LauraxELLE

On food waste & how to change things

September 10, 2021

A third of the world’s food eventually ends up in landfills. That’s 1.3 trillion tonnes of food. My question is: For how long can we afford this?

Although world hunger is still very much a worrying and unresolved problem, society continues to waste mind-boggling quantities of food. And although the world (mostly the Global North) has been spoiled and oversaturated in the past decades with an abundance of food choices and the luxury of always being able to buy more, this indulgence has remained largely permitted and uncriticised.

According to statistics produced by UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) back in 2011, in Europe and North America, 95 and 115 kg of food per capita are thrown away each year, while in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia food waste only amounts to 6 to 11 kg per year per capita. So it’s clear that the main culprits in terms of food waste are countries where food is perceived as an infinite resource.

Why is food waste such an urgent problem? Because globally we waste more food than it would be needed to properly feed everyone on the planet. Because we waste the work of millions of farmers and workers in the entire food supply chain. Because we waste our own and only resources. Because we forget that all the produce we have on our plates grows by using loads of water, fertilizers, land, energy, time and money. And the problem doesn’t stop here.

Once waste reaches global landfills, it decomposes in a toxic manner due to the lack of oxygen, thus generating unbelievable amounts of carbon dioxide which contribute to the greenhouse effect and implicitly to the worsening of the climate crisis.

In Western Europe certain measures against food waste have already been implemented, however, in Romania, this problem still does not receive enough attention. Thankfully, there are loads of best practice examples we can draw inspiration from. In 2016, in Oslo, Norway, a new type of supermarket was opened. Best Før sells food products that are past their best-before dates (yet still safe to eat!). These products are usually sold for less, which helps lower-income communities to buy perfectly edible items. To continue with another Norwegian example, a new company called SNÅL frukt & grøn sells fruit and vegetables in slightly odd shapes or off-white eggs with a 30% discount. This way wonky carrots, slightly bruised apples or softer bananas can get a second chance at being bought and eaten. In another side of Europe, France has already passed, with great acclaim, a new legislative project which bans supermarkets from destroying unsold food. Moreover, stores larger than 400 square meters which do not sign a partnership with a relevant charitable organization or food bank risk being fined up to 3750 euros. The Netherlands already hosts one of the most well-known food-rescue restaurants, namely Instock, where the menu changes almost daily as different ingredients come from supermarkets’ surplus food. Perhaps the most popular food waste initiative to take over Europe and North America is TooGoodToGo, A Danish company aiming to connect food excess from bakeries, supermarkets, restaurants and hotels with people looking to get food for less money.

As proven by these initiatives, there are countless ways to reduce food waste. However, more can be done. What exactly? There could be more incentives for businesses to fight against food waste and prevent it. There could be local and national campaigns meant to encourage shoppers to buy mindfully. There could be more governmental programmes to enable donated food to reach social canteens and food banks. There could be stricter laws regulating how retail and horeca businesses discard unsold, yet edible food. There could be more programmes aiming to demonstrate to the public that there is nothing wrong with imperfect produce or with smaller eggs (as Jamie Oliver also showed in a national campaign in the UK in 2015).

And because criticizing the amount of food we waste is not enough to stop the phenomenon, here is a list of ideas to help reduce your own food waste.

GROCERY SHOPPING


• Before doing your groceries, take a photo of your fridge and cupboard/pantry. This way you will never stock up on things you already had.


• Don’t postpone planning your weekly “menu” until the moment you go shopping. It’s most likely you’ll buy too many things, while also forgetting some essentials.

• Try to avoid doing grocery shopping only once a week. You might be tempted to buy too much, so it’s best to buy only what you’ll know you need in the next 3-5 days. Moreover, don’t fall into the trap of store-run campaigns. Although they may be attractive, there’s a high chance that the six avocados you buy in a bag will turn brown by the time you get to eat them. Also, don’t buy items in high quantities just because they are on sale. You can do better things with the money you spend hoarding products.


