About 18 months ago I watched a documentary by American chef and author Anthony Bourdain, Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, which completely transformed the way I saw and disposed of food. I was so moved and disturbed by the information provided in the documentary—about how much food we waste and throw away into landfills, when so many people around the world are starving—that something inside me just “switched.” From that moment on, I would not and could not throw away food in the bin. My eyes had been opened.
I must confess that up until that point I’d thought of myself as being somewhat conscious of not wasting food and as being someone who lived relatively simply so as to minimalize my impact on the environment. But the documentary highlighted the ways in which I was an accomplice to a global system that encouraged and even promoted the over-production of food, a system which damaged the environment, exploited the poor, and degraded the dignity of all living beings.
While watching the documentary, I was reminded of the words of Pope Francis in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home) and was prompted to ask myself: How do I care for the environment and nature? Do I hear “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”? Is my heart open to an “ecological conversion,” appreciating “the intimate connection between God and all beings”? Both the documentary and the Pope reminded me that we are all interrelated. We are all connected. What I do here in Australia has an impact in other parts of the world.
With renewed energy and purpose, I set into action. First, I made a decision to buy less. I assessed my reality. I live in the city of Melbourne, where I fortunately have easy access to fresh local produce. There was no need for me to “stock up” with large amounts of food that I would risk not using and it spoiling. I would purchase only what I needed.
Then, any food waste I did have, I collected in large containers to go to nearby compost bins. I contacted local government councils to find out the location of nearby community gardens that took food waste for compost. I also downloaded apps on my mobile phone that allowed me to see where people had composting bins in the local neighborhood. It’s amazing what can be found once we start looking! There’s a whole community of people who care about the environment and the people who inhabit this earth. I was just a little late to the party!
The documentary also provided many useful tips on how to use meat cuts, fish, vegetables, and fruits in different and interesting ways, so as to reduce waste. As one of the speakers in the documentary said, “Tackling food waste doesn’t have to be depressing. It’s delicious.” That’s so true.
The documentary, together with Pope Francis’s words, also spurred me to other changes. Not only did I start composting food with others, but I’ve now set up a worm farm in my backyard. I’m a lot more conscious now of other forms of waste that I can reduce and recycle. I have changed some of my behaviors. For instance, instead of buying carrots pre-packaged in a plastic bag, I buy loose carrots, which go straight into the basket. I reuse containers and purchase refillable products. And when I can’t avoid soft plastic packaging, I now know where to take it for recycling purposes. I read on this topic, and I stay connected with like-minded people who are also working to care for our earth and its inhabitants. Together we tread gently, mindfully, and prayerfully.
These are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction. The documentary set me on a new path, and Pope Francis keeps me on track. For both, I am grateful.
Thanks for great reminders about buying too much food-like you I thought we were doing pretty well but…. We do recycle, will add composting out in our backs woods. We have decided to plan our meals so when at the grocery I buy just what is on the list. IF I over buy in canned goods, we keep a bag to be taken to church to feed the poor. Mainly we are eating less meats… we have found we don’t miss meat-shooting for vegetarians!
Food is precious and sacred. In the food that we eat, we see the toil of several people, the goodness of Earth, and the blessings of the Almighty. May all human beings and living beings have sufficient food during their brief journey on God’s Holy Ground.
Packaging–especially plastic packaging–is ubiquitous and most often, unnecessary. Single serving items like salads are convenient, but the plastic they come in are just awful and wasteful. As we all know, plastic in the ocean is a huge issue (it kills creatures.) So thanks for mentioning this in the article. Those single serving items help limit food waste at the cost of increasing plastic waste.
Hi Jeff, yes, plastic in our oceans is a massive problem! I really think if we all do what we can to reduce using any and all sorts of plastic packaging, then that’s a big step!
Re column referring to Anthony Bourdain, Wasted! The Story of Food Waste: it would have been timely to note even in a footnote that Bourdain’s life ended sadly, badly, wasted by suicide.
Hi Michael, you’re right … Anthony Bourdain did commit suicide, an absolutely tragic end to his life. I acknowledge this and pray he is resting in God’s peace and love. Very sad, indeed.
“It’s amazing what can be found if we start looking”. I found it very motivating indeed. Partnering with God to care for His creation!
Patricia, I found whole networks of people in my local community that were committed to caring for the Earth, treading lightly, and helping to educate people on how to do so. I’ve learnt so much, and acknowledge there is still much to learn and implement. But being on the journey with others, is encouraging and fun!
Love this! I’m so inspired. I printed your article and plan to find out where there are compost centers! I live in a townhouse so no yard but I bet there are ideas out there if I look. Thanks!
That’s fantastic! I’m so pleased you were inspired to find local compost centers – I’m sure they’ll be around. And there are plenty of fantastic ideas for composting and pot-gardening, living gently, and caring for the Earth while living in a townhouse. Again, once you start looking, and asking around, I’m sure you’ll soon discover something very soon! Good luck.
Small steps make a big difference. Imagine if everyone of us started taking a few more small steps. The world would definitely change for the better.
Hi Loretta … yes, small steps really do make a difference. It also helps with the paralysis of not knowing what to do about the ‘bigger problems’ and so, doing nothing at all. I haven’t perfected everything, but if I waited for perfect, then I’d really be doing nothing. I encourage everyone to just make a small start where you are, and to go from there. Oh … and enjoy! It’s a wonderful feeling do small things to care for our Earth and our people.