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[00:00:08.430] – Rob Brodnick
Welcome to the Positive Turbulence podcast stories from the periphery. Here we journey to the edge to talk to tubulators about their experiences creating positive change. Hi, I’m Rob Brodnick your co-host.
Hands up if you make an effort to reduce, reuse or recycle your trash. I can’t see you, but I’m guessing that you, our enlightened listeners, are trying to do your best and most to make the effort. I know that a lot of you are also composting and making that extra effort with your organic waste. But when was the last time you stopped to think about the waste food coming out of your kitchen?
[00:00:41.580] – Karyn Zuidinga
Hi, I’m Karyn Zuidinga, your co-host. You know what, Rob? That’s true. I’m pretty green in the bigger scheme of things. I know you are, too, but my attention in terms of climate change was focused on things like driving and flying less. And while I try to eat locally and seasonally, I admit I had not given much thought to the bananas or leftovers I put in the compost. If you’re at all like me, our guests in this episode, Lilly Da Gama, the Food Waste Doctor, and Chesta Tiwari, a sustainability and food packaging expert,will blow your fridge doors off. The two of them are a phenomenal storehouse of both facts and wisdom about food waste. They will help you understand why you should care about food waste and provide some great tips on how to take action. Prepare for your kitchen to get some positive turbulence! But before we start rearranging our fridges and rethinking our shopping list, Rob’s going to bring us a word from this episode’s sponsors.
[00:01:29.730] – Sponsor Message
Did you know that Crown Cork is the world’s leading manufacturer of innovative metal packaging to enhance brands and engage consumers as metal is infinitely recyclable? It’s the most sustainable packaging material. Visit CrownCork.com to learn more. Also, we’d like to thank Mack Avenue Music Group as a contributing sponsor. To hear our theme song, The very vool Late Night Sun Rise and other great music, visit MackAvenue.com.
[00:02:01.250] – Karyn Zuidinga
Why do I care about food waste? You know, just the person on the street. What is so important about food waste that I should change what I’m doing? Pay attention now to learn about the issue? Why do I care?
[00:02:13.940] – Chesta Tiwari
How long have you got? I think people really underestimate the impact of food waste and just how large it is. So, for example, if you talk about just the environmental impacts of food waste and it being, I think, the figure is something like six times the impact of the aviation industry globally. That’s the impact of food waste. That’s huge. And that really gets to people because like everyone knows, the aviation industry is a big deal. We should be flying less. And yet food waste not really on that spectrum. And then when you realize the impact globally is six times this industry that we recognize to be very damaging environmentally, it makes people sit up and go , oh, OK, wait, that’s that’s what we do.
[00:02:58.720] – Karyn Zuidinga
Lily, t ell me how that is. I don’t understand. So why is that?
[00:03:03.070] – Lilly Da Gama
There’s a couple of different reasons. When we think about the environmental impacts as food waste, we have to take into account the environmental impacts of the production of the food as well. Because we’re wasting all of that at the same time, it’s wasting the food. So we’ve got all this land being used to grow food that’s going to be thrown away or to grow crops that are going to be fed to animals that will be turned into meat, that will be thrown away, to huge amounts of resources going into it. And we know that one third of all food produced is wasted. So if we think about the amount going into that, it’s a huge amount. And then on top of that, people tend to assume that because food is biodegradable, it doesn’t have an environmental impact as it biodegrades. The term biodegradeability is used as a good thing, but as it’s breaking down, it’s emitting loads and loads of greenhouse gases. The biggest one is methane. And methane we know is over 26 times more potent in global warming than carbon dioxide. So it’s having a huge impact on global warming just when it’s in the bin. And then you got to think about everything that came before that as well.
[00:04:09.450] – Karyn Zuidinga
Wow. Okay. I just like whoa. So I’m still focused on what Chesta was saying. Six times bigger… and the whole concept that we have around biodegradeability. You know, Iagree. We see something on the on the package or, you know, Oh, this is biodegradable. It’s okay.
[00:04:27.660] – Lilly Da Gama
It’s quite a commonly assumed that being biodegradable means good for the planet.
[00:04:36.380] – Karyn Zuidinga
Where do you begin with food waste? Chesta? Lilly? Where do you begin? It’s in my kitchen. I’m just making dinner. You know what I mean? Like, it’s not something that I’m on the streets marching about. Where do you begin with something that small and that big at the same time?
