Coming to the UK to study Journalism, there have been a few subtle cultural differences that have confused me. As a person who’s lived in the warm and humid weather of Mumbai for over 18 years, I was taken aback by the fact that ceiling fans are not a common feature in households, let alone air conditioning.
But the thing that has baffled me the most is the idea of “imperfect” vegetables at supermarkets. The idea that people would refuse to eat a carrot simply because it doesn’t have a pristine shape, like the ones you’d see in a cartoon, or a commercial?
Coming from India, the culture of “produce aesthetic” is completely different. In order words, it’s non-existent. For one, you tend to shop from a local vegetable vendor rather than a major chain store when it came to produce. This means that none of the vegetables came pre-packaged, they lie in huge wicker baskets for customers to sort through and pick.
Secondly, the behaviour of buyers is different. Either over time or through lessons from your parents, you learn to pick the produce that’s actually fresh. A juicy red tomato is a nice thought but more importantly, it needs to be firm to touch. Discolouration is not a good sign, but in a worst-case scenario, you can get it if the weirdness is only restricted to a small surface area.
But most importantly, if the vegetables are fresh: WEIRD SHAPES SHOULDN’T BE AN ISSUE.
We are living in an era of a climate emergency, and the food we waste plays no small part in that. 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year, and that’s a third of all food produced.
According to the UN, if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. This is because food waste when discarded releases greenhouse gases, trapping heat in the atmosphere and raising the temperature.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, wasting food is generally frowned down upon. In developing countries, this culture usually stems from a history of famine or poverty. Which is why most food waste in those countries come before it reaches the consumer. This means that the food is lost during production, storage, or transport.
Even though throwing away your food is shunned in developed countries, the figures say otherwise. For developed countries, over half of the food is wasted by consumers. There are many reasons for this, consumerism that tempts customers with “buy one get one” deals for things they don’t need, mislabelling of “use by” dates, expectations on supermarkets to have fully stocked shelves, and people only purchasing aesthetically perfect produce.
WHAT YOU CAN DO?
- Buy “imperfect produce”. Seriously, it’s all going to be chopped up and cooked, there is no difference. If you’re planning to cook something the day, consider buying items that are really ripe. (but not spoiled obviously).
- Don’t stock up on perishables. As much as lockdown may have given us the paranoia that one-day food might disappear, try to buy only a few days worth of produce. Your canned food will save your life whenever another emergency comes, don’t worry.
- Use food saving apps. I like using Too Good to Go. Restaurants put up meals that no one bought during the day and sell it for half it’s original price. You’re getting high-quality food for cheap, and you’re saving it from going to the trash. Karma is another famous app I’ve heard of (but haven’t tried yet.)
Like every other climate solution out there in the world, this isn’t enough to solve the problem. But doing our personal best while constantly applying pressure on governments and companies is all we can really do to save our planet.
FACTS AND RESOURCES
https://olioex.com/food-waste/food-waste-facts/ (More references inside this link)