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.