The Trash Heap Has Spoken

An article in the NY Times discusses how, just as buying at Whole Foods is not necessarily instant bonus karma points, neither is shopping at local farmers' markets.

One of the points in the article is that wasted food counts for a huge amount of the carbon quota caused by food consumption/production. Depends how much edible food you are in the habit of throwing in the trash, I guess. If you are buying more food than you eat, the food production enviro-costs outweight the benefits.

Since I'm living in a city of apartment-dwellers, maybe I should try to start a local collective compost initiative. Or save scraps and go out to Erik's dad's village once a week to contribute dutifully to the compost heap? We are planning to stake our claims to a patch in Erich-senior's garden when spring comes, so maybe the vege-scrap ferrying will be feasible. And we'd take the train, too... (I'm sure our fellow passengers would appreciate the smell of our virtuous weekly kitchen scraps!!)

Influenced by my Dutch Oma who (dubiously) claims to have had to cut mold out of slices of bread during the war and eaten nettles as salad, I am one of those people who will cook carrots once they've gone all floppy and will stubbornly plan on using that one wilted segment of onion in the fridge which has been there forever. Erik hates this, as he's been brought up to be paranoid of the terrible health risks of mold and bacteria. He tells me that Turkish people leave a cut onion in their fridges specifically to absorb bacteria. I, on the other hand, would be happy to use the leaves from those two basil plants in the window which have half-dried up and which have mold sprinkled like snow across the surface of the dirt they're planted in. The one thing that I have learnt can't be used once it's gone a bit squiffy: parsley. Bad vibes.

Although I think it's a type of trivial obsessive-compulsiveness more than any great laudible enviro-friendly habit, I also freeze unused egg yolks, and vege scraps for stock, and slices of stale bread for bread crumbs, and reuse plastic wrap and random small plastic bags that nuts&seeds came in. I tried saving lemon rinds to soak in the bottom of the shower as a natural de-scumming technique ...but as we don't have a plug, it didn't work too good... I still need to get a non-leaching stainless steel bottle for carrying water.
I did read about a company in the UK that makes designer coffee tables out of coffee grinds...
Now, if we can just come up with a good use for potato peels apart from as a dressing for burn victims!
(Maybe as a glue for our huge collections of coffee tables?)

I'm not sure on the point in the article below about canned tomatoes: it's hard to see a can as more enviro-friendly than a 'perishable bag of fresh tomatoes with light packaging', if those tomatoes were then bottled at home.

These days, every single thing you buy has to have its costs & benefits mentally weighed before purchase. "Can it be that it were all so simple," as the Wu Tang song goes...

Some people walk or take the subway to buy their groceries and then compost what they don’t use. But, let’s face it, most of us drive and toss the leftovers into the garbage disposal or the garbage can. In doing so, we may be contributing nearly a quarter of the greenhouse gases associated with our food, research has shown.

Here’s why: Instead of going to the grocery store once a week and stocking up, many consumers are driving for groceries several times a week, if not every day, to all sorts of different stores.

“THE old idea where our mother goes to the store on Wednesday or Thursday with all the coupons to buy all our groceries has changed,” said Harvey Hartman, who tracks consumer behavior as founder and chief executive of the Hartman Group. “Now we are on our way home from work and we say, ‘Oh, geez, what are we going to have for dinner?’ ”

If all the driving wasn’t producing enough greenhouse gases, Mr. Tomich points out that an even bigger factor may be the amount of food that is tossed out, wasting all the energy that was used to produce and transport it.

Certainly, there are many reasons for eating local food — from supporting local farmers to a desire for fresher, potentially tastier food. The research in California, however, offers the prospect of a more nuanced debate on eating a low-carbon diet. In the meantime, Ms. Feenstra said, the research has already led her to one conclusion:

Don’t drive your sport utility vehicle to the farmers’ market, buy one food item and drive home again. Even if you are using reusable bags.

Article in NY Times


    I hear you sister,

    I tend to save all scumy veges for a pot of kimchi stew, which Hock refuses to eat. I figure I may as well play up the whole semi rotten thing and pair them in a big chili steaming broth of other rotting things

    I was composting in Canberra, dutifully. Plus cycling everywhere and recycling all plastics. I even caught the bus to Sydney and not the plane. That all ends now that I am back in Bangkok though.

    Sometimes I pray that like in Cambodia, that the plastics and tin I throw away are considered valuable by someone and are sifted and removed from my trash and recycled. I try to make this magical person's job easier by separating out my trash. Bangkok's waste management system is a mystery to me. Cambodia's less so. It was more obvious what people did with their trash there. Given that they just dumped it anywhere I saved all the batteries I used in Cambodia and finally just left them in Australia. Crazy I know. But only marginally less crazy than you ferrying rotting vegetables on a train.

    There has got to be a better way!

    also given your penchant for Aunt Daisy like household tips

    I thought you might like this


    also isn't the "trash heap has spoken" a line from Fraggle Rock?


    haha yes!! I'm glad you spotted it...
    And thanks for the boing-boing link, most excellent.
    I remember living in Japan it used to drive me crazy that I had so little ability to investigate what happened to refuse etc... there was a lot of separation but I think much of it was burned in the end... plastics maybe just dumped...


    I just found a Fraggle Rock episode called

    "home is where the trash heap is"


    I met the guy who ate the leftover food from my bin in Cambodia one morning. I felt mighty embarassed, mostly because I'm pretty obsessive about eating everything I buy myself, and whatever went into the trash in Cambodia was very grim.

    I also used to sort my trash for whoever was on-selling it, and gave my hill of Asahi cans to my landlord. It seemed so sane at the time.


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