In recent weeks, one significant movement has been brewing, one led by a tenacious young activist by that of Greta Thunberg. When I first read the news about the movement she was leading I felt a range of emotions, one of excitement that finally someone has stood up to the big boys and at the same time, I felt ashamed of my current efforts and equally wasteful, environmentally damaging habits – exactly what Greta herself is fighting against.
Despite all this, I do feel grateful that this movement has come to light and that many people are talking about it, simply because we need to keep the dialogue going. We need to be able to recognize that environmental change isn’t simply a job only for do-gooders. Because even the smallest individual actions can lead to big changes in the long haul.
So instead of treating this movement as another background noise while other more important things in our lives takes center stage, we need to take action however small it might be. And so I have written here five small everyday actions that we can take to do our part on changing the way we consume, and yes they all revolve around food.
1. Bring Your Own Reusable Bags Everywhere
The reusable bag trend is not a new one. In fact, I remember a time where everyone was giving them out as the new plastic bag. While these bags have surely become more accessible and even free for many of us, we still resort to using plastic bags either out of convenience or forgetfulness. A quick trick for this is to always pack a reusable bag in our usual bag so that we are always prepared for a last minute trip to the store. With that said, try to refuse any additional bags or wrapping given by stores, the cashiers will often thank you for that. Instead, if the item is small try carrying them with you or simply put it in a bag you already have.
2. Bring Your Own Containers when Ordering Take-Away
With the rise of Grab Food, take-away food packaging has become more sophisticated because when it comes to selling to consumers, packaging plays a huge role in the overall customer experience. Of course the best way to reduce packaged waste is to simply reduce ordering take-away food so often. The next best way to reduce this is to bring our own containers when ordering take-away from a store and by politely refusing containers provided by the sellers. An easy way to do this is to always pack a lunch box set in your office, and one in your car for those who drive.
3. Plan Your Meals to Reduce Food Waste
Cooking in general is one of the best options to reduce food waste and plastic consumption while also ensuring that we eat healthy. To do this, meal plan not just to get out the dishes or food that you would like to consume during the week but also think about how all the ingredients tie in together when cooking a meal. For example, if a particular dish only requires half an onion, think about cooking another dish that will utilize the other half onion so that no food goes to waste. You might think that you can store it in a vegetable bag that often keeps food fresher for longer but chances are you might forget what you bought last week only to have the remaining food thrown away.
4. Try Going Vegetarian for One Meal Each Week
I know, most of us in Singapore can’t imagine going meatless even if it’s just for one meal. According to a recent Chanel News Asia report, Singaporeans consume an average of 68g of meat a day, higher than the average of 14g of meat recommended by a medical journal The Lancet. For every 100g of meat, 105kg of greenhouse gases is produced, higher than an equivalent amount of tofu which only produces 3.5kg of greenhouse gas emissions. It is no wonder that the rearing of livestock, which not only has contributed to the clearing of mass amount of forests, accounts for 60% of total greenhouse emissions. There are numerous documentaries here and here showcasing that our consumption of meat is disrupting the sustainability of many ecosystems in different areas of the world.
While most of us simply do not see ourselves as vegetarian converts, I think we can still do our part by reducing the amount of meat we consume after all. Try committing to just one meat-free meal each week (excluding breakfast) and work your way to expanding it to one meat-free day each week and so on. Who knows this could even be a #coupleschallenge to tackle for your next date night. You’ll be surprised how good vegetarian food can taste!
5. Stop Wasting Food
And this brings me to my last point which is as simple as stop wasting food. A golden rule that our parents told us as kids with stories from the kids of Africa to the children of tomorrow. Sadly, I’m guilty of this occasionally when I simply cannot finish my food or am stuck in social situations where I can’t offer to share food with total strangers that I just met. I get it.
But there are tons of situations where food wastage is always an option. I was recently listening to a podcast by brothers Ali and Taimur Abdaal discussed in their recent episode “Invisible Shackles and Life Scripts” where many of us sink into conventional social norms because we have been so accustomed to it while growing up that we never thought to question such norms as adults. One of it as Taimur points out was the concept that lunch must be a heavy meal. In all honesty, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, a light lunch can definitely reduce those post-meal food-comas that most of us experience.
So the next time when you find yourself in a situation where all you want is ice cream for dinner than so be it. You don’t need to have a “proper dinner” meal and not finish it because all you just want and can eat is dessert. The point of it here is to stop wasting food. If you feel like you are in the mood to sample consider sharing or simply reference point number 2 and bring your own takeaway boxes.
As a professional organiser, I find that the key to changing habits or even starting a new routine is to set the intention behind it. By creating the intention to stop or reduce our own individual consumption will we make an effort to change. Many have gone on to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle, one that means over-turning their lifestyles and how they consume altogether. These habits are simple and easy to adopt and can significantly reduce our own individual carbon footprints. No excuses.
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