctive types and reasons why food that is intended for consumption is never consumed. FOOD LOSS is where food never reaches us due to things such as pests and disease on farm, or perhaps the food spoiled on the way to us consumers. FOOD WASTE is more superficial, based often upon appearance or lack of proper storage and organisation, food that is or once was perfectly edible is not utilised.

Collectively, food loss and waste is responsible for a third of all food we produce never being eaten! That effectively means that a third of all farms and farmers across the world, plus the resources such as water, nutrients and energy that they use, are for nothing. Harsh words, but they are the facts.

And guess who are the biggest food wasters? Surprise surprise, it’s industrialised nations with an on average 95-115 kg/year of food being wasted per capita.

You might be screwing your face up in indignation at that figure right now, thinking something along the lines of ‘Oh I surely can’t waste that much!’. I challenge you to go right now and rummage through your bin (yes!). It’s actually quite interesting/surprising/stinky/shocking at the amount of food that we throw into our bins everyday. In my own bin, which I gingerly pawed through, I found mostly food packaging, along with the remaining quarter can of baked beans, a small amount of fetta, and some oily-tuna dregs. To be fair though, we compost a lot of our food scraps, i’ve been a food waste nazi for some time, and I have a teenage brother. So not much is wasted in this household.

foodwastefact

The reality of food waste/loss- it could have fed someone. Source: OzHarvest

So why do we waste food? Studies have shown that often because of the abundance and availability of food, coupled with decreasing prices and a general lack of knowledge, food waste has become ‘normalised’. In the household setting, food comprises 40% of the average Australian household’s bin. Often food is wasted because we just don’t know what to do with it. Bought on a whim (‘it was on special!’) or we only used part of it, so it sits in our fridge/pantry, waiting for us to eat it, as it slowly wilts or succumbs to the hairy scourge of mould.

So in the case of the baked beans, my dad used it for his lunch one day. He and mum used up a bit more of it the day after. But then the last little bit got shoved back into the fridge and forgotten about, before it was ‘found’ a week later and with a whiff from mum was swiftly thrown into the bin. Fair enough, it probably wasn’t safe anymore to eat. But it could have been, if it was saved earlier.

Other reasons why we waste food at an individual level according to Foodwise is because we cooked too much, didn’t check the fridge/pantry before going shopping, misreading of the use-by date, and simply buying too much.

Of course though, there is also larger institutional food waste that occurs here in Australia and in other industrialised nations. Produce is often rejected due to it’s looks, whether that be a slight blemish on the skin, or perhaps it’s not quite the right shape. Conformity is key, so anything that doesn’t meet market standards is rejected, often not even getting onto shelves, usually ending up as landfill. Looks has nothing to do with flavour or nutritional value, and in fact some of the ugliest fruit can be in fact the tastiest!

Food waste such as this is easily avoidable, and slowly supermarkets have begun changing their approach to ‘wonky fruit and veg’. Spearheaded by campaigns in France and by groups such as Youth Food Movement here in Australia, wonky produce has made it’s way onto our shelves and into the spotlight. From Harris Farm Markets ‘Imperfect picks’ range to Woolworths ‘Odd bunch’ range, tracks are being made to reduce institutional food waste. In fact Woolworths recently partnered with the food rescue group OzHarvest in it’s aim to eliminate food sent to landfill by 2020.

Feeling impassioned to combat food waste in your house? Keep an eye out for my next post where i’ll detail some steps you can take plus a collection of books and websites to check out to help you on your way.