[00:05:00.170] – Chesta Tiwari
One of the biggest things is that we have a very damaging food system. And its been moving towards becoming even more damaging environmentally. So, for example, was talking about the methane production that we didn’t even touch on, things like the water, the amount of water that goes into producing food that we don’t eat. And I think something like a quarter of all the water that goes into growing food is basically used to grow food that we don’t eat. Huge, huge amounts of water, the degradation of the land, the future and ability to produce food from the land that we’re using to produce food that we don’t eat. Meat that we can’t eat is huge and the systems in place that really enable that. So, for example, supermarkets. And you see that being tackled now and at least in Europe. So you see wonky veg, wonky fruit and veg being put out and sold at slightly reduced cost. But we have these guidelines. What we think an apple lookslike. What we think a carrot looks like. All these like perfect pictures of fruit and vegetables. And we’re so far removed from growing food, from farms, from growing our own produce that we don’t even recognize carrots come in all these crazy shapes and forms. The packaging that our food comes in when it’s packaged and sent around the world is made for carrots that look like this. And the carrots that are being grown don’t always look like that. So there’s already, you know, those carrots don’t fit in the packaging so they don’t get sold. Or they didn’t get bought. That’s one big thing. So often the onus of the food waste gets pushed on to the consumer. You see figures that show the majority of the food waste occurs within the household. But often it’s actually the supermarket that’s really making it tricky for the consumer. So you also see things like, you know, buy one, get one free, or buy three for the price of two. All those things that encourage consumers to buy more produce and then eventually perhaps waste in their homes. I mean, is that really the fault of the consumer or is that the fault of the supermarket? So I think the powers of this mass market, this global food system really is one big thing to look at tackling. And the consumer in their home, how much power do they really have? Well. Less. But there’s also lots of reconnecting with land and how we used to use food and what parts of vegetables we understand to be edible and what kind of things we understand to be able to cook with the foods that we have, you know, how to use leftovers, stigma around these leftovers, you know, all these things, the things that we can address.
[00:07:31.840] – Rob Brodnick
You talk about systems upon systems. Things have evolved over time. No one really has control or authority over all of the systems. We have what’s in front of us and we can do things about it. And so there’s a lot of, I think, environmental issues with the industrialization that occurred between the 1930s through the 50s into the 60s. We were building things to try to get efficiencies out of it, to try to use science as this magic for the future. I have a theory that partially because we were not informed, but partially because we had our eyes perhaps on the wrong outcomes. We built a lot of these systems wrong and now they’re almost out of anyone’s control to fix it. And this really worries me. It really bothers me. Talk about turbulence. You know, we’re living in a world of post-industrial, continual whitewater, and we’re here having conversations like this about how do we deal with food waste. I’m a little bit taken aback at how to even approach some of the problems. So I’m interested to hear a little bit from from both of you. How did we evolve to this point? How did the systems get built? So they’re producing very inefficient and wasteful and destructive and toxic outcomes. How do we coach the next system-builders to think a little better about what they’re doing and the results of this? And then I have my second question, I’m going to ask a little bit later, but that’s how do we unravel some of the systems that we built when they seem ominous. So back to the beginning. How do we get here? How do we get to this?
[00:09:01.090] – Lilly Da Gama
I think it’s really interesting that you ask that and and also what Chesta was saying as well. I think this is a really interesting point because where Chesta kind of went in there with the systems issues to do with retailers and everything. My initial starting point when it comes to food waste would be what Chesta pointed it out in terms of starting with the consumer. Because in developed countries, that’s where most food waste occurs. In the U.K. it’s 7.3 million tons of food waste. And what we consume at home, which is round about 75 percent of the food waste, occurring post farm. It kind of, I think, emphasizes quite nicely that the way Chesta goes okay, I think the first place we need to start is putting the onus on businesses and getting them to react differently. And I’m going, OK. But I think we should focus on consumers. I think that’s how we start tackling systems. We have people who see the problem from various different perspectives and see the issues within those different sections of the system and start trying to address them individually because one person can change the whole system. But just because the system is incredibly flawed right now, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be developed beyond that. So in terms of food waste in the consumer home, one of the things that I work quite actively to try and do is to change the culture of food. How we see it and how we treat it in the home, because I think we’ve developed to a point now where our culture in developed countries is to see food as plentiful and access is good. And if we can throw things in the bin, it’s great because it means we have loads and we don’t have to worry. And that mindset is just so harmful in so many different ways. And I think that we need to start breaking that culture down again, because we weren’t always like this. I talked to somebody once who had the opinion that this all started kind of post WWII when we were coming off of rations. Families who had enough food to waste were seen as rich and lucky and plentiful. And it’s just developed bit by bit. From oh, having a little bit too much is a good thing, to we’ve just kind of over generations lost track of how much we are wasting and how bad it is.
[00:11:18.620] – Karyn Zuidinga
Can you ever get to a point, though, where there is no food waste in your kitchen? To me, it feels like sort of an inevitability. If you’re using fresh carrots, you’re going to chop some stuff, you’re gonna throw that in the compost bin. How do you get to the point where there’s much less at least or maybe, no waste. The mindset perhaps has even gone beyond this idea that it suggests, wealth. To me, it’s just normal. It’s just, oh, we’re just throwing stuff away, it’s not, you know what I mean? Like it’s not I say I’m rich, I can throw stuff away. I’m not even conscious of it.
[00:11:50.350] – Lilly Da Gama
Sorry. That’s what I mean when I say that the culture has gone from kind of post WWII where it’s oh look, we have lots. That means we’re rich and plentiful to it’s just become so ingrained we don’t even see it as a thing anymore. So you’re you’re completely right. People just do throw away food without thinking, without even registering because, oh, there’s mold on that bread I’m going to throw out. What else are you going to do?
[00:12:10.330] – Chesta Tiwari
Another thing, for carrots, a lot of people don’t know you can eat the greens. And this is what I was saying about, you know, being far removed from the farm, from growing our own food and not knowing what we can and can’t eat in vegetables. Which is definitely part of this re-education that Lilly is talking about. So those greens are great. They’re actually really nutritious. You can use them as you would spinach. They wilt really nicely. That’s something that often people won’t use. And to the point that actually supermarkets won’t sell you carrots with stalks. You might get them in the organic section, but you’re not going to get them in your very packaged non-organic carrots. Right? So you don’t even get the ability to use the stalks. You might go to a farmer’s market and see them and then be able to use them. So how we’re being sold our food means that we can’t use all the food that we could. But also how we understand our relationship with food has changed so much and we’ve lost so much.
[00:13:07.260] – Karyn Zuidinga
You brought up the packaging that the food comes in too. And that’s another really important, I presume, that’s another really important part of this conversation. Right? So that five pound bag of carrots in its plastic, I couldn’t buy that without plastic unless I went way out of my way, drove the distance, you know, et cetera, et cetera, to farmer’s market. I couldn’t get the carrots unless they’re in a big plastic bag. Is that not part of this whole thread?Well, the packaging is an interesting part. There has been some really good research done by Wrap in the U.K. that looks at relationship between packaging and food waste. To what extent does packaging reduce food waste and what extent is it superfluous, actually, an environmental, sort of negative? There are some items like cucumber where the packaging will double the shelf life. So if you buy a cucumber that’s come from a garden, from an allotment or farm directly it will last for a very long time. If you buy a cucumber that’s not wrapped in plastic it will last for seven days. If you buy a cucumber that’s been wrapped in plastic, okay yeah, you’ve got this layer of plastic, but your cucumber will last for 14 days. Actually, its better to have the cucumber wrapped in plastic than to have the cucumber without plastic. However, that’s one of the few sort of fruit and vegetables where that’s the case. There is innovative packaging being made. So for example, bananas release ethene, and can make other fruit and vegetables go bad quicker. And that’s why some advice is to store your bananas away from fruit and vegetables — and I don’t know how many times I get home and my housemates put everything in the same fruit bowl and I’m like, NO keep them away! They’re not friends. I write little notes on the bananas, don’t put them near apples because they make the fruit go bad quicker. But who knows that now? People don’t know. Looking at the packaging that your fruit is coming in or your vegetables are coming in, can sometimes help you reduce the amount of food waste. Because there will often be instructions on there of how to store it. Well, hopefully those are the kind of things that we should be relearning and passing on to future generations. At the moment, it feels like it’s lost for a lot of people and packaging does give you that information. Obviously, like if your canning your produce, for example, then you can really reduce the amount of food waste possible as well. So one great example we have from the states for some research sponsored, by the University of Delaware is that peaches, for example. So on average, fresh peaches, you might waste almost 40%. I think is about 40% of peaches you’ll waste. Peaches are squishy. Soft fruit doesn’t last very long. So it gets squashed in your bag, it gets home, it get squashed by something else in your fruit bowl gone. But in a can, you only waste about 9% or 10%. So you’re really reducing the amount of peaches that have been lost. That’s the consumer end of the spectrum. So we’re looking at what does the consumer do? How does the consumer interact with that produce? So packaging can be used to help reduce food waste. It’s not necessarily the enemy. Lilly’s got some extra things to add on that because of her research.
[00:15:58.330] – Lilly Da Gama
So that was how Chesta and I met. when I was studying for my Ph.D. looking at how organizations can better develop packaging to reduce consumer food waste. I looked at it from the environmental perspective, but also from the functional perspective. So how can we develop packaging more functionally so it can help target all these different causes of food waste within the consumer? So it was different things, like I think, on average, 8% of some products remain in their packaging. When a consumer thinks that there are empty. So things like a sauce packet once they’ve been emptied, there’s still 8% of the product. So that adds up over time and results in a lot of food waste. So how can we develop packaging to make it better in that way? But there’s been a ton of research that looks at this relationship between food and packaging waste. And it’s just I think it’s something that needs to be shouted about more right now because in the midst of this huge movement to reduce single use plastics, which don’t get me wrong, it’s very important. It’s just very important that we don’t lump all plastic under the same kind of umbrella. There was research recently by the Food Waste Co-operative Research Centre in Australia or the Food Waste CRC, and they looked at plastic packaging in relation to fruits and vegetables and how it extends shelf life and how that might help reduce food waste once it reaches the consumers. And it just found that across the board with all these different types of fruits, it was giving them a longer shelf life, giving people more time to use them. Which is so important in our modern lifestyles when we don’t have time to shop every day or every other day. We don’t have as many stay at home spouses who shop daily and cook fresh every day. We need things that last in our fridge for probably at least four or five days, if not a week. And packaging is offering us that. It’s giving us the ability to maintain lifestyles we have now where we work more, and we go to the gym more, and we have all these different amazing things going on in our lives and, we’re not adding to our waste by doing them.
[00:18:14.680] – Rob Brodnick
You know, it makes me think we want to create wholesale change within our systems. We have these touch points and we mentioned a few here. One is the marketplace, the other is the consumer. The other is how our large corporations make choices and where they put their priorities at the consumer level. I you know, I think the first step and you both mentioned is consciousness. We need to raise consciousness so people are even aware there is a problem. But then it comes down to these these habits. Right? These little things that we do without thinking. And it’s, you know, the potato bag, we get the bag potatoes and we just automatically pick up the potato peeler and we start to peel. There’s somewhere there’s a cue that says potato potato peeler. We’re moving onto mashed, squashed, or fried, or whatever. Whatever the outcome is. And then we have to make a choice to be conscious, and stop, and just not take the potato peeler. Right? Because we’re cutting off 20% of our our nutritional value and 10% of the product goes with it. That’s the real challenge, is how do we create broad consciousness around this and then to have people focus on their habits and those cues. Because I think everyone would like to make the right choice, but they’re not practiced in changing their habits and behaviors. It’s a tough challenge. I don’t know how to get at it. Any thoughts?