• Choose to shop at smaller stores. The overwhelming range of products one can find in supermarkets makes us spend more time making a choice, while also making us feel anticipated regrets. Don’t waste precious time hesitating between a dozen brands of a commodity product.

STORAGE


• Check the temperature inside your fridge and make sure it’s appropriate for the food you store inside.


• Resist the temptation to own a large fridge. A smaller fridge forces you into making more rational decisions in order to maintain a balanced food consumption, simply because there isn’t enough space on your shelves to hoard products you won’t get to eat. Moreover, a small fridge doesn’t allow for various jars and dubious Tupperware boxes to get banished in its back.


• If you freeze away some food, don’t forget to add a label with what you froze and when, to avoid a potentially dreadful moment when you have to empty your freezer of ambiguous bags and boxes.


• As bread, dairy products, potatoes and fruit are the most frequently thrown away products, make sure these are properly stored in your kitchen (and pantry), away from damp areas and direct sunlight.

FOOD HACKS


• Use everything! A part of the food we waste is due to the fact that we don’t optimise our ingredients. For instance, instead of throwing away celery leaves, you can freeze them and use them later in a dish. With a little bit of ingenuity, the broccoli stem can become, alongside pine nuts, a little bit of garlic and some olive oil, an excellent green pesto. There are numerous creative ways to minimize food waste.


• Weigh certain dry ingredients like pasta, rice or couscous before cooking them so you don’t make more than you need.

MORE TIPS


• If you find yourself having too much food for your needs, donate some of it! Find an old people’s home, a local food bank, a refugee centre or other kinds of social centres. Pick the one that’s most convenient for you – what matters is for edible food products to reach those in need. Here are some local tips from Romania. In Bucharest, there’s a food bank in the sixth sector, the first of its kind in the capital. You can also donate money to NGOs like O Masă Caldă, an association which has social canteens in Cluj, Bucharest, Bistrița and Satu Mare and which served so far more than 16.000 portions of food to those in need.


• Finally, make a list of everything you throw out of your kitchen (so fridge, freezer, cupboards etc.) in a year. I know it’s not the most pleasant reading material, but it may be one of the few ways you can visualize how much you are wasting before you commit to improving the situation.

The list of advice you’ve just read is just the beginning. If you have any other clever tricks to reduce food waste and prevent more food from reaching the landfills, let me know.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of ELLE Romania. It has been updated to reflect the situation in September 2021.

Cover photo by ja ma on Unsplash

Laura Recommends

June, July, and August Recommendations

September 1, 2020

I know it’s been a while since my last article. But don’t worry – I have meticulously saved everything I loved watching, reading, and discovering over the summer months.

I am beyond happy I managed to assemble all my lists into one article because it feels like an extra special treat. Which it is, since this post also marks my 8 year blogging anniversary!

These being said, here are my favorite…

BOOKS

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo

This must be one of the most memorable books I have read in 2020. Bernardine Evaristo successfully crafted 12 stories of absolutely fascinating women. She also perfectly managed to portray these women through a unique calibration of words that is neither cumbersome nor confusing.

Atonement – Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is a master of words, and this book is a masterpiece in itself. Beautiful, painful, emotional, real, fictional – it had everything.
Briony was impeccably crafted as a character – McEwan has a perfect grip on childhood, children’s thoughts, and their behavior. And even though I kept reminding myself that the characters and actions are fictional, I still couldn’t bring myself not to hate Briony and pity Cecilia and Robbie.

Uninhabitable Earth – David Wallace Wells

It’s hard to love a book about a topic as grim as the climate crisis. But our reality may be equally grim if we don’t take global action towards our emissions. This is a very well written and well documented book. I am (oddly) very excited to read more books on the topic so I can make better comparisons.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

“Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, and how the choices we make resonate through history.” I don’t know what else to add. Other than that this has to be one of the most memorable, beautiful, and heartbreaking stories I have ever read.

