Friday, August 23, 2013

Food wastage: 5 things you can do about it

Wastage of food is a serious issue.Unfortunately, that has not been talked about until now. Fortunately though, its finally out in the open.

As always, some people are talking the issue by pointing fingers at some countries and communities for wasting food and aggravating food insecurity in the poorer areas. And then there are some who are busy denying the charge. The question is, is there something you can I can do in the meantime to stop food wastage? My answer: yes course!

1. Spot it within, before you spot it outside: Most people in our country think, food wastage is happening only in the developed nations. Well, I say, they are wrong. This is a chronic callousness every country suffers from. And I have a personal story: When I was about 7, I used to leave a little rice on my plate every day. I felt, I was full and would throw up if I ate an extra morsel.  And I also thought, it was ok to leave food. Then, one day, my mom caught me and talked me out of the habit.

Today, when I visit homes of friends, relatives or colleagues, I see the familiar scene: kids - and grown ups - leaving food on their plate and not caring.  These are not rich people, but are richer than those who struggle to buy a single meal. And they waste food.

So, before you write or talk about it, take a harder look at the people sitting at meals at your home and see, are they wasting food? If yes, that's where you spot the problem first!

2. Rid the habit, connect the dots:  When my mother caught me wasting food, she didn't scold or punish. Instead, she told me, 'you see that grain of rice? its for this that your Daddy isn't living with us.'

 My dad was working for a private farm in Dubai. At school/social events, when other kids had their parents by them,  my Dad wasn't there with me or my siblings and I felt sad. Now, my mom made me see the connection between my loneliness, absence and my dad and my eating habit. And even at that age, I could understand that if I wasted food, I would fail my Dad who worked so hard, so far to get me that food. Since then, I have carried that thought with me.

Yes, emotions such as this that can help connect the dots, can be built early on. You can do the same!

3. You see, you show: In 2010, I got my fist dose of large scale food wastage when I was in Germany to attend a youth meet. Our host - a political think tank - had got us there to brainstorm on how the world could be reshaped to make it more sustainable. And everyday, at the lunch and dinner, I saw these huge trays full of food just lying there, cold and untouched. I learned that it was going to go to land fill.  I was horrified.

And I expressed my horror on the last day when the host asked us to give our feedback on the event.'You get us here and ask us about making the world sustainable. Well, this is where it begins - stop wasting food, so there will be food sustainability for all.'

If you think they hated my plainspeak, think again! The organization actually hired me during RIO+20, to write for a new portal they had launched on sustainability!

4. Lose that hoarding habit: My second big food wastage experience happened in New York last fall, when I was touring the US as a speaker on empowering women with digital technology. We - a group of 5 girls - had rented an apartment for a week in Brooklyn. There was a large refrigerator in the kitchen stashed with so much food, you would think there was going to be a war and someone had stacked up for a month!

 But, we were out all day, returning late and had no time to cook. So, we took out food from restaurants on our way back and ate that. The result? The huge pile of food in the fridge just sat there, unused. Then, the day we left, the landlady (who, incredibly, was also very interested in 'green living' and said she grew organic food) turned up, put everything in large trash bags. You can imagine the rest.

If only the lady had cared to NOT hoard so much food, it would NOT have been wasted.  But what she didn't do is what you can do: Not be a hoarder.


5. Care: Of course, it all begins here, by caring to know what happens when people waste food, how people in another part of the world die to have the amount of food that you throw away everyday and how over consumption(which is actually not even consumed, but wasted) of food in one part of the world causes imbalance in food distribution system, creating scarcity in another part. Many people know it, but they do nothing. Because, they don't care.

But if you know and care, you are putting effort to end food wastage, no matter how small. After all, drops do fill the ocean, don't they?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Saluting Forest Rangers - Those Unsung Heroes

Yesterday, 31st July, was the world rangers day. For me, it's a day dedicated to one of the most neglected and unsung heroes of our time: forest rangers. Since in India 'ranger' usually refers to the top post in forest security force which is a privileged one, let me therefore mention it as the world forest guards day. This post is about them.

I grew up in the north east of India - a cluster of 7 states that are often also mentioned as the seven sisters - which is of course the region with maximum (one fourth of the country's total 6,92,027 sq km) forest cover. And as a child, like everyone else, I often sang this rhyme:

Who's famous o mister?

Delhi's minister

Mumbai's film star

Bengal's barrister


Assam's forester