[00:19:27.970] – Lilly Da Gama
One of the things I try to do with The Food Waste Doctor on my social media and my Web site is I use the EAST Framework. So it’s about behavioral change and it’s about making it Easy, Accessible, Sociable and Timely. I try and keep all the recipes that I post to below 20 minutes. So people can make this stuff realistically. Because I think so many different food and recipe things going on on social media. Well, look how fancy and incredible this is. And it’s going to take you seven hours and you need all the professional grade equipment. And by the way, it’s not even going to taste that good when you’re done, but it looks really great. So, yeah. Yeah, I try and keep my recipes simple and easy to do and accessible. I am doing talks and workshops and I’m getting all this stuff out there as much as possible to as many people as possible to try and really get people changing these small behaviors which just add up to so much food waste.
[00:20:27.100] – Sponsor Message
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[00:20:52.020] – Rob Brodnick
You know, I’ve been reading more and more recently over the let’s say the last year that different dietary choices have impacts on planetary sustainability. In fact, I think just last week or so there was an article that came out. It basically the hypothesis was that the healthiest diets are the ones that are best for the planet. And so I’d like to hear, you two are the experts here, weigh in on that thinking. Is there a sort of an ultimate diet that feeds the people, keeps them healthy and is the lightest touch on our ecosystems?
[00:21:23.300] – Lilly Da Gama
One of the things Chesta and I first bonded over when we met is that we are both vegan. It’s an interesting one for me because I’ve never talked to you about this Chesta. I’m not sure how you’ll respond to it. I have a generally unpopular view among vegans, and that is that whilst I think currently it is the most environmental diet that you can have, I think if the entire world went vegan it wouldn’t be. Because there are some studies looking into land that can only be used for grazing animals and and a few different other aspects in terms of the role that animal agriculture plays on biodiversity and different aspects like that. Right now, the reason I’m vegan and will continue to be is because I think that the planet as a whole right now doesn’t treat meat the way that it should be nutritionally or environmentally. And that’s as a treat. As something every now and then, not something that all everybody needs two to three times a day, Because it’s not it’s not something that we need to eat three times a day. Environmentally, the amount of meat that we are producing, even if we were eating all of it, is unsustainable. But the fact that we’re producing a third more than we need to, and then throwing it it away is just unconscionable. My being vegan is my way of trying to kind of balance the scales until hopefully a more global view is taken. We can we can do more sustainably and eat more sustainably by cutting back on the amount of meat we do eat. But that being said, we still need to be conscious of the impacts that different plants play in terms of environmental impacts as well. There was a whole debate a while ago about whether vegans should even be eating avocados because, I think, it was the amount of water consumption that goes into producing an avocado.
[00:23:12.780] – Chesta Tiwari
I’ve been vegan for eight years. Seeing how vegan options available have developed has been super interesting. And I think a lot of people who’ve been vegan for a long time have had either animal or environmental motivations. But increasingly, as the diet becomes more popular, you see some of the some of those, maybe those motivations, not taken into account. So one of my biggest gripes, which is why I dove in with the avocado is like smashed avocado on toast being this hipster phenomenon. And it’s the only vegan option if you’re having breakfast out. Avocado. I’ve never seen the avocado growing in this country. I never will because I’ll be something terrible has happened. I don’t want to be eating avocados that don’t grow here. And so when we’re talking about, you know, the ideal diet for me, we really also have to think about local food production and what we can easily produce locally. Or some crops that don’t need big inputs in terms of fertilizers. I mean, if you were even using them, for example, crops that would grow easily in this country without needing a lot of those. The kind of crops focusing on and maybe innovating around those crops to produce things that are feeding into that vegan diet. But smashed avocado on toast is just, well, my biggest…
[00:24:33.500] – Rob Brodnick
Twenty five dollars in San Francisco!
[00:24:36.980] – Chesta Tiwari
And also the second point to that. If we’re talking about intersectionality, we’re putting vegan diets, that are better for the planet, out of people’s price points. Why are we saying that environmental diets are unaffordable? That is not how it should be. The price of producing avocados, is no way near to what is the price of producing meat. Yet often you’ll see that the vegan option on the menu or vegetarian options sometimes is subsidizing the meat option on the menu.
[00:25:03.770] – Lilly Da Gama
That I can’t wrap my head around.
Why is the more environmentally friendly option subsidizing the less environmentally friendly option? Because we’ve we’re so used to having meat as part of our diet. But if it was unaffordable to have meat, it would be inconceivable. And I do understand, you know, there’s an element of why should it only be rich people who can eat meat? But I do think there is something to say about respect. Lilly was saying, you know, meat is a treat if you’re going to have meat and maybe also, you know, bananas are a treat. So bannas for example, they are the most consumed fruit in the UK. You want to talk about food waste? We waste, I think, every single day we throw away about 1.6 million bananas in the UK. That’s huge amounts of bananas and…
[00:25:51.290] – Karyn Zuidinga
Just stop. What??!!
