We were having breakfast this morning and noticed a mother and two children at the nearby table. She had ordered the same meal for her two children of pre-school age, plus a coffee (!) and a large glass of water for the boy.
Looking at them we already anticipated that the children wouldn’t be able to finish the food on their plates. Sure enough, 15 minutes later the plates were pushed aside, almost untouched, and the mother ordered something else for the boy.
When they left to pay for their food, there were almost two full servings left behind and the coffee.
My husband said people waste because they’ve never known hardship. I disagree. I’ve never known hardship. I was blessed with a childhood where I had just about everything I wanted – we weren’t rich, but we were never lacking.
I was taught not to waste, and the green movement was just picking up pace when I was a teenager. I diligently used both sides of paper, ripped out unused pages for scrap paper, tried my hardest not switch on the air-conditioning unit every day, recycled what I could, argued with people who left the water running, supported any retailer that had a ‘Not Tested on Animals’ or ‘Biodegradable’ label on it, or any product that was made from recycled materials.
The whole idea of being eco-friendly has become so much more complicated since then, and encompasses so much more than what my idealistic mind could grasp back then. But at the core of it is a very simple message – stop wasting.
Stop wasting food – it’s sickening to see parents order full portions for toddlers who will only manage a few mouthfuls; disgusting to see plates being cleared from a table where five women have each ordered individual meals and left more than half of each uneaten; incredibly frustrating to see people out for dinner order a starter, entree and dessert without any single item being finished.
Come on people. It’s not just about the cooked food that’s gone to waste – it’s the amount of resources and the effort of people who had worked so hard to grow the food and rear the animals for their meat, and the processes and transportation necessary to get the food to your table…all this just so you can throw most of it away?
There’s nothing wrong with sharing a portion. If your favourite restaurant can’t respect that, then they don’t respect the food which is their livelihood and they don’t deserve to be in the food business.
Please stop and think for a moment the next time you sit down for a meal.
I had lunch with a former colleague once, who said to me, “Well it makes no difference to starving people whether I finish my food or not. It’s not like I can go and give them my food.”
Well no, of course it’s not so simplistic as that. But there is a chain reaction that occurs when consumers make a stand. It happens everywhere, and in today’s world where just about every consumer behavior is noted and analysed, businesses do take note of what customers want.
When I was a teenager, there were only a handful of brands I could get my hands on that were known to be eco-friendly in some way. Today, my FB page is filled with news about innovative products, people, structures, furniture, clothing etc that are re-purposed, resource-efficient, or designed to undo a little bit of the damage we’ve inflicted on this planet. There are entire businesses, catalogues and conferences showcasing products and services that continue to bring awareness to new heights.
So don’t try to make excuses, or pretend that your actions can’t make a difference. I’m not a saint, but I try. It’s impossible to untangle the chain of supply to ensure that everything we buy and consume is good for the planet, and many eco labels remain too expensive for the average person, but there are so many other things we can do if we can just make that small, conscious effort to Stop the Waste.