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  • Writer's pictureDoug Hull

Waste not ...

Christmas has been and gone, and I am still recovering from the usual over indulgence that is synonymous with the festive season. Christmas is typically the biggest 'feast' in the western calendar. Whether you are celebrating it for religious purposes, acknowledging the winter/summer solstice, or just doing it because that's what everybody does, there is a good chance that excessive eating and drinking are on the menu wherever you are. But Christmas is also a time of great food wastage, which has a cost to the environment.

Up until about 12000 years ago our ancestors were hunter gatherers who would go out hunting periodically and return with a large animal of some sort that would trigger a feast. The feast could last a few days, but eventually the meat would be finished, and the tribe would have to survive on whatever they could gather until the next successful hunting group returned days or weeks later with the next feast. Of course I wasn't there to see it, but I can guess that there would have been rituals followed, thanks given, and the food would have been greatly appreciated by the no-doubt ravenous tribe. Feasting was a special occasion, and it certainly didn't happen every day. Somehow humans have 'evolved' and feasting, like most things these days, can happen on demand.... every day if you like!

While feasting seems like a great idea, it has the negative side-effect of wastage. While our ancestors would have eaten every kind of edible plant no matter how mangled and deformed it was, we are much more fussy and the feast itself has to look the part. Perfectly good fresh produce is often rejected by supermarkets because it does not have the right shape, size or colour to be sold to consumers. In fact close to half of all the vegetables and fruit produced globally are wasted each year. In a world where the number of mouths to feed is growing rapidly, that is criminal. If a quarter of the food currently wasted every year was saved, it would be more than enough to feed the approximately 800 million undernourished people in the world. Perhaps we should become less fussy about the appearance of the fresh produce we buy...

And what about meat? Meat is a valuable commodity - not only does it come at a high environmental cost, the animal has literally given its life to be on your plate, so to throw excess meat away seems extremely wasteful. Our ancestors ate the whole animal - nothing would have gone to waste when there were hungry tribesmen around. These days we over-cater. Chicken, Ham and Turkey on Christmas Day - bring it on! Leftovers for a week? You betcha. Remnants in the rubbish the day after New Years Day - inevitably yes...

And what about the carbon footprint of food wastage? Well, according to, "If food loss was a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the US". Read that again slowly, I'll wait....

Here's another: "An area larger than China and 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten"

These are mind-boggling stats! If anybody out there is wondering how they can contribute to the climate war - becoming aware of your wastage, and looking for ways to reduce it is a great first step..

To be human is to be part of a tribe, and rituals are part and parcel of a tribe's existence. Sometimes a feast is in order - Christmas, weddings, birthday parties. But outside of those special occasions we should learn to be a bit more frugal and cut down on wastage. And don't be scared to buy an ugly carrot.

Until next time!

The Regeneralist

aka Doug

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