The best things in life are free, or so they say. People like Katryna Robinson are making the most of hotel freebies by donating them to the needy. Now, a free shopping market in New Zealand is cutting food waste (and hunger) by selling surplus food.
The Free Store is a nonprofit organization that redistributes surplus food from local businesses… to those in need. It was inspired by a two-week art project… where artist Kim Paton filled a shop with surplus food items from bakeries and supermarkets. Anyone visiting the shop could take what they wanted free of charge.
In New Zealand, the amount of food that goes to waste is staggering at over 120,000 tons. Just like a similar shop in Norway, The Free Store redistributes expired food still fit for a perfectly good meal. At present, they are selling about 250,000 food items per annum.
“We saw the potential in an untapped food supply. You had food that was perfectly good to eat, and then you had people that were hungry. We could facilitate a connection between the two,”
Initiatives such as this one are becoming increasingly popular around the world. While I’m all for consuming anything “spoiled but scrumptious”, I am more enthusiastic about how things are looking up for those in need.
In the past few months alone, the zero-waste community has grown exponentially. Environmental enthusiasts are ever going as far as hosting sustainable wedding receptions. Waste-free shops are manifesting across all seven continents, including this charming boutique in London.
“I created a shop that I wish existed. I wanted to cut packaging, I wanted to cut my footprint, and found it very difficult as supermarkets pack everything.” [said shop owner Ingrid Caldironi]
The shop, dubbed Bulk Market, boasts a wide range of organic products. Home essentials, including fresh produce, chocolates, and hair products, rest comfortably on its shelves. Caldironi’s ultimate goal is to prevent excessive buying and packaging waste.
“Why can’t we shop with smaller exact portions – 1-2 carrots, 1-2 eggs; why big packets with the environmental waste that goes with it?”
As an avid lover of omelettes, I’m not entirely sure 2 eggs would get the job done. However, the initiative is more than commendable, especially for environmental aficionados on a budget.
To accommodate a plethora of customers and increase sustainability, supermarkets across the globe have been making changes. From hosting seasonal “quiet hours” to selling perfectly edible expired products, chains are catering to various needs better than ever. Aiming to reduce both waste and poverty, Aldi is donating all its unsold fresh foods to underprivileged families.
“As Aldi stores will shut at 4pm on Christmas Eve until December 27, they will have a variety of good quality surplus food products that they will wish to redistribute in support of less fortunate individuals and to prevent food going to waste.” [the supermarket announced.]
To stay organized, Aldi is inviting local charities to collect the items for distribution. Each branch hopes to set out at least 20 to 30 crates of leftover food. So far, the initiative is gaining traction and supporters, all thanks to social media.
“Kudos to Aldi arranging for dispersal of unsold food on Christmas Eve to organisations helping those in need. Let’s hope others follow suit. Well done.” [said a netizen.]
Talk about killing two birds with one stone — except maybe the stone is an apple.
For homeless shelters across the globe, food shortages are a constant, pressing reality. On the other hand, restaurants deal with a baffling amount of leftovers. Because of this, apps like MealTech are helping facilitate donations, while select farms are growing produce for the needy. To alleviate waste issues at football games and do some good, Texas Christian University students are hauling tons of leftovers to shelters.
The donations are coordinated by the TCU Food Recovery Network, a student organization that works to eliminate food waste on campus, and Sodexo, the university’s food service company. The student organization also delivers leftovers from the campus dining hall to Union Gospel Mission twice a week.
With up to 40% of food supply wasted annually in the United States alone, it’s good to know perfectly good coleslaw isn’t being tossed. The Food Recovery Network, led by senior student Megan McCracken, also volunteers to serve their donations personally.
“People really want to help out, but they don’t know how to help out sometimes,” [food services director Robert] Clethan said. “They just need to know there’s a place like this that can use things like that.”
Thanks to TCU, Union Gospel feeds nearly 300 residents three times a day. Now that’s a feast!
Over the years, countries outside of Asia and Africa have opened up to stranger delicacies. A pub in Brussels is serving crickets in a variety of flavors. Jumping on the insect bandwagon is Entocycle, a startup attempting to turn fly larvae into a source of protein.
Not only can the larvae of black soldier flies be made into animal feed, but they also gobble down food waste during their short lives, doubling the environmental benefits of Entocycle’s automated system.
Okay, so we’re not going to be feasting on worm burgers anytime soon, but we can remain optimistic about our livestock and aquaculture. The larvae are also easy to raise.
The larvae of black soldier flies… will feast on organic waste from [a] large range of sources, including breweries and commercial kitchens. Because they are not picky [about] what they eat, black soldier flies are well-suited to being raised in an automated system.
