On becoming a rubbish pirate
May 15, 2013 § 22 Comments
Sometimes, writing about the issues that I feel passionate about is a difficult thing to do. It’s hard to articulate my emotions, when they bubble up in a tangly, muddled fashion inside my head.
Our global food system is one such issue. I’ll admit I am only at the periphery of understanding, but the more I read, the faster my mind races and the wider my eyes become. And then I find myself pulling at my hair, opening and closing my mouth like an angry goldfish, or sometimes just half singing, half shouting, “fuuuuuck!!” I mean, the things we do in this world constitute madness, and madness is a difficult thing to put into words. But this isn’t meant to be about me and my feelings (oh the feeeeeeliiings!!)– it’s bigger than that, more important than that. And so, instead of a lengthy rant, here are some cold, hard facts*:
> The 40 million tonnes of food wasted every year by US households, retailers and food services would be enough to satisfy the hunger of every malnourished person in the world
> The UK, US and Europe have nearly twice as much food as is required by the nutritional needs of their populations. Up to half the entire food supply is wasted between the farm and the fork. If crops wastefully fed to livestock are included, European countries have more than three times more food than they need, while the US has around four times more food than is needed, and up to three-quarters of the nutritional value is lost before it reaches people’s mouths.
> Between 20 to 60% of fruit and veges in the UK, EU, USA, AUS and NZ are rejected even before they reach the shops – mostly because they do not match the supermarkets’ excessively strict cosmetic standards.
> 8.3 million hectares of land is wasted on meat and dairy products that will never get eaten! That is 7 times the amount of Amazon rainforest destroyed in Brazil in one year, largely for cattle grazing and soy production to export for livestock feed.
> 4600 kilocalories per day of food are harvested for every person on the planet; of these, only around 2000 on average are eaten – more than half of it is lost on the way.
> 10% of rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food that is never eaten.
> The irrigation water used globally to grow food that is wasted would be enough for the domestic needs (at 200 liters per person per day) of 9 billion people – the number expected on the planet by 2050.
> If we planted trees on land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food, this would offset a theoretical maximum of 100% of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
* facts from here
So what can we do about it?? (I can tell you first hand that making the angry gold fish face doesn’t really achieve much). Well, in my flat, we say a polite ‘F.U.’ to the system by going supermarket dumpster diving (or, as I like to think of it, we are ‘rubbish pirates’ – geddit??):
The first night we went dumpster diving, I giggled feverishly and felt like a total badass (because really, that is about as badass as this goody-two shoes, skinny white girl is gonna get 😉 ).
But that was 2 months ago, and since then, it’s become a part of our weekly routine. I don’t feel badass anymore, so much as clued-in – in fact, it seems like the sensible thing to do! (If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend watching this video!).
I know dumpster diving might not be for everyone (although I’d hazard a good guess that a lot of people who’d assume it’s not for them, would actually find it pretty fun… I mean, it’s basically an edgier version of Christmas. Also, free food!! What’s not to like??).
But there are ways to support other people’s efforts to save food, without necessarily jumping into bins yourself: many cities run ‘food rescue’ groups, which are always in need of support in the form of donations and volunteer work. Here are just a few such organizations from around the world (this list is by no means exhaustive, so if your country/area isn’t mentioned, I encourage Google searching!):
Fair Food (Auckland)
Feeding the 5000 (nationwide)
Food Cycle (nationwide)
Food Rescue (nationwide)
City Harvest (New York)
Second Harvest (Toronto)
And then there are always steps you can take in your own home: only buy what you need; treat use-by-dates with scepticism; make sure to compost organic waste; and if you can, buy a pet pig (my favourite option 😉 )!!
If you’re interested in food politics in general, here are some great, informative websites:
Food Tank (USA)
Fair Food International (global)
I hope you’ll join me in fighting (even in the smallest of ways) for a global food revolution!
And now to round off with some pictures: