Words || Lucy MacCulloch
Food waste is a serious problem, I type while I’m eating pizza.
By this point, I doubt you need me to tell you the extent of the problem. 5 million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill annually. That’s $3800 of groceries per household each year. Throwing out one burger is the equivalent of having a 90-minute shower in terms of water wastage.
There are so many sides to the issue that it’s difficult to know where to begin: do you try to go vegan to reduce the carbon emissions that come with meat and dairy, not to mention the ethical repercussions, but suddenly find yourself faced with double the amount of plastic packaging? Or do you try to buy more organic food, only to be met with the inevitable price hikes?
I’ve been actively trying to reduce my waste for two years now and it still feels like I haven’t even begun to tackle food waste. I don’t even have a compost bin. Like most people, I’ve said I’ll start – I’m going to eat kale! And use leftovers! And bring my own food instead of buying it! And then I sleep in or I forget to go shopping or I just can’t be bothered tbh, so I order pizza from Uber Eats, which not only means I’ve contributed to some shady company but also upped my carbon emissions with the delivery, eaten a lot of animal products, and gotten a cardboard box that probably isn’t recyclable because it’s covered in grease. 4/5 stars though.
Food wastage and all its related components happen for a multitude of reasons other than just my pickiness and laziness. Accessibility is a huge one, not just based on how expensive organic, sustainable options are, but how this naturally impacts location. How many people can go to Paddy’s markets every Saturday, or travel to a bulk store in Neutral Bay? Cooking meals requires not only time, which is difficult to come by when juggling your studies, social life and of course, one or more jobs that you need to actually buy food and pay rent, but also energy. Depression makes liars of us all – how many of us have genuinely meant it when we bought that kale, only to chuck it out a week later because all we got around to eating was some toast and cereal? Youtuber and disability advocate Jessica Kellgren-Fozard further pointed out that seemingly simple steps like cutting vegetables can be difficult for people with arthritis. Of course they’re going to choose the pre-sliced, plastic-packaged carrot instead of the oddly shaped, difficult to peel one.
So yeah, food waste is a challenge and it can be overwhelming. But it is surmountable. Naturally, we have tips:
Do one thing at a time. Like I said, going zero waste and vegan is probably going to be a challenge, unless you really love making your own almond milk.
Do what you can. If you’re allergic to nuts, going vegan is probably going to be difficult for you. Even if you’re not, going vegan is hard and some people really do need meat to not be iron deficient. That’s ok! Try out some soy milk, or maybe incorporate meat-free Monday into your schedule. Not everyone can go to a bulk store, but you can choose food that comes in glass or cardboard packaging instead of plastic. Every little bit counts.
Use your freezer. Running out of time before that mince you got on special expires? Freeze it! Storing food correctly in general will help prevent food waste, but freezing is especially handy when you know you’re not going to be able to use something in time.
Shop with a list. And don’t shop while you’re hungry. We all know how tempting that on-special ice cream is, but you can fight it. I believe in you. It will also help you save money and force you to plan your meals, which will make sure you use up the ingredients you have as well. Just make sure you to go through your cupboard beforehand so you’re not overstocking anything.
Yeah, choose the wonky ones. If you can, especially as stores are increasingly offering discounts for them. You can also join Macquarie’s own Harvest Hub/Box Divvy to get a weekly bag of vegetables that would have gone to landfill anyway, and you’re helping out farmers in the process.
Get the “weird” meat parts. Obviously, you don’t have to be vegan to be an environmentalist, and likewise you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to. But if you can, try to go for the less traditional bits of an animal, like the tongues or feet. They’re often cheaper, and it’s a great way to make sure that the whole animal is being used.
Make leftovers. Not only will this save food from being thrown out if you make too much, but it will also save you money if it becomes your lunch. The food waste gods just want you to mealprep, ok?
Compost. We’re gonna do this one together, ok? There are cute little airtight ones for your kitchen counter that are especially good for flats. Likewise, contact your local council if you’re struggling to find it difficult to find a place for your compost, as they might have a community garden where you can take it. Alternatively, the website and app ShareWaste helps you find locals who will be happy to take your compost for their own garden.
When in doubt, google it. Have no idea what to make with the three most random ass ingredients you found at the back of your cupboard? Wanna know how to stop carrots from going gross once you’ve cut them without spending money on some weirly niche product? Have literally no idea how to compost? Google knows. Ask it. (You can also use Ecosia which plants a tree every time you search and is probably slightly less evil. Hopefully.)
Finally, enjoy your curries. You’re probably going to be making a lot of them.