Check out this zero-waste restaurant in Chicago:
The above video featuring Sandwich Me In’s zero waste strategy has gone viral, and owner Justin Vrany is certainly to be applauded. This publicity will hopefully encourage other restaurants and individuals to be more conscious of how much waste they produce.
At first I was critical of this project because composting does not solve all problems and isn’t the most efficient way to dispose of food scraps. However, this concern was answered by the fact that the food scraps are fed to chickens with the remainder going to compost. These same chickens then provide the eggs to the restaurant. This seems like a wonderful closed loop system, and for the most part it is.
As a chicken owner, I can say that chickens make quick work of our would-be compost. It’s wonderful. What isn’t wonderful is the all too easy to develop habit of allowing the chickens to become a crutch. I see something on its last day in the fridge and rather than find a creative use for it, I think, “Well, the chickens will enjoy it.” That may be just dandy for the chickens, but it doesn’t mean my food waste is zero. While still a step up from sending organics to municipal composting or the backyard composter, one could argue that the energy and labour that went into producing the food is still wasted. The chickens would be just as happy pecking away at an apple core as eating a whole tomato that I could have eaten myself, and so the waste of food was ultimately avoidable.
Back to the zero-waste restaurant: I don’t know how much of the food they feed to chickens is avoidable, and I think what they’ve got going on is awesome. I feel challenged to re-evaluate my own food packaging waste production, but also to be more intentional about eating what I bring home and only buying what I can and will eat.
Between 25-40% of perfectly safe and perfectly edible produce is rejected by western supermarkets. Can you guess why? Purely cosmetic reasons! Cucumbers that are too curved or bananas that are too straight can’t be sold in most supermarkets. In the UK, it was even illegal to sell carrots that are forked (with a secondary branch). There’s a LOT of waste behind our perfectly uniform supermarket produce aisle!
Here’s what one French grocery chain is doing about it:
Could we get something similar happening in Canada?
Can you imagine coming across posters like this today?
It seems strange to see government advertisements strongly promoting food waste reduction by eating less, canning, growing your own food, feeding waste to animals, etc. While today’s proponents of food waste reduction may be supporting these actions due to environmental leanings rather than frugality or support for the war effort, the message is very much still the same. And the though we may not be saving food for an army, people go hungry today while others overeat and throw away good food. Like the wartime posters say, reducing our waste saves money and leaves food for others to eat, while also reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being released through the production, processing, transport and disposal of food that is eventually wasted.
Food waste is beginning to reappear on contemporary agendas, and with the effort to reduce waste have come more creative posters:
Check out more fun vintage and contemporary food posters:
Most of us throw our groceries (especially produce) in the fridge without thinking twice. After all, the fridge is the best way to keep foods fresh and safe, right? Wrong…
Check out how this inventive artist found new ways of storing produce to increase shelf life and reduce wasted food:
While the Essex Windsor Solid Waste Authority was considering possibilities for a regional compostable waste collection system, one young resident decided she wouldn’t wait for the city to make composting more accessible in her neighbourhood. Lina Chaker started small by biking around to pick up food waste on her street, which she then took to a community garden for composting. This compost was then applied to the garden, which provided food to the local food bank.
“Lina Chaker receives her conservation champion award from Chair Joe Bachetti.”
Since she started this program, Greening Kenilworth (as she calls the project) has grown and participation has increased. At the same time, the city of Windsor has decided not to pursue an organics program. However, a city-implemented program isn’t the only possible solution, and getting more communities on board with programs like the one Chaker began could potentially be just as, if not more, effective. Locally-based solutions can be sustainable at lower costs with reduced emissions, and can provide free compost and (in this case) food for the food insecure, as well as helping to bring the community together. At our recent visit with York Region, one of the auditors said that he felt that the anonymity of the waste system was one of the biggest factors contributing to contamination in source-separated organics. Community composting may lead to reduced contamination as people can see who is reusing their food scraps. This personal connection may also provide motivation to reduce food waste as well.
Backyard and community composting is cheaper for residents and for the city, and by reducing transport and processing of organic materials, can also have less of an environmental cost while extending the life of the landfill. As in the case of Chaker’s community, the benefits can be multifaceted: reducing the community’s environmental footprint, creating compost that in turn feeds the community, and bringing the community together as they become informed and involved. Hopefully more communities will seek out solutions like this that can help reduce the amount of organic waste they are sending to landfill.
What if someone told you to take $2,200 in cash and flush it down the toilet…or better yet, chop it up, boil it, and then throw it out in your green bin? And then to do that again once a year, every year. Would you do it? Probably not – it seems crazy. It seems wasteful. The crazy thing is actually that $2,200 is how much the average American family of four loses in wasted food each year, according to American Wasteland author Jonathan Bloom. Waste adds up!
See Bloom’s tips for reducing household food waste here: