Less is more.

So I’m giving this whole sustainable living thing a go and it’s actually going pretty well. I bought this book…..actually that’s giving myself way too much credit- my mum bought this book (got bored of it….so I hijacked it) by Australian author Sarah Wilson. It’s called “I Quit Sugar– Simplicious”, kind of a wanky title but I decided to not judge this book by it’s cover and flip it open to take a peek.

I have a quick flick through and see the recipes are accompanied by colourful images and scrawled bits of handwriting which somehow make the amazingly constructed dishes seem highly accessible for a clumsy kitchen cook like myself. Seriously. I once burned my foot making my boyfriend an omelette…not something so easy to explain when you’re only two months in but he’s still here five years later, ensuring I always have appropriate footwear at breakfast time.

I immediately relate to Sarah Wilsons food philosophy of simple, nourishing food which utilises all the scraps you find in your hand as you are heading for the compost bin. I realised you can eat all the strange dangly bits off most vegetables, make stock from old chewed up bits of corn and live pretty comfortably off seasonal vegetables, dairy and the odd grain.

Humans suck. We do. We suck up all this food from the super market and spurt most of it into our bins, which congests our dumps with things that should be in our bellies or at worst, in our compost tubs. We, as consumers, are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions and this is primarily down to food waste. According to Wilson and her well researched book, we throw out up to 50% of our food every week….meaning half the crap we buy at the supermarket turns straight  into dumpster crap and skips out the middle man.

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Wilson’s motto; eat everything – core, peel, pith and all. Turn that old chicken carcass into a badass broth, turn that questionable cabbage into sauerkraut or stir fry.

I have been giving it a go for the past four or five months and I have got to be brutally honest. I f*%king love it. I feel healthier, I buy less and even more importantly I don’t reluctantly watch my hand throw out that old wet lettuce or those strange beans I swore I would eat.

It is great to see that even food chains are starting to take on this initiative. Instead of lazily tossing the unsold scraps of food into the dumpster, some forward thinking corporations are starting to realise that the food industry shouldn’t be solely about cash profit.  The French just passed a law which ensures supermarkets do not dispose of food waste, instead they sign contracts with food banks and charities who will then distribute the food to those who are struggling. We are only now getting around to acknowledging that we, as a species, do not need to watch millions of our peers struggle and starve while simultaneously watching an endless waterfall of food “waste” pour into landfills. The question is, when will NZ jump on board with this completely common sense initiative?  Doing a bit of digging it turns out that here in Dunedin, the ball is already rolling.

We can start by making similar common sense choices in our own consumer habits. Yeah, it’s pretty strange hearing yourself say “WAIT! Don’t throw that out” or a gleeful,”We can turn this into breakfast tomorrow!” and then watching your boyfriends face stare at you blankly while you shuffle around the kitchen with tupperware containers filled with leftovers you’ll use to make a mean burrito. I swear it doesn’t feel like a chore, more like a perpetual meal flow which comes from changing your outlook and more importantly breaking the bad ‘just chuck it in the bin’ habit.

 

 

 

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Sustainable Student Life…That’s a thing right?

 

Melbourne City. What a place. The art, the shopping, the people, the food, the culture, the coffee, the sites, the food……oh man… The Food. It is the hospitality capital of Australia, which essentially guarantees a good eatin’ time, no matter your budget. The competition keeps prices down and there is something for everyone. Diner style burgers, fresh sashimi, bold curries, exotic street food, gelato and oozing donuts all within a couple of blocks from our inner city apartment.

My friend, Jake, manages a thai Bar and Restaurant in the heart of the city. Pulling up pews directly at the bar became a bit of a ritual, a hobby even; starting off with a Negroni or two, ordering a spicy kale and cashew salad giving Jake a look that said “You know the drill, just keep it comin'”. Sitting at the bar ensured there was no messing around; you nod, out comes the fragrant seafood broth with fresh mussels and squid. You grimace and exhale loudly in pain, a round of beers slide toward you ensuring your food hole stays lubricated…. which is especially important when you are battling your way through mouthfuls of thai cuisine which in this place, were traditionally “why am I sweating so goddam much?” hot, while being seductively delicious.

Food and drink is a big deal in Melbourne. People dedicate their whole lives to it. If they do a good job, they are kept happy with beautifully equipped kitchens, bars, menus, equipment and regular patronage. Working here I learned how to pair liquor and food, how to run a rooftop cocktail bar, how to order and how to eat. More importantly, I learned that living sustainably in one of the worlds biggest cities can be pretty rough. You are presented with vibrant cuisine and polished service , yet as soon as you step out to the street and walk past stinking alleyway after stinking alleyway you see steaming piles of rubbish heaving up the walls. Walking through very questionable streams of garbage juice which leak from every lane is unavoidable. It is pretty obvious that the realities of such high demand for bigger and better dining experiences are pretty ugly and sometimes, downright worrying.

Take a quick peek at this wee infographic for a better idea of the food waste problem in Melbourne.

To discount the many positives of living in this beautiful city would be wrong. I must admit, Melbourne really is an incredibly ‘liveable city’, especially if like me, your obsessions with ‘living green’ are verging on neurotic. Trams run on electricity and make ditching the car an obvious choice. There are stands dotted around the city with communal ‘pay as you go’ bikes and helmets. The main street is car free which opens it up for foot traffic and tram lines. Even the scummy bar where I worked made sure we recycled the hundreds of glass bottles we chewed through every night. There is a real sense of communal responsibility for the cities eco-footprint.

Now to change it up. I have recently committed myself to living the student life for the next two years, or “dat povo life” as my partner and I like to call it. Yes, it is great to be learning new things and immersing myself in the academic culture of Dunedin I have so craved for the past three years. But it really does require a shift in perspective… mainly a shift towards being broke and short on time. I want to create a blog that reflects on living the most sustainable life possible as a ‘struggling student’. Does financial status effect our ability to reduce our food waste or does unavoidable scrimping make the more ethical choices harder to get our hands on?

 

 

 

Feature image (cityscape) sourced through Wikimedia under creative commons license

All other images belong to EC, the creator of this blog