Did you know that 2.4 million Filipino families experience involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months? And yet, it has been estimated that each Filipino still wastes an average of 3.29 kg of rice per year. That means that if put together, that would be enough rice to feed 4.3 million Filipinos. (IRRI, 2010) That amount can almost feed the population of Laguna and Bohol combined. (PSA, 2015)
The statistics are staggering. And it’s enough to make anyone choke a little bit on their next spoonful of rice. But the good thing is, there is something that can be done.
On March 16, 2019, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines launched a project on sustainable consumption and production as part of the German government’s International Climate Change Initiative. Called The Sustainable Diner: A Key Ingredient for Sustainable Tourism. It focuses on three tourism cities – Quezon City, Tagaytay City, and Cebu City and is focused on transforming the food service sector into a low carbon industry through the awareness and adoption of sustainable approaches.
The goals of the project are simple:
1. Raise awareness about the environmental impacts of food;
2. Increase the number of healthy and eco-friendly dishes in restaurants, and;
3. Reduce food waste
It was fitting that the launch was done at Earth Kitchen Katipunan, farm-to-table restaurant that supports local farmers and indigenous communities. The restaurant is proof that the farm-to-table concept can work and can come up with delicious meals that families can enjoy.
There were several talks delivered by different speakers and it was all highly informative. Here’s what you need to know:
It’s not about looks
How do you choose your vegetables? Most people look for the perfect-looking produce—somehow, people think that it would taste better or be more nutritionally-dense than their misshapen or undersized brothers. But the truth is, fruits and vegetables with odd shapes, smaller sizes, bruising or discoloration are just as good. Those are all cosmetic imperfections and in fact, studies have even revealed that fruits and vegetables with minor bruising actually have more phytochemicals and antioxidants. It made me think of how the speckled and slightly bruised and overripe bananas always make better and sweeter banana bread. So the next time you’re at the market, don’t be afraid of mixing it up and adding a few imperfect fruits or vegetables into your basket.
Never Let Good Food Go To Waste
“Huwag magsayang ng pagkain.” Isn’t that something our moms always told us, growing up? That’s the message at the core of what Rise Against Hunger Philippines is doing. They launched Good Food Grocer, a food bank social enterprise that provides food to the less fortunate who sign up to the program. They show their ID at the store and they can get food for themselves and their families. For those that can pay, the store also sells donated food at discounted prices, giving more access to affordable food to families. Rise Against Hunger Philippines also runs a soup kitchen where unsold food is cooked daily and distributed through their feeding programs so that they can further minimize food wasted.
I think that most people don’t realize that when food waste is sent to a landfill, it doesn’t just decompose. It decomposes slowly and releases methane—that’s a chemical that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is also contributing to global warming.
Another significant contribution they have is a program that focuses on feeding pregnant women, new mothers and young children. They recognized that malnourishment in children during the first 1000 days irreversibly stunts growth and brain development. So ensuring that families have access to healthy and nutritious food is key to helping children grow well into adulthood.
Food corporations and supermarkets are in a great position to donate to food banks because of the sheer amount of packaged food that goes in and out of their warehouses. It’s also a much better way to handle unsold food than to send them to landfills or incinerate them. On a smaller scale, people like you and me can just be more mindful about the food we eat. No more piling on food you can’t finish and try not to over order. If you do have leftovers and don’t think you can eat them, give them to someone who will – it’s much better than letting food go to waste.
Solu is another new way to potentially incentivize segregating recyclables. It’s essentially an app that functions as an online junk shop aggregator. You segregate your recyclables into Solu bags, send in details through the app and make it easier for junk shops to pick up and pay you for your recyclables. It also then makes it easier for recyclables to be sent to materials recovery facilities or recycling centers. Although the app isn’t widely used yet, it does optimize the process and hopefully make it easier and more convenient for communities to make segregation and recycling a habit.
Compost your way to better soil with Bokashi
This was the talk that fascinated me the most. As a person that likes to cook, I know firsthand how much biodegradable waste you throw out when you’re preparing a meal for your family. There has to be a better way to dispose without plopping everything into a trash bag.
As it turns out, Bokashi composting is a great way to make living a greener lifestyle possible in the city. Bokashi is a Japanese word that means “fermented organic matter.” Now if that just sounds like a three words I randomly strung together, stay with me. Bokashi uses an anaerobic process that relies on inoculated bran to ferment kitchen waste (including meat and dairy) into healthy soil and nutrient rich liquid for your plants.
The idea is that you stuff all your compostable food scraps into a bin, cover it with a special bran powder, and let it ferment. You do that until your bin is full and then you let the microbes do their work for two weeks. At the end of the fermentation process, you dump out the remnants into a space in your garden and mix with soil. After four weeks, you can use that soil for your garden. The liquid meanwhile, is chock full of microbes too. So you can use pour that onto plants, or into your sinks, toilets and grease traps so that the microbes can help decompose all the other organic material that would otherwise clog the pipes. I think of it like an organic pipe cleaner.
What I appreciated about this talk the most was that Rina Papio, Founder of Greenspace, introduced us to Bokashi composting by demonstrating how to do Bokashi using the food scraps we had from our lunch. It was amazing to see how easy it was to do and how convenient it can actually be for households. I expect that it’s a habit that will take some getting used to, but it’s definitely a habit that is well worth developing.
If you’re interested in trying out Bokashi composting for yourself, you can purchase the bin and the special bran from Greenspace.
WWF-Philippines is taking on the challenge of sustainable dining by engaging with the local governments in three key cities that are known for their food tourism, as well as having dialogues with restaurants and the Filipino dining public. At the end of the day, food waste affects all of us. It’s not just about the food we consume and where it comes from, it’s also about making sure that food is available to those who need it. But most of all, it’s about the food we leave on the plate and how it is disposed.
Kudos to WWF-Philippines for show us how food waste affects our planet. It’s helpful to know that there are new, innovative and easy ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. So even if you start with just one of the efforts they’ve shared, that can already go a long way to making our cities better.
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