Casele vietilor noastre – multiple authors (RO)

This has got to be one of the most beautiful books I have read in 2020. It is made up of 15 stories crafted by some of the biggest Romanian writers and it is full of character, emotion and memories. It’s a delightful reading experience and a masterclass in writing and celebrating Romanian vocabulary.

Acasă, pe drum: 4 ani teleleu – Elena Stancu, Cosmin Bumbut (RO)

A book about the real Romania and the courage to live differently and document this reality. Impeccable and simple writing. Memorable photography. A gorgeous gift idea.

VIDEOS

Hans Zimmer Breaks Down His Legendary Career – Vanity Fair
The master of epic soundtracks offers a bit more insight into how he got involved in certain projects, including his initial reservations about The Lion King or Pirates of the Caribbean. Absolutely fascinating and inspiring.

Insecure’s Yvonne Orji Teaches You Nigerian Slang – Vanity Fair

Yvonne Orji is so fun to watch and listen – she is simply bursting with great energy! Watch her explain Nigerian Slang in the video above and have a look at Insecure as well (HBO)!

What Happens to a Movie Without a Camera Operator? Reverse Film School – Vanity Fair

This is both hilarious and instructive, and if you have a passion or curiosity for movies, you will love learning more about what happens behind the scenes. This is an ongoing series that Vanity Fair produces, so once you are done watching this video, you can check out the others as well.

The whole working from home thing – Apple

This has got to be one of the funniest, most spot-on and time-relevant ads of 2020. I love that the ad started from a real-life situation and then cleverly integrated the Apple products, services, and ecosystem, rather than the other way round. This is in fact, a follow-up ad to Apple at Work, a campaign from 2019.

Strandbeest

If you are searching for an eerily calming and fascinating video that combines art and physics, look no further than this recording of Theo Jansen’s fascinating beach creatures. It sounds weird (and it is), but it’s really mesmerizing and worth watching.

Dating Around – Netflix

My coworkers raved about this show, so I obviously had to find out what was all the fuss about. I was honestly expecting a very awkward and cringy show, but what I got instead were plenty of laughs, the satisfaction of seeing great chemistry on screen, and even a crying moment. It’s a very enjoyable show.

The Last Dance – Netflix

Not in a million years did I think I would be entranced by basketball. I am glad that the Last Dance changed my mind. In the beginning, I thought there were too many episodes to explain a single NBA season, but as I started watching I understood that it would be impossible to explain the last championship of the Chicago Bulls, as led by Michael Jordan, without explaining all the work and events leading up to it. It’s an absolutely captivating show, even for people who don’t know much about basketball.

The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes – Netflix

I lost count at the number of times I gasped or said WOW or simply paused an episode in order to savor the beauty of some houses. This is a stunning show which will make you appreciate good architecture even more.

ARTICLES

The fast fashion fix: 20 ways to stop buying new clothes for ever – Lauren Bravo

While researching more about the relationship between fast fashion and sustainability, I stumbled across this article which I found very constructive and practical. I bookmarked it and then looked up its author, Lauren Bravo. Turns out she also wrote a book about the topic, which I have to read now, of course.

A misérables trip – Penguin UK

This hilarious piece from Penguin (the publishing house) answers the question “what if novels were reviewed in the same way tourist destinations are online?”. Some of the novels reviewed are The Great Gatsby, Les Misérables, and Dracula.

PLACES*

* All are located in Bucharest.

Avocadoo 2

This is the first extension of a Romanian brand focused on healthier eating-out options. The whole design of the place is super nice, quite photogenic, and laid back. I wrote more about this in an Instagram post.

Carturesti Verso

Carturesti is already known worldwide for its superb Carousel bookshop, but Carturesti Verso is a smaller sibling that also deserves some love. It hosts a mix of design objects and books, with enough options to satisfy any book lover.

