by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
Climate change starts in consumer kitchens extending beyond the customary known causes: deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.
“We’re just not treating Mother Nature as we should, and that starts with what’s in your refrigerator and what you’re eating and what you’re just throwing out,” Ding Darling Wildlife Society Development Officer Sierra Hoisington said.
The ninth annual “Ding” Darling Film Series wrapped up on April 12 with a discussion on the film Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. The story is a digestible documentary following couple, director Grant Baldwin and producer Jenny Rustemeyer, who embark on a six-month challenge.
The challenge: survive six months on food waste. The rules: eat only discarded food, or food served by family and friends. Throughout their journey, viewers learn about food waste from farm to table.
“There is an enormous amount of hunger and environmental degradation in our world,” Rustemeyer said. “The way we produce, and waste food has a lot to do with them, I don’t think the average persona realizes the scale of the problem.”
Food waste occurs at every level of the production and consumption of food. In North America, 40 percent of food produced is wasted. Globally, it’s one-third of all food.
The waste extends beyond the food alone. It includes the loss of the resources used in producing it. In the U.S. 4 percent of the energy exerted goes into food production, that’s 4 percent energy being lost.
More importantly, the film tackles the misconception that food will undergo natural decomposition in landfills. Instead, the piled-up food decomposes without oxygen thus producing methane which shuts in magnified levels of heat, increasing climate change with every discarded meal.
During the Ding film discussion on April 12, attendees addressed the film’s tips for minimizing food waste while adding their own.
“We all decided we’re going to pick out the ugly fruits and vegetables from the store because no one else is going to buy them and we’re determined to do that,” Hoisington said.
Letting go of aesthetic perfection is crucial to the diminishment of waste. Imperfect, but perfectly edible food, is discarded at every stage of production because foods’ value is being attached to its appearance.
The next tip is to meal prep, buy what you need, and stick to it. The best way to save food is to not buy in excess from the get-go. If you do overbuy, chop it, and freeze it or make a broth before it spoils, Hoisington said.
Consumers should also learn to read labels correctly. The film addresses the difference between a “sell by date” and a “best by date.” An enlarged quantity of food is lost due to the misunderstanding of these dates.
Additionally, consumers should work to dismantle the abundance mindset. Hoisington said it’s an important topic to cover considering the overbuying tendencies exhibited since the start of the pandemic.
“You know stocking up and making sure you always have enough because you don’t know what’s going on,” Hoisington said.
Those who can, should consider contributing to local food rescues, and participating in gleaning—gathering leftover produce after a harvest, Rustemeyer said.
“Food waste is a big problem, but the solutions are within our everyday grasp,” Rustemeyer. “There are lots of things that we as individuals can do to reduce their own food waste or to make an impact in their communities, starting with simply taking only what they need, and eating everything they take.”
Beyond their four kitchen walls, people can aid the cause by educating friends and family on food waste. This particular documentary is free of charge on YouTube.
The “Ding” Darling Film Series focuses on doing just that by sharing environmental topics with as many people as possible, Hoisington said.
This year, “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” wrapped up the series by tackling the effect of food waste on climate change, an important issue on the Islands and beyond.
“When it comes to climate change and that’s where it really comes back to nature and, especially on Sanibel and Captiva,” Hoisington said. “The beach is washing away all due to climate change and, food waste goes right back to it.”