Title: Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal
Author: Tristram Stuart
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre Keywords: agriculture, conservation, corporate, environmentalism, equality, government, health, malnutrition, policy, poverty, social problems.
Summary: Can you imagine? We live on a planet where people die from starvation and malnutrition every single day . . . but they don’t have to. The wealthy produce and consume more than enough food to ensure everybody’s thriving. In fact, the amount of food we waste as a matter of course could feed all the world’s hungry if we were only more careful about how we use it! Tristram Stuart takes a penetrating look at the ways British supermarkets, food suppliers, restaurants, farms, fisheries, and families all contribute to the problem of waste. Obviously we can’t send our near-spoiling tomatoes to West Africa to alleviate starvation . . . but with foresight, we could stop producing more food than we can consume, liberating land to use for crops that can actually help the global poor to get fed.
Who’ll Love It: If you’ve got a head for facts and figures, it’s fascinating reading. But even those who are less mathematically inclined (self included) will get the vivid picture Stuart paints of the shocking travesty of human wastefulness and the ways we can combat it. For anybody interested in reducing their environmental footprint – or, for that matter, spending less money at the supermarket – the book is full of information that will teach you how to consume more sustainably.
How Can I Make A Difference? A lot of the large-scale wasters in Stuart’s book are corporate: big supermarkets, agri-business, and commercial food producers. But there are ways to save even on the individual level. Even the most frugal of people – and I come from a long line of very frugal people – can learn from Tristram Stuart’s eco-friendly ideas. Nor do you have to go as far as he does to cut back your wasteline. (Stuart describes dumpster-diving for perfectly good food that’s been tossed out by wasteful businesses instead of purchasing his meals.) Some less extreme suggestions for trimming your waste and your budget:
- Write a shopping list while you’re still at home, so you can check for forgotten items in the back of your fridge, cupboard, and freezer.
- Don’t shop hungry! People who buy groceries after having eaten are less likely to impulse-buy unnecessary items.
- Plan your menus so you can use up leftover cooking materials.
- Stick to your list: don’t be seduced by marketing schemes trying to get you to buy more.
Get a big freezer. It’s an economical way to make it possible to buy bulk meats or produce near the end of its shelf life and save it until you’ll be able to eat it. You can also freeze bread to keep it from going stale.
- Visit farmers’ markets, where you can buy knobbly-looking produce that often gets rejected by fussy supermarkets.
- Do your homework, and refuse to buy food from companies that use unsustainable practices . . . just like when people began avoiding tuna that wasn’t dolphin-friendly or started favouring brands of chips that cut out trans fats. Now it’s a marketing feature!
- Eat the crusts off your bread. Alternatively, turn them into breadsticks, bread crumbs, and croutons. Whatever you do, don’t just toss them in the trash!
- Skip the step in the recipe that tells you to peel potatoes, carrots, parsnips, apples, or pears. It’s often not necessary and it stretches your food purchase – you paid for that apple peel!
- Learn more about what best-before dates really denote. Food that’s “expired” usually isn’t. It may have passed its absolute freshest point, but it’s a very long way from being inedible.
- Cut back on your meat consumption, and consider using parts of the animal considered unconventional in the Western world. There are some great recipes available if you’re willing to look!
- Teach children about where their food comes from (that’s the land and the people who grow it, not the supermarket shelves) so they learn to respect it as a product of somebody else’s hard work, not an inexhaustible and free resource that they can waste with impunity.
- Don’t force guilt on people for failing to overeat: that’s a waste, too. Instead, learn (and help others learn) to take no more than what you’ll eat, finish what’s on your plate, and take what’s left over to work or school as a hot lunch instead of fixing a sandwich. Or serve it as leftovers in place of the next night’s cooking.