Fico Gelato & More

This is a newly opened space in Bucharest with amazing ice cream and cakes. Forget I said “amazing”. They have THE BEST mango cake I ever tasted. It’s a brand and concept where you can instantly notice the thought that went into each detail and product.

MORE

Window swap

You probably saw this link floating around during the first half of the year, but I only recently got to explore this website and it is so cool and surprisingly calming. Highly recommend it.

Ta-dum! It’s Netflix – Twenty thousand hertz

This amazing podcast tells “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds”. I absolutely enjoyed learning more about sonic logos in this special episode about Netflix.

I hope you enjoyed this list of recommendations. If you did, share it with a friend who you think might like it too.

Here’s to 8 more years of writing!

Laura Recommends

April and May Recommendations

June 8, 2020

Yes, I’m aware that I’m awfully late with this post (for various reasons relevant only to myself), but alas, here is another list of books, movies, and resources that I appreciated in the past two months.

A note on future content: Starting June, I will also add more books authored by BIPOC and movies/series about black history (and not only!) to my Recommendations as a conscious, constant, and long-lasting duty in my content curation.

BOOKS

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf

This must be one of the most eye-opening books I have read in 2020. In her 1990 book, Naomi Wolf presents how social and cultural stereotypes have increasingly shaped women’s physiques, behavior, and mentality.

On top of all the layers described by Wolf (media, advertising, education, religion, etc.), social media is increasingly influencing how women perceive themselves, so I’d be very curious to read a second volume on the topic.

Open – Andre Agassi

This autobiography has been on my list for two years and I am so thrilled I finally got to it. I read it almost feverishly and then quickly instructed my mother to read it as well. The book tells the story of Andre Agassi, a world-renowned tennis player, from his early childhood on the tennis court in his backyard to the last match he played professionally. It is told almost breathlessly and it’s not easy to put down.

Fiction-wise, I have enjoyed reading Where the crawdads sing by Delia Owens and Little fires everywhere by Celeste Ng. I don’t frequently read fiction, but when I do, all I want is to be immersed in well-built and believable worlds and be engaged in relevant and thought-provoking themes, which both of these books provide.

Continue Reading…
Laura Recommends

March Recommendations III

April 10, 2020

How is everyone doing? I figured most of us are craving for bits of our “old” lives, hence why I decided to go on with my regular editorial scheduling, bringing you my favorite cultural recommendations in terms of books, movies, documentaries, videos, exhibits and more. Obviously, everything I will mention in this month’s post will be accessible from home, the place where we should be most of the time for the sake of everyone’s health and for the sake of worldwide health systems.

PFEW. Saying all this makes me feel like a broken record, but alas… here are all the things I loved during March 2020:

BOOKS

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This book was everywhere on my Instagram feed ever since it launched. There were multiple interviews with the author which I saved in my TBR folder because I wanted to read the book first. And my God, I basically inhaled the 300+ pages in 3 days, it was that good! It’s an amazing book about relationships, desire, human needs, trust, despair, disappointment, sex, societal influences, labels and so much more.

Invisible Influence by Jonah Berger

I knew I would like this book the moment I saw it. It explained simply and scientifically how most of our decisions are actually triggered, inspired or influenced by members of the society around us. We aren’t really that free and independent in our choices as we would like to think, but I believe that if we are aware of the factors influencing us, then we can truly better understand why we do certain things/ buy certain objects/ crave a specific lifestyle. Super good read.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

I love everything Alain de Botton writes and this book made no exception. I found its story very compelling and its structure very useful in providing constructive explanations and reasoning into the story. I think it’s a fantastic read for anyone who wants to better understand oneself and who wishes to have an equally emotionally intelligent relationship with their romantic partner.

A Man called Over – Fredrik Backman

Building unlikeable characters which you end up loving by the end of the book is no easy feat, but Backman does a particularly great job at this. I laughed out loud a few times, deeply felt the tearjerking moments and overall tried to empathize a lot with Ove and his way of living. A delightful read to hopefully put into perspective the life of elders around us.

Continue Reading…