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Archive for January, 2010

Dumpster Diving: a way to tackle food waste?

Dumpster Diving: a way to tackle food waste?

Image from the Mother Nature Network.

With the number of restaurants, groceries and food shops in London, I guess it’s no secret the city generates a lot of food waste.

Restaurants and groceries and food shops regularly clear their shelves of food and ingredients that are past their prime, but have not necessarily gone bad. Their clients wants the freshest item. I tend to always get the item on the shelf with the longest expiration date, because I don’t want food going off so soon or risking that the food has gone off before the date on the label.

But would you believe that London food waste emits more CO2 than whole of Estonia?

Can we help tackle the problem? Here’s a few things we thought of:

Shop for ingredients you’ll use up on the day. You can save on money and save the food from being thrown away. Groceries usually have a section where there will be food items with marked down prices because they have reached their sell by dates. Vegetable and fruit markets also mark down their prices at the end of the day. (A bit harder than it sounds for those who don’t live near a grocery. Or buying ingredients that comes in packs.)

More on grocery shopping. Consciously get the “ugly” fruits and vegetables – that banana that curved too much, the misshapen carrots. Don’t worry, they would taste the same.

Don’t be shy. Ask for doggy bags. If you can’t finish it, take it home. Restaurants would be more than willing to do this. Chefs would be happy to know that you did not finish your meal because you’re full and not because you don’t like it.

If you’re a food shop owner, time to do something. Out of ideas? here’s something to read – Channel4 asks a few restaurants on what they do with food waste

  • Wahaca uses a company called Aardvark who makes compost from their food waste.
  • Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café checks their bins daily to see what is being thrown away. This way, chefs are accountable for what they throw away.
  • Leon are in a trial to get their kitchen waste composted. They want to get all their packaging compostable but don’t believe that we should be making plastic from food stuff when food security is a growing issue.
  • Pret gives leftover food to the homeless.
  • McDonald’s cooking oil are collected and recycled into bio-oil which powers their delivery fleet.

I don’t really have a clue on how food shops deal with their staff and food wastes. Or the real story behind Whole Foods and Mr. Reese. Rules are rules, but really, fire an employee for eating a sandwich that was to be thrown away? Don’t worry, he challenged the dismissal and won.

And save the best and most extreme for last – would you “dive”? Dumpster diving is nothing new. But what seems to be something that only the homeless person would do, people keen on saving food from the landfill and getting a free lunch have started getting in on the act too. Here are the rules if you would consider dumpster diving. And let us know how it goes.

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Burt's Bees

Photo from Re-Nest

Much of the brands mentioned in this article are American brands, though we’re familiar with a few, like Burt’s Bees. But the same question is posed – would you continue to buy your favourite eco product if it was owned by a multinational known to flout environmental issues?

I guess multinational or not, most businesses diversify to survive. There is a growing market for eco products. And big companies want a share of that market. yes, I’d still buy to tell them that this is what I want as a consumer. In a sense, that is what Guui is about – Responsible consumerism. You vote with your money. You buy what is good for you and the environment.

But, be vigilant. Continue to be informed. There isn’t a lot of regulations as to what constitutes a green product. Be careful of greenwashing.

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Happy New Year!

London Fireworks

Here’s to our new year’s wish that more people will see the urgency of saving the planet and its people.

[Let’s just hope you weren’t one of the thousands who chose to dump their garbage (including bottles that injured quite a few people) in the streets of London last night.]

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