The size of our bin has decreased by three-quarters in the past few years – each week our small 11-litre bin is about one-third full, down from filling a huge 50-litre bin each week.
If you’re to find sustainability sustainable, slow and steady wins the race, making little changes over time. We started by composting, buying produce from the market and staples in bulk stores, and using more recyclable glass packaging. Imagine the waste we’ve saved from landfill in eight years!
For 35 years I was completely mindless about the fact that when vegetable matter is compacted between other materials it doesn’t break down properly. Not to mention the food it could become for new plants to grow if composted and reused as fertilising gold. Or the financial waste or the waste of life if I tossed out meat or fish. Here are some scary food-waste facts:
• In Australia, 3.28 million tonnes of food is driven to landfill each year – that’s 137 kilograms (302 pounds) each.
• In the United Kingdom, it’s 7.3 million tonnes – 111 kilograms (245 pounds) per person – which makes it a slightly better performer than Australia.
• In the United States, it’s estimated that 27 million tonnes – around 50 per cent of all food produced in the country – is wasted each year.
All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that’s wasted in the rich countries. All of them. Isn’t that shocking?
We move so fast, so disconnected from how our food is grown and produced, that we barely attach a value to it any more. It’s time to slow down, connect, be grateful, waste less and make a global difference from our homes – again! Feeling powerful yet?
Simple ways to send less food to landfill
1. Start a fridge waste list. Write down everything you put in the bin. Make it a family challenge to reduce the number of items on your list each week, and if it’s blank at the end of a week, celebrate.
2. Start a compost bin or a worm farm. Or use your local council’s green bin if they provide one. We store scraps in a metal bowl on one side of our sink, and take it down to the compost bin every couple of days. Scraps from onions, carrots, leeks, herbs and celery go in a produce bag in the freezer to be used for future stock making. Citrus peel is frozen for slow cooking or roasting – it adds great flavour!
3. Don’t toss odds and sods of veg. Boil them with homemade stock and a few spices or herbs, add a splash of cream or coconut cream, and blitz. This kind of ‘Fridge Ends Soup’ tastes delicious and is different each week. And My Buy-nothing-new Curry (get the recipe here) is super-tasty and very inexpensive.
4. Avoid topping and tailing veg. Things like cucumbers and zucchini (courgettes) really don’t need it, and if you have to do it with green beans, don’t cut an inch off each end, but just a tiny few millimetres!
5. Keep animal fats for reusing. Drain into a little jar and save money on butter and olive oil by frying with it the next time you’re cooking.
6. Stop buying ‘two for one’ specials. Especially if you’re a small household and/or it can’t be frozen. Things on special are a food-waste trap.
7. Keep chickens – they love your scraps.
This is an extract from Low Tox Life by Alexx Stuart (Murdoch Books, RRP $35.00) Photography by Rob Palmer.