A Sunday Chat with Myself—”Food Waste”

Love and Food are meant for sharing, not for wasting

I’m sorry, but this morning my column is going to be mostly a rant, and it’s going to be about food waste, because I think food waste is getting completely out of control, and what I glean from statistics, we—yes, including myself—aren’t doing much to stop it, and unless we change our habits, we’re going to ruin our beautiful planet—or, should I be more accurate and say our planet is going to destroy us!

That statement should come as no surprise, because Gaia—Mother Earth, has nearly wiped us off her face on several occasions during our short while on earth, and I would guess for similar reasons that we again face near extinction.

I recently bought a bundle of those juice-sweet, Mandarin-like oranges that are shipped in from Peru. Some of them still had green spots on the skin and still tasted a little bitter, so I left them in the fridge for a week to ‘ripen.’ However, rather than ripen, I found that they started to rot! So, other than possibly storing them wrong, not in a non-professional way like they would be in warehouses, what else went wrong?

I’m too disgusted to dig into the mechanics of how these oranges came from Peru and ended up in our grocery store, but my guess is, they were picked green in Peru, then put on ships that were Canada-bound, stored in warehouses and there ‘force-ripened’ before being shipped to grocery stores. As a result, they did turn ‘orange,’ like regular oranges do, but never had the opportunity to naturally ripen on the vine as fruit is meant to do, to naturally develop their sugars and nutrients that these oranges are famous for.

The result? Besides beginning to rot, they were too bitter and too ‘leathery’ to eat, so they had to be thrown out!

Wasted!

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” —Robert Swan

Then, I read on the FastCompany web site that, “nearly 870 million people in the world are undernourished, but at the same time, approximately one-third of the global food total supply ends up spoiled, thrown out [like I had to do with the oranges], or wasted. That’s about 1.6 billion tons of edible material overall, and projected to reach 2.1 billon tons by 2030.”

Then, a new report by the Boston Consulting Group has “quantified the problem in terms of cold hard cash: The world’s food loss and waste is projected to be about $1.2 trillion per year by 2030.

After reading these reports, I no longer have to wonder why my food bill is so high and why we can’t feed the world, resulting in people actually starving to death! The high cost of food, including the orchestrated scarcity of the food problem doesn’t lie with the producer, nor the consumer, but gets discretely and deliberately hidden within our habits of how we handle food.

I know, there are analysts who prefer more socially acceptable words like, unaware, mismanagement and demand in their reports, but when you blow all the dust off the deliberate cover-ups—the socially acceptable phrases— you end up with the real reason: greed and sloth on the marketing and distribution of food!!

Greed plays a factor in this. The greedy person is usually quite good at deflecting his condition, and make it sound like we should actually envy him. Greed is good for the economy!  Greed wallows in its own luxuries, offering up such comforting, socially acceptable words and phrases like, envy, needed, desirable, to lull us into believing “all is well with the world, just go and tend to your own little backyard incidents, and never mind me.”

And did I mention that greed—accumulation of excessive goods and wealth—is not synonymous with happiness? There’s research out there (again, I just don’t feel like searching for links and posting them here right now) that shows a good number of rich folks live quite a frustrated life, and in fear of losing the wealth that they have accumulated. They have to build security walls around their homes to protect them from the commoners!

That’s not happiness!

“Impossible isn’t something that can’t be done. It’s just something that hasn’t been done before.”

Large factory farms, both in the meat, dairy, egg, fruit and vegetable and grain industries, are the biggest contributors to food waste. They are forever getting larger, inventing new ways to produce more food, at a cheaper cost to them—causing ever more food waste—but there is little or no indication that their penchant for producing ever-more food is actually solving the scarcity of food that could be shipment to underdeveloped areas, nor any real savings for the consumer. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all this extra food produced by these mega factory farms is actually bringing cheaper food to your table. If it were truly so, then there would be no starving people in the world today! Besides, when we do find actual instances of “cheaper” food, it is also of a lower quality than it used to be a generation ago, so you are not getting a good bang for your buck! My oranges that I mentioned at the beginning of this rant, are a good example of what I mean.

On the plus side of managing our food bill and what we “commoners” can do about it. The David Suzuki Foundation has some excellent ways in which we, as individuals can not only save on our own grocery bill, and at the same time, reduce waste, world-wide.

  • Meal planning. My wife has a monthly meal planner that she consults before doing any grocery shopping. It’s helped to reduce buying stuff she hadn’t planned on using in making meals, thus there’s little left over that could go to waste.
  • Make lots of soup. When food gets close to the expiry date, making soup out of it is an excellent and nutritious way to use up those older vegetables.
  • Leftover food does not have to be thrown out. Place the leftovers in freezer bags and use them at a later date.
  • Create an Eat-Me-First bin in your refrigerator. In that way, it is less likely that you will ever have spoilt food to consider in your meal planning.

With a bit of serious planning, one can easily find any number of ways to cut back on food waste—and need I mention our misuse of plastic bags? Also, if you see “bargains” at the grocery store, check carefully to see if it truly is a bargain, and not just a ploy to have you buy a cheaper quality food for that lower “bargain” price!

Food waste is not a community or government problem—however, admittedly, they can help—but it has to start with the individual—me—and the family—we. This is such a beautiful, wonderful planet that we live on, and technology has helped us enjoy Nature’s abundance to hights undreamed of in the past! Just imagine how wonderful it would be if all of us took waste seriously.

Waste is not the world’s problem: it’s my problem!

We are trashing our land to grow food no one eats.”

A Sunday Chat with Myself—Garbage

“Human society sustains itself by transforming Nature into garbage.” —Mason Cooley

Last garbage day it was my turn to haul our trash to the curb for pickup. Because we foster cats, we usually have to include a couple of heavy bags along with the regular kitchen garbage because of cat litter. If you’re not familiar with cat litter, it’s main component is clay, and clay is not light! Otherwise, there is nothing really out of the ordinary about our garbage. We recycle where possible, flatten boxes to conserve space, and we have a strict policy of never throwing ‘to the wind,’ so to speak, unwanted plastic bags. Sounds very average—which, of course, we are, so where could there possibly be a problem with garbage in the world today?

Well, individually, we may not see a problem with too much garbage, but multiply that garbage by a few million times, and it’s our environment that has a problem! Where do we put it all? Unless we give this problem some serious thought and stop its growth, our ever expanding garbage dumps will have killed all mammalian and reptilian life forms on earth, and there’ll  be nothing left for us but to make our homes on one huge garbage dump—if we can survive living on such an unhealthy environment!

I wouldn’t even want to guess at how much garbage—that’s physical garbage—that the world produces, but according to The Conference Board of Canada, Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other country on earth, and the Board gave Canada a “C” ranking, and placed it 15th out of 17 on its environmental-efficiency scale.

“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.” —Pope Francis

But, looking at the problem from another point of view, is there any living being, be it plant, reptile, insect or mammal, that doesn’t produce waste? In fact, just the other day I was reading an interesting article where too much hippopotamus poop is killing the fish in some African waters! That hippo poop is waste, not only to themselves, but to the fish occupying the same watery living space!

I have two bird feeders in my backyard that attract dozens of birds to them on a daily basis. Problem is, almost on a monthly basis, I have to get my rake, shovel and vacuum cleaner out and clean up the bird poop that collects on the ground beneath the bird feeders!

Wast! No matter where I look, I can’t seem to avoid having to deal with it!

On the other hand, maybe that’s how our Creator very wisely and efficiently designed His creation. To use a  crude expression, “in one end as food, and out the other end as waste!” Another point; it also seems like one species’ waste is another species’ food. A good example of this is the Dung Beetle. Dung beetles are coprophagous insects, meaning they eat excrement of other organisms.

Also another efficient ‘reuser‘ of Nature’s waste is our common housefly. Flies can’t eat solid waste, only liquid, so they have to saturate their ‘food’ with their saliva, which liquefies it, then they suck it up. Unfortunately, flies can also transmit over 65 different diseases to us and to other animals, so we consider them as a pest.

“A food waste reduction hierarchy-feeding people first, then animals, then recycling, then composting-serves to show how productive use can be made of much of the excess food that is currently contributing to leachate and methane formation in landfills.” —Carol Browner

Although we’re latecomers to the world’s  reuse/recycle practice, we are making some impressive strides in the right direction. We hear on the evening news how terribly we’re polluting our planet, but the news fails to report the many industries that recycling has created to manage our waste, and the giant steps forward in reducing our waste footprint. China, of course, was the world’s main importer of recyclables from us, but since they’ve tightened their rules as to what they’ll accept, more emphasis is now placed on individual countries like Canada, who used to ship to China, and now have to deal with their own waste.

According to ReportLinker, “The Bureau of International Recycling estimates that the recycling sector employs more than 1.5 million people in the processing of million tons of commodities, with industry revenue topping in excess of $200 billion every year.” That’s impressive! And it also shows that we can be quite ingenious in managing our waste, so looks like, contrary to doom and gloom news reports, we’ll survive for another millennium or two—or three, or ten, or maybe as long as our earth can sustain itself and us.

“Without a doubt, the most ingenious plan I could ever hope to devise would be to trade my plans for God’s.”  —Craig D. Lounsbrough