Operation end waste begins in the home with each and everyone of us. It's a question that hit home when I visited the local green grocer looking for extra greens for our hens. I was astonished at the amount of edible food that goes out the backdoor simply because it has a small blemish, or the sell by date has been passed; the housewives shun it.
Actually it started before that; whilst cycling through the polders of Holland I regularly noticed a mountain of apples that had fallen in the orchards after a gale; out of curiosity I checked them out; most were completely edible yet would probably end up in some sort of landfill.
It was reinforced again when I watched a BBC programme on the EU standards set in Brussels on the shape and size that a broccoli head must conform to in order for it to be saleable; and a poor farmer who went insolvent because much of his crop was slightly too big or small; and was left to rot in the fields. Oddly, the richest source of glucoraphanin, the phytochemical that is the most profoundly involved in the prevention of cancer, is not to be found in the main head, but the little florets that follow but you'll never find them in the shops.
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Our personal response to this international tragedy was in the first place never again to reject food simply because of some little blemish; barter about the price by all means.
Secondly, we decided to try very hard not to throw away any food; cook the right amount, and finish the left overs the next day.
Thirdly, we bought a wheat grinder for 100% wholemeal, made the decision to bake our own bread and to purchase as little processed food as possible. Real healthy flour is virtually unavailable.
Operation end waste is a moral dilemma faced by all concerned with whether our grandchildren will have a habitable planet to live on. Food processing is indivisibly tied to the production of polystyrene and plastic to protect that food from the oxygen in the air that starts the natural process of decay once the cabbage is picked, the banana peeled or the antioxidant phytochemicals like vitamin E have been extracted from flour.
Refined food, plastic waste, landfills and oceans utterly polluted are all part of the same problem; humans who are too busy. We become so consumed with the business of this world that we leave no time for care of the soul and the body.
It's quite odd and, in fact is a mark of our ignorance, that we will reject an apple that a bird has pecked, but happily swallow food loaded with toxic preservatives, flavour enhancers, artificial colouring and the like, simply because they are not visible.
We will happily send a polystyrene fast food container to the landfill, but complain bitterly if it ends up on the beach next to us.
We decided that operation food waste was not a problem so colossal that we could do nothing; instead we decided to start in small ways to become part of the solution, rather contributing yet more to the filth.
The first step was dividing the waste from our home into that which was recyclable and that which could be used in some way; uneaten food went to the dogs and not to the landfill; we started a compost pile for cabbage leaves, wilted lettuce and mouldy carrots.
The first problem was struck here; cooked food does not decay normally in a compost heap, and attracts vermin; more about that later.
"It is the greatest freedom because if I do nothing, nothing will happen; if I do something, anything is possible."
The next steps occurred, one at a time, as we slowly found ourselves becoming greenies; first there was the acquisition of half a dozen hens for their free range cage free eggs.
Next was the wonder of worm farms to rear creepy crawlies; they have an insatiable appetite, consuming their own weight in food every day; they will take care of the cooked food that has no place in the compost pile.
The traditional purpose of the worm farms is the production of so called wee for your vegetables; but we used them rather for protein for the hens. Soon it became apparent there would be something else on the agenda; operation end waste.
The overflow from the kitchen soon proved insufficient for the creepy crawlies; despite feeding a thousand or so worms every Saturday to the hens, they were doubling in numbers every month; they needed more food.
And here lies the essential purpose of this page; the unbelievable waste of food from the local greengrocer. Going through what they threw out provided not only a plentiful supply for our chickens and worms but a sickening of the stomach as I began to appreciate the enormity of the waste problem.
Around most food there is a crust or skin of sorts that prevents oxygen getting to the inner stuff. A potato and butternut have a thin skin, a watermelon has a rather thicker outer coating and even an apple is protected by its own outer garment; a grain of wheat by a hard outer coating called the bran; that's where the precious lignans are to be found.
I soon realised from the bags of trash that humans have become too lazy, or busy to peel their own butternut, shred their own cabbage for cole slaw, pod their own peas, and slice their own beans. We cost our time at so many dollars per hour, and it makes apparent sense to get someone else to do these chores.
But there's a problem; in fact two. Firstly, unless we get to the supermarket within a reasonable period the skinned butternut, watermelon, pineapple, and so on have started to deteriorate; once oxygen gets to it, the shelf life is seriously reduced; toxic breakdown products start to build.
It's become very apparent to me that we have lost our roots that connected us with the soil. Thinking we are clever in purchasing OJ instead of squeezing our own oranges, making Speedy Mash instead of peeling and cooking our own potatoes, and eating bagels, cookies and bread that are devoid of the minerals, vitamins and lignans that give us sparkling good health and make us wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, we have succumbed to cancer, arthritis, chronic fatigue and bucketloads of pills and umpteen visits to the doctor and surgeon. Enter operation end waste.
Enter return to the food that your grandmother served. Is it any wonder that the many countries like the United States have slipped to below 40th in the list of healthiest nations? My own native South Africa is even worse, though that's in the main because we love to have multiple sexual partners; AIDS in the number one killer, but obesity and stroke are not far behind.
Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and in my chiropractic profession soaring arthritis, pain and inflammation have become in most "civilised" countries the norm.
Operation end waste will never get off the ground until we all collectively take responsibility for the way we are destroying our planet. Oceans which will within a few short years will have a greater tonnage of plastic than fish is directly connected with the fact that a third of our food is entirely wasted; not to mention the pain and disabling disease that soars to new heights.
I won't pretend this is in any way pleasant or fun; frankly it's disgusting and I'm not suggesting you join me. I often ask myself why I continue with it; I find a strange and inexplicable pleasure in removing waste food from it's packaging, recycling the plastic and polystyrene, and feeding the scraps to the hens and worms.
The hens are quite particular; they will not touch anything that has begun to decay but will enjoy food still in its outer coating, like a banana that has gone a bit soft; once you remove that skin that won't touch it; the worms on the other hand are not in the slightest bit fussy; it's not for nothing their name is fetida.
Every Saturday is a Thanksgiving Feast for the hens.
When faced with a mountain seemingly too great for any man or woman, we look to the small things. Where do we start? Don't drop a bottle in the garbage destined for a landfill; recycle it.
Never buy half a watermelon; just give half to your neighbour, or a beggar on the street corner.
Do your level best not to buy anything wrapped in plastic, and do your utmost to reuse it. Don't send it to landfill; recycle it.
The reasonably simple first step is starting a compost pile.