Manila, Philippines: Our relationship with food has evolved. It is no longer just for sustenance. The atmosphere is charged with excitement between man and chow and this love affair begins at the supermarket. We caress the fresh produce, picking out the best from the haul while thinking of endless possibilities of what can be done with Mother Earth’s spawns. Then we come home and participate in culinary foreplay as we peel, chop and prepare the meal, creating something perfect for devouring. However, this kind of lovemaking doesn’t end in cuddling. What happens with the scraps? We throw it in the trash.
It is sad how we treat the planet. We pluck from our rich land and when we’re done with the goods, we dump it in the trash. It seems that this is the normal way to do things but there is actually a better way to handle food waste.
Food waste is a huge factor in pollution and climate change. Food dumped in the garbage bin ends in landfill which eventually produces methane, a greenhouse gas. The food in landfill produces groundwater pollution and according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation a total of eight percent greenhouse gas emissions a year comes from food loss and food waste.
So how much food do we waste in the Philippines? We waste an amount of rice that is enough to feed 4.3 million Filipino people (the combined population of Laguna and Bohol). Not to mention the huge loss that comes when food is wasted such as money, labor costs, energy costs, disposal costs and other factors connected to biodegradable waste management.
Mitigating environmental impact by combatting food waste and promoting sustainable consumption is exactly why we were invited to the No Place for Waste workshop organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines Sustainable Diner project team. Together with Earth Kitchen Katipunan, Rise Against Hunger Philippines, Solu and Greenspace, they launched No Place for Waste in Quezon City last week.
The project aims to raise awareness of food waste in the Philippines and its associated impacts and help Filipinos become ‘sustainable diners’, ensure that the country can sustain its ability to grow and produce food and build climate-resilient food systems in the Philippines.
The micro-talks were delivered by different speakers. This is what I learned:
There is beauty in ugly produce
There is discrimination in picking out fruits and vegetables at the market. We believe that we have the right to pick out the best produce because that’s what we are paying for. However, it’s important to know that there will always be crops with cosmetic imperfections like misshapen, undersized, bruised, discolored vegetables or fruits and that these flawed vegetables are as nutritious and delicious as the ‘perfect’ ones. Studies have even revealed that fruits and vegetables with minor bruising have more phytochemicals and antioxidants.
A percentage of crops will come out imperfect due to a variety of reasons: the consistency of outside temperature, excessive rain or drought, absorption of nutrients or lack there of, even wind effects. Let’s say that 30 percent of the crops harvested were ‘ugly’ because of weather conditions; it means that when they reach the market and aren’t selected for purchase by consumers, 30 percent of our water, fertilizer, energy and and human labor has gone to waste.
Key takeaways? Let us not associate the quality of food to how they look like. When you go to the market and see a twisted carrot or a freckled fruit, don’t be scared to buy them. These strange looking wonders are also of the same quality as the perfect looking ones. Remember that when we leave the imperfect fruits and vegetables in the stalls, it will only take a few days for them to deteriorate which will, sooner or later, end in landfill.
Rising against hunger
As mentioned earlier, our relationship with food has evolved to more than just sustenance. In the Philippines, this is not entirely true. According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) report, a total of 3.6 million families experience involuntary hunger at least once in three months. There won’t even be a relationship to begin with because these are families that aren’t even fortunate enough to eat on a regular basis.
According to the 2018 Global Hunger Index, Philippines ranks 69th out of 119 countries and its score on hunger levels is serious; a score calculated on four key metrics such as undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality.
According to Flera, an average Filipino wastes around 3.29 kilograms of rice a year which could have gone to feeding someone in need, particularly children who don’t often have the proper diet to develop, function and live. From a social perspective, food wasting is never okay. Aside from that, there is also the environmental impact of food waste and waste of natural resources. Furthermore, the methane produced by food waste in landfill is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. So reducing food waste is the easiest thing we can do to reverse global warming.
Rise Against Hunger Philippines also launched the Good Food Grocer which is the first food bank social franchise in the country. It is a vital platform to help them achieve their ultimate goal, Sustainable Development Goal 2 which is Zero Hunger.
Rise Against Hunger Philippines began in 2014 and have packaged around four million meals since its inception. The first Good Food Grocer branch in Taguig serves the needy and sells all donated food at discounted prices. It also runs a soup kitchen where food is cooked daily as part of their feeding programs and distributes food that cannot be sold. In addition, livelihood programs to prevent food wasting will be implemented.
The organisation’s outreach programs will also focus on feeding pregnant women as well as new mothers and young children, and will still cater to the large number of Filipinos who are experiencing involuntary hunger. These programs aim to end stunting and malnutrition.
Through its work, the organization empowers us to help end hunger and avoid food waste by donating food to its food bank for charitable purposes.
From trash to cash
As we are aware, some people it difficult to segregate recyclables into its proper bins because the work is overwhelming but this app aims to provide cash incentives to help Filipinos to properly dispose trash and manage waste.
The Solu app helps us get rid of our recyclables and rewards us with cash for managing waste correctly. An average family can earn around P350 in a week and much more if they put the work in. All that needs to be done is put separate plastics, glass and biodegradable products in Solu bags, locate a Solu Center and exchange the trash for cash. Solu bags can be acquired in sari sari stores and at Solu Centers. Once the bags are filled, input the information in the Solu App and choose the nearest Solu Center. The Solu Center will scan the QR code in your app so the cash transaction can be done. It’s sustainable waste made easy.
Solu aims to clean up our streets and ‘recycle’ food waste. If cash won’t get us participating in this sustainable approach to waste management, I don’t know what will.
Unwasted and soilful
As noted earlier, tossing food in the garbage is common practice but it shouldn’t be. There is hidden value in food scraps and food composting should be utilised to make the planet healthier through bioremediation.
Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production. Soils also help to combat and adapt to climate change by playing an important role in the carbon cycle. By making the soil healthy through composting, we can assist in reversing global warming.
Composting systems such as Bokashi composting, supports a circular ecosystem. ‘Bokashi’ is Japanese for fermented organic pattern. This composting system uses an anaerobic method that allows scraps to be fermented with inoculated bran. The bran helps in the fermentation process and prevents food from having bad odor (which attracts pests and rodents). When the container is full, leave it tightly shut for two weeks. The liquid you can collect from the fermentation process can be used to clean sinks, toilets and grease traps as it is filled with working microbes. When the fermentation process is complete, the remnants can be dug into a space in your garden or backyard. Leave it be for a month after which it will be ready for gardening. If in any case you don’t have access to soil after the fermentation process, send the compost to Green Space where you can exchange buckets.
Related Post: 5 Simple Tips To Create A Hassle-Free Zero Waste Kitchen
WWF Philippines’ The Sustainable Diner project was launched in 2017 and will run until 2021 to help change our relationship with food, encourage us to dine sustainably, evolve our relationship to the planet and heal the world.
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- Can We Really Engineer Our Way Out of Climate Change?
- Unpacking Racial and Class Privilege within the Eco Lifestyle Movement
Title image credit: Shutterstock.