Female black soldier flies can lay up to 1,000 eggs at a time. Harvesters use 5% of eggs to repopulate new cycles. They hatch the other 95% and turn them into feed as quickly as within a week.
The process is simple and affordable, which makes it no surprise that Entocycle has raised $1 million in grant money. Insect protein may not yet be the norm, but holds promise for the near future.
For some, chocolate is the cure to a broken heart. For me, it’s a cold brew. With news of a probiotic “healthy” beer in the making, I couldn’t imagine anything better — until Trash Tiki. The sustainable pop-up bar serves tasty, low-impact cocktails made with food waste. Spearheading the project are Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths.
The duo’s website features a recipe for citrus stock that makes use of already-juiced fruit, to address the fact that “citrus is once again front and centre, this time as it is by far the biggest waste product of any craft cocktail bar.”
Trash Tiki also hosts industry seminars that are open to the public — conveniently dubbed Trash Talks. The bartending twosome are among the first of their kind, stating that waste reduction is a priority mostly in restaurants.
“Perhaps surprisingly, (zero/anti-waste) isn’t really an idea that has infiltrated the bar scene that much — certainly not as much as the rest of restaurants, like it does in kitchens,”
Making the drinks are often hours-long ordeals. But if it’s doing a service to the planet (and my liver), then perhaps worth the wait.
If there is a better, cleaner, and faster way to make something, it’s probably the way to go. Synthetic wine is proving just that. The process uses no grapes but it just as tasty as any Sauvignon. Now, the brewing industry is following suit with Toast Ale craft beer, made from wasted bread.
Since Toast Ale launched in the U.K. in 2016, it has saved a total of 11 tons of bread from becoming trash there. In July 2017, Toast Ale expanded to the United States… By this time next year… Toast Ale will be saving 907 kilograms of bread a month in New York City alone, nearly 12 tons a year.
While the process may sound unusual, it has actually been common practice for some 7,000 years. Toast Ale works with existing breweries to avoid the hassle of building an entirely new facility. Also, the bread they work with is far from bad — so why have they been discarded?
Supermarkets demand that produce look a certain way, forcing suppliers to throw out perfectly good produce. Because the cost falls on the supplier, supermarkets are not incentivized to help reduce waste.
While I am throwing said markets some serious side eye, it’s businesses like Toast Ale that make living sustainably dough-able.
Ava Winery took the first step towards eco-friendly alcohol by creating synthetic wine. It seems sustainable distillery Misadventure and Co. are following in its footsteps by filtering Vodka made with food waste.
Once a week, it collects about a thousand pounds of bread products that a local food bank would otherwise throw out… “We get Twinkies, Ho Hos, French baguettes, crullers, you name it,” [says] co-owner Whit Rigali. “The whole bakery aisle goes into our vodka.”
Normally, Vodka is sugar from fermented starch. Using bread isn’t much different. The ingredients are first combined into a large blender and mashed into a porridge-like consistency. The distillery then adds yeast and moves on to the distillation process. The result? A pretty darn good Vodka.
“If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest contributor of greenhouse gases behind the United States and China,” [co-owner] Chereskin says. “In 2014, the amount of food wasted could fill the Empire State Building 90-some times.”
Expired Twinkies may not sound like an appetizing component of any cocktail — but it sure is unique.
With technologies like the carbon calculator allowing us to determine our impact on the environment, there is no reason we shouldn’t be more eco-conscious. For this newlywed British couple, it didn’t take an app to host a zero waste wedding reception. A combination of patience and careful planning was all it took to prepare a sustainable feast.
Charlotte and Nick contacted the Real Junk Food Cafe in Wigan, which intercepts food still fit for human consumption but heading for landfill, and has the slogan “feed bellies, not bins”.
The couple first successfully obtained frozen chicken and soft fruit rejected by various supermarkets. With only a day before the wedding to go, there was much to do — but not much to buy.
“We’d never catered for a wedding before and I had a few sleepless nights wondering exactly what food would come in,” explains Shirley Southwood, who with partner Ann Fairhurst founded the cafe two years ago.
“The only item I had to buy was a bottle of white wine for the sauce,”
Bride Charlotte holds the sentiment that while weddings can be an opportunity for “over-expense”, they can also be low-impact. She and hubby Nick even chose to forego a traditional wedding list, instead opting to ask guests for secondhand goodies. If a thrift store gown isn’t your thing, maybe a food waste buffet could be. It may sound gut-churning, but if it tastes delicious, why not?