[00:25:52.860] – Chesta Tiwari
It is the thing we you consume the most and is a thing we waste the most, but again, it’s something we don’t produce here. So we are importing all of this produce across the world, often not paying people a full wage for that. And then we have the gall that much away? And I just think, you know, we really need to be thinking more about that. Globalization has really given us this incredible choice of produce and food to eat. And supermarkets have exacerbated that. You know we expect to go into supermarket and be able to buy oranges in May. And what else? Like, you know, asparagus, like now, in October. Where is this stuff coming from? We don’t have that connection with seasonality and that exacerbates food waste importing produce from the other side of the world to eat here. It means there’s this extra period in which this fruit is expected to last for. And it’s not just that it increases the packaging. It also increases the food waste. And do we really need asparagus in October? Is it nice to have as a treat in spring? So that’s how our system works. I think you guys have a slightly different…
[00:26:57.470] – Rob Brodnick
I’m hearing two things out of what you’re saying. One is seasonality and the other is how local something is. And you know, if you have to have that perfect peach in March, it’s coming from the southern hemisphere. If you’re in the northern hemisphere. It’s just there’s no way you’re going to be able to store and have that be. But our marketplaces, they need to provide everything to everyone all the time from all over the world. And it’s sort of the standard that we’ve created. We’ve got to break that standard. We’ve got to. We’ve got to focus a little more on when is it the right time. You know, there’s certain fruits, vegetables and other things that are perfect at certain times of the year and the rest of the year do without or if it’s coming for more than a hundred miles away, think twice
[00:27:45.160] – Lilly Da Gama
Just really over complicate it Rob, I’ll add in one more aspect for your consideration. There’s also something that we need to consider with this, and that is nutrition, which is getting back to the whole argument of why don’t we treat food as what it is there for. Food is there to be respected because it nourishes our bodies. And we’ve completely lost sight of that. There’s a couple of different points where nutrition and kind of touches on what we’ve been talking about. Firstly, Chesta, you’re completely right. Why is it so expensive to get the more nourishing option of plenty of different fruits and vegetables in restaurants? That’s ridiculous to me. But also intensive local and seasonal foods, there’s been some research, which looks at the fact that if you do limit yourself to local seasonal foods, then you are going to be missing out on some nutrients that we do need. So just to really overcomplicate it, we also have to take into account that. Which is one of the reasons that I think canned food as Chesta was saying is such a great option because we’ve got the option of these foods, out of season which are still going to be locked in with their nutrients.
[00:29:00.740] – Chesta Tiwari
Yeah, there’s some great research about how much cans lock in nutrients. And I think it’s something that really gets overlooked. The average consumer thinks that a can product is full of salt, preservatives and sugar. And it may be full of sugar. It may have higher salt. But if it’s a processed product usually there is very little preservative in that because the process that’s involved in the canning really means you don’t need to add that preservative. On the level of energy usage, the mass cooking of canning produce is much quicker than us cooking fruit individually home. So we’re thinking about things like beans and lentils, cooking at home, beans and lentils or cooking in a mass industrial scale beans and lentils are much more efficient. And then we have those products out of season. For me, one of the biggest things is tomatoes. I only ever eat tomatoes when they’re in season. And the whole rest of the year I use tinned tomatoes. And they taste so much better. Why would I buy a tomato that comes from the other side of the world and doesn’t taste good? And then try to make sauce of it rather than using a canned tomato, that it was basically picked and canned within maybe four hours. I think that’s what the average is. And then it’s come to my door. And actually lycopene, which is one of the nutrients that’s often touted as cancer fighting and something really great that we get specifically in good quantities from tomatoes. Actually, it’s been proven to increase when its canned. So you will get a little bit of some nutrients like lycopene, maybe, but in small quantities. But you get more lycopene [from the canned product]. It not only preserves, it can also sometimes, boost the nutritional value of produce for some some nutrients. And it’s really overlooked. I think the nutritional value of canned food.
[00:30:40.310] – Karyn Zuidinga
For me, what just happened in this conversation, is that food got even more complicated. It’s not that easy right now to always be conscious about what you’re eating. And now I have to think about the waste. Now I have to think about the whole chain of production. Is it local? How do you make it simpler for consumers to understand? Because it is huge and complex.
[00:31:02.780] – Lilly Da Gama
Well, this is a huge part of what I do now. So aside from working as a food waste consultant, my role is as the Food Waste Doctor on social media is to take all these very, very complicated and interrelated issues. Look at academic research on all of them and then try and break it down into something that’s understandable to everyone. Because nobody, apart from me, wants to troll through 50 academic articles to understand how all these things interplay. There’s a lot of talk right now, especially around climate change and everything and Greta Thunberg and listen to scientists. That’s what we should be building our policies on. That’s what we should be building our behaviors on. Listening to what the science is telling us. That is really hard when you’re not used to, and don’t particularly want to read academic research, because really who does?
[00:31:51.410] – Karyn Zuidinga
Well in the science isn’t always [clear]. Once upon a time the science was like, oh, canned food is bad. And now, well, maybe it’s not as bad as all that.
[00:31:58.420] – Lilly Da Gama
It’s really complicated. And we’re developing a new understanding all the time, which is why it’s important to keep an updated perspective on these things, because what we’re saying now might be wrong in ten years. I think that’s such a huge part of it. We need to stop feeling ashamed and embarrassed to say, oh, I was wrong. When scientists and policymakers make these decisions and then feel cornered by them and can’t go back on them and can’t say actually better if we could do this. That’s when we end up with all kinds of issues that could be so much more done for people, as if we were able to just say actually our original understanding wasn’t accurate. And we need to redevelop that. We need to redevelop our policy. So right now there’s huge movements to remove all plastic packaging. If we do that, we are inarguably going to see a rise in food waste, which will have its own environmental impact. And we’re seeing governments start to support this anti-plastic movement. They’re building themselves into a corner where within the next few years it’s going to be people rising up against food waste. Because we know, listen to the stats that Chesta gave us at the beginning. It is a huge issue. It is one of the biggest environmental challenges that we need to be rising up against. And people are going to realize that soon. And we’re gonna be in a position where people feel incapable of backing up, turning around and going, OK. We didn’t understand. We do now. Let’s do more to reduce food waste, which in some cases means adding packaging back in.
[00:33:34.270] – Chesta Tiwari
I think definitely that’s that’s really true. For me part of it’s around trying to reach people on the street. Really getting out there to do that. So a lot of what I do in my spare time involves like food waste and food surplus community and grassroots projects. And we do something called a disco soup where we basically just have a huge free feast in the middle of the city. And when you serve free food to people, they start to ask questions like, why is this for free? Where does this come from? What are you doing? Are you part of a church? And we say, “No. Everything you see here and everything we’ve cooked up is made from things that otherwise weren’t going to get eaten.” And then they ask why? Because this food is delicious. Why? Why do I get to eat this food and why was it not going to get eaten before? And then you can start to delve into it. So like really bringing these messages to the people on the streets. You might not be reading what’s going on online, who might be tapped into these networks, but you are just walking past. Who are coming out of the big shopping center who haven’t thought about where their food comes from, or the impact of it. I mean, that’s one you know, one of the ways we need to be tackling this is to get the awareness into those people. Our relationship with dates as well. You know, that’s something that’s really come in with packaging. Packaging can inform us. But some of the legislation that’s been changed, at least in Europe, is fighting back on use-by dates and best-before dates and making sure that they are apt for the product. So the moment in the UK and there’s a lot of work being done around milk use-by dates and those often being really very conservative. Especially yogurt, far more conservative than they need to be. And they’re talking about how much milk waste they can reduce by pushing back some of those dates, making sure it’s still safe for consumers. But also taking into account the amount of food waste that’s going to be reduced. So, I think, currently — crazy figures — we throw away in the UK, and I’m sorry this is so UK centric, but 100 million pints of milk. A hundred million pints of milk. It sounds like it’s a made up figure.
[00:35:33.700] – Karyn Zuidinga
Well, these numbers, I’m sure, apply globally. I’m sure at least in the States, Canada. Across Europe, I’m certain these numbers must be at least on par. Close, maybe a little higher, a little lower.
[00:35:47.240] – Chesta Tiwari
In terms of percentages, it’s likely to be similar. And when we look at in Europe and the States, if all the free that was being wasted wasn’t wasted, we could feed everyone who’s hungry in the world. So it’s really about how much energy and resources going in to produce food that we’re not eating. And what that could be doing globally. I mean obviously logistically you might not have access to it all, but in theory, we’re producing enough food, even though we’re often told we don’t have enough food. We are having a huge population growth and we will have to produce more food. But how we use that food is really key.
[00:36:16.730] – Lilly Da Gama
That is such a huge thing for me as well. I think you’ve hit on such a point there. The relationship between food waste and food insecurity. We know that currently there is still one in nine people in the world lives in starvation, not even just hunger, starvation. On the border of death because they don’t have access to food. And at the same time, we’re throwing out instead of the food that we produce. It’s just mind boggling to me.
[00:36:45.830] – Rob Brodnick
Our distribution systems are not adequately balanced and we’re probably growing and producing. I don’t know you’re the experts here, but probably four to five times the amount of food that’s actually necessary to feed the planet. We’ve just need different choices.
[00:36:59.150] – Lilly Da Gama
Yeah. And when we go back to what Chesta was saying earlier about the fact we’re importing all this food from wherever in the world because we don’t grow bananas in the U.K. at this time of year, and we don’t ever grow avocados, and all these different things. You’ve got to ask, where’s this food coming from and who is not eating it right now if I’m throwing it in the bin? Because there’s loads of different things to look at. This wasn’t an academic article, this was just a news piece. But I was looking at the relationship between — I don’t know about in the US, but in the UK. quinoa has become quite a big thing — it is a staple diet in developing countries and now we’re buying it al up. Suddenly their access to it is minimal. How much of that we throwing away when we’re buying it up out of their hands?
[00:37:43.370] – Karyn Zuidinga
We talked about cooking classes. We talked about education. Is there something you want to leave our listeners with? Do this today when you get home. This is where you begin. Because it’s such a big problem.
[00:37:54.890] – Lilly Da Gama
I think the only thing I would say that you can do really quickly and really easily right now is go have a look through your fridge. It takes five minutes to organize your fridge, put the things that are going to go out of date sooner at the front. So, you know to them. Have a quick think about what you can make with them. And a big one actually that’s come out of research recently is use your fridge to communicate with the other people in your house. Because with people with families, a lot of times things will go to waste because there tends to be one or two people, normally one, who is in charge of the fridge, we joke round here and I’m called the fridge keeper. I’m the one that does the shopping and the organizing and that kind of thing. My other half might not necessarily know if I am keeping certain things for a recipe. So he won’t eat something. But I bought it for him to snack on. And then it just sits in the fridge. We have a message board, a whiteboard on the fridge that we can just write on, and I can say there’s this in the fridge, help yourself. Or there’s a plate that the research referred to as a “please feed me” plate. And it’s just it’s really sweet. You can save a little note on it with little heart saying this is for eating.
[00:39:06.600] – Rob Brodnick
I love it. It’s great.
[00:39:06.890] – Lilly Da Gama
So anybody in the house. So kids, partners, anybody knows that that food is up for grabs and it’s not being kept. So it’s going out of date, eat it now.
[00:39:15.740] – Chesta Tiwari
Yeah, definitely resonates. So I live in a house share and we have a shelf and like, well, we’ll put things that need to be eaten quicker. We need to be eating quickly just to make sure everyone knows that no one’s keeping it something else. I think maybe one thing is around portion sizes. Often we get served our food and we have a certain size of plates. And you know, there’s an element of you have to fill that plate. It’s again, feeding to this dichotomy of, you know, plentifulness and having enough. And some people get brought up that leaving something on your plate is a good thing. I have not been brought up that way. Some people get brought up that way. So let’s have a think about when we’re serving our food. Mayb e asking how hungry people are. I always do that that. Or getting people to serve their own portion. Choosing what plates and bowls we use depending on how hungry we are as well. So we don’t feel the need to overfill. You’re much less likely to waste it if it’s still in the cooking pot than if it’s on your plate. So going back and getting seconds rather than serving everything immediately. I think that’s something that’s quite simple. And it could also be reflected in the catering industry. Right? So, I would love to see big portions, small portions. At the moment we only really have kids options. Right? I mean, why do the kids just get to choose to have less?. Maybe your kids are really hungry and you’re not hungry. I’ve definitely been out for food sometimes and I’ve been like, well, I don’t really want a full portion. And so, I would always ask for a box to take it away unashamedly. But a lot of people won’t. It’s against stigma. Right? You paid for that food. Why shouldn’t you take it home? You paid for it and actually, they’re going to have to pay to get rid of it. So it’s in everyone’s interest to take it home. But is that happening? Rarely. Are some organizations starting to make that more, you know, more possible. Are they offering boxes takeaway? Yes. So things are changing. But let’s talk about portion sizes. I think that definitely feeds in. And we talked a lot about food waste in developed countries or in the global north, but we didn’t really talk about food waste or food loss in the global south or in developing countries.
And just to make that point that we talked a lot about, the consumer really being at fault, or maybe the mechanisms that a consumer buys through being at fault in the Global North. But in the Global South, we’re talking about developing countries, it’s much more focused on the farmer side. So you’ll see a lot more food waste or food loss coming from the farm. That’s involving, you know, how much money are they getting to pick the produce? Are they going to just have time and money to pick certain amounts of produce they can sell? Also, how much time is it going to take them to get from the farm to their market? Why are they selling to? They have much less packaging. And it is interesting when you think about that, and that is one of the reasons sometimes food goes to waste. So if you think about tomatoes, for example, tomatoes spoil really quickly. You’re thinking about, for example, a country in West Africa that’s producing tomatoes, you’ve got a really short window when the tomato is going be okay. But what we know is not having packaging available at that point in the market can mean that there’s more food going to waste. And there’s lots of different ways of introducing low energy or sort of cooling methods, maybe looking at packaging, maybe looking at canning as a solution, maybe looking at other methods of drying, for example, to try and reduce the likelihood of food waste. But it is quite different in those markets. And I think the sad thing is we touched on it earlier, but a lot of the food that’s being wasted is food that’s being produced by people for us. And when we think about how their production might be changing depending on our diet. So, for example, coffee, you know, coffee is being grown in regions that are good for growing coffee, but there might be areas where cocoa and coffee are being grown because that cash crop. And they will make themost money for local people who otherwise might have been growing to feed themselves and then sell a little bit extra. When they’re just growing cacao for a Western market, they’re not going to live off cacao. And if they haven’t got the money to pay for their food locally because they aren’t getting a good enough wage from the cacao we’re buying from them, then that is a problem that we’re causing. And the fact that we then might be wasting some of those bananas, or that produce. That’s really disgusting.
[00:43:33.010] – Lilly Da Gama
Just to pick up on that as well. The more I look at food waste and its impacts globally, I mentioned earlier about how complicated these issues are and how they’re all interconnected. Something that just really resonates with me is how interrelated the issue of food waste is with nutrition and then with health and then with the poverty cycle. If we look at food loss in in developing nations and we’re looking at people who aren’t getting paid enough to produce this food, and then they’re losing so much that because they don’t have the technology and then we’re setting our own standards on it as well. And we are just pushing people farther and farther into a cycle of poverty, malnutrition, ill health that they can’t wipe themselves out of. And it’s just it’s as. As Chesta says, it’s just despicable.
[00:44:25.170] – Rob Brodnick
One of the takeaways I’ve gotten is the mindset. Each point in the day particularly, we talked about things you can do in the home. Talk a little bit about the mindset we should have as we’re making the grocery list and we’re going into the market. What can we do to maybe make a change? You know, we have purchasing power and we can choose to do certain things and not do certain things. So help our listeners understand. Here is the top three or four things as you’re going through that marketplace experience. Watch out for because the marketplace might not be watching out for you.
[00:44:57.210] – Lilly Da Gama
Well, the first thing is before you even get to the marketplace, it takes 10, 15 minutes to sit down and make a meal plan for the week. Know what you’re going into that supermarket to buy, and buy that. Because when you go in without a plan, you just start grabbing stuff. So the old thing is don’t shop hungry. Because you’re going to just go in for toilet roll and pick up an entire roast chicken. That kind of thing. It’s just going in with a plan and making sure that you stick to it. So you end up with what you need rather than what you might want.
[00:45:30.030] – Chesta Tiwari
I’ m definitely, I think, Lilly and I are quite different. I definitely never make time to make that list. And a lot of people don’t do that. And I think I’ve never done that. But I think there are still strategies you can use if you don’t make time for that. And one is for me to think about the store cupboard kind of staples. You just have them in the cupboard. They’re going to last forever. Some of these canned food. But I think canned food does offer that as an option. So, tinned tomatoes tinned beans, the kind of thing you can quickly get, and quickly cook. And that if you bought some vegetables because they were reduced, or because they were in season, or because you have vegetables use up, what are you going to use and when? Oh, look in the cupboard. I’ve got tinned tomatoes. I’ve got some dried pasta. I’ve got some rice or something like that. And then you’ve got a meal very quickly. When you have a few base recipes that involve a grain, some kind of tinned tomato, maybe some kind of other base, liquidy, maybe miso soup, maybe something like that. And your veg, then you can just mix things up.
[00:46:33.720] – Lilly Da Gama
This is so funny the way that you put them as well. This is exactly what I teach in my cooking classes including the term base. And I call the cans the waste-less essentials. And yeah, it’s pretty funny. You’re just using exactly the same phrases that I use.
[00:46:53.190] – Karyn Zuidinga
Thank you both so much.
[00:46:55.120] – Rob Brodnick
Come on. Let’s do another couple of hours. This is too much fun.I don’t want to stop
[00:47:05.840] – Karyn Zuidinga
Before we thank our episode and contributing sponsors. I want to encourage you our lovely listeners to stay tuned for this episode’s Positive Turbulence Moment coming up in about 10 seconds.
[00:47:15.450] – Sponsor Message
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[00:47:52.230] – Karyn Zuidinga
And here’s our positive turbulence moment where Rob demonstrates one way to keep the turbulence positive.
[00:47:57.960] – Rob Brodnick
I usually start with a 20 question quiz. And then if you get 18 or more right, we continue. But if not, it’s all over. It’s true/false but I use a variety of languages. All I have to say is… good luck!
[00:48:14.880] – Karyn Zuidinga
If you want to share a positive turbulence moment or otherwise, comment on what you’re hearing, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome your thoughts. Be sure to tune into the next episode when we’ll be talking to Andrew Bennett and Dan Trommattor, two magicians from Magic on Purpose who will show you how magic, positive change and innovation are all tied together in an escape proof box from which there is no escape. Or is there?
[00:48:42.420] – Karyn Zuidinga
You can also head over to PositiveTurbulence.com to find out more about us, get a transcript of this episode, learn about our wonderful sponsors, positive turbulence, our guests or check out our very cool and very diverse reading, watching, and listening to list. Until next time, keep the turbulence positive!
Our conversation with Lilly Da Gama, the Food Waste Doctor, and Chesta Tiwari, a sustainability and food packaging expert, was enlightenting, from both a food waste and from a leadership perspective. These two experts certainly shifted our perspective on food waste and some of the things we can do to reduce it. They are also both showing us, just by doing it, what good leadership looks like.
Key Takeaways On Food Waste
- The impact of food waste on climate change is 6x bigger than that of the aviation industry.
- One-third of all food produced is wasted. When you consider the land, the energy, the materials and work used to produce it, you start to see why we need to reduce food waste now
- In the so-called Global North, the developed world, 70% of food waste occurs post-farm, so the emphasis on reducing food waste there is on the consumer and the sellers.
- In the Global South, the developing world, there is a lot more food waste or food loss coming from the farm. This is related to how much money farmers are paid for their crops, the time it takes to harvest, and the availability of packaging solutions to reduce waste
- Vegan, local, seasonal while staying mindful of nutrition is the best diet for the planet right now.
- If you are going to eat meat, have it only occasionally. Meat is a treat.
Key Takeaways on Leadership
- Apply the EAST Framework (Easy, Accessible, Sociable and Timely) if you want to influence (social) change
- The food waste problem is massive and influenced by multiple systems within systems. Begin solving the problem where you are. Lilly has created The Food Waste Doctor to provide information about reducing food waste at home. Chesta volunteers in the community with activities like Disco Soup night.
- It’s important to keep updating your perspective, because what we’re saying now might be wrong in ten years. We need to stop feeling ashamed and embarrassed to say, oh, I was wrong.
- Show, don’t tell. People are going to the be much more open to change if you can let them experience positive change, even in a small way.
Links to More
The Food Waste Doctor Facebook Page
Chesta Tiwari’s LinkedIn Profile
WRAP – UK-based org with the mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, resource-efficient economy
EAST Framework – YouTube video with a good and short overview of how it can be applied
Sponsors of this episode, THANK YOU!
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