Many of us are seriously worried about the environment, following the bad news about its steady degradation and talking about it with our families, colleagues and friends. And many are willing to do something to help but feel powerless.
Look: there is an easy, very easy way how to prevent the further deterioration of the environment and help combat climate change. As easy as buying and eating “ugly” fruit and vegetables, just to start with.
Let’s take the case of carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and bananas. Did you know that between 25 and 30 per cent of all carrots don’t make it to grocery stores because of aesthetic or physical irregularities, according to the UN leading food and agriculture organisation, FAO.
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder –the organisation adds-- but when it comes to fruit and vegetables, one third of them never even make it to our grocery store shelves because they are rejected on their way from the farm to the store.
“While supermarkets have a part to play in this, we must also examine our own consciences. Would we choose the oval-shaped, matte-coloured apple or the perfectly rounded shiny one? One of these would definitely make a nicer Instagram photo than the other, but in the end, both would taste equally as good and would satisfy your hunger.”
The UN specialised body then reports that 815 million people go hungry ever year, while the world as a whole wastes or loses 1/3 of what is produced. In the case of fruits and vegetables, almost half (45 per cent) is wasted.
“In our world of increasing extreme weather events and changes in climate, saving ugly fruit isn’t only an issue of ethics, it is a question of resources.”
In fact, valuable natural resources go into producing the food we throw away.
Just know that it takes 13 litres of water to grow 1 tomato and 50 litres of water to produce one orange. It also takes seeds, soil, labour of farmers and even the fuel that goes into transporting the food.
“All of these resources are lost when the fruit (pun intended) of these labours is lost,” FAO explains and tells the following stories:
The Carrot’s Story
A carrot often faces many obstacles before even getting to a supermarket. It must pass the rigid requirements that supermarkets have for their fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, carrots must go through photographic sensor machines that analyse them for aesthetic defects.
If they are slightly bent, not bright orange, have a blemish or are broken, they are moved into the pile intended for livestock feed even though they are still fit for human consumption.
The Banana’s Story
Bananas are a particularly fragile fruit. Even if they make it to the grocery stores or markets, the way they are stacked or the way they have been packaged can damage these softies, explains the specialised body.
Handling bananas roughly can negatively impact their appearance and can cause the fruit to spoil more quickly. Consumers are then not normally keen to buy produce that is over-ripe, soft, discoloured or damaged.
So, here’s a tip for you: If you intend to eat the fruit the same day, buy the ones that are already ripe. If no one chooses them, they will end up in the garbage instead of someone’s stomach.
The Potato’s Story
Some food like potatoes, are lost or wasted when they are processed into other types of food. For example, potatoes destined to be French fries, can be wasted in the stage where they are cut into strips. These strips break easily during the processing and packaging stages.
The broken pieces are then often thrown out because it is usually cheaper to dispose of them than to reuse them. Other potatoes that get damaged during the loading or transport phase get excluded before even making it to the packaging factory.
Developing markets for “sub-standard” produce and products, like broken potatoes, which are still safe for consumption, nutritious and taste good, would be one way to reduce food waste or losses caused by errors in processing, packaging or transporting. .
Filling Stomachs Not Landfills
Saving ugly fruit and vegetables isn’t just a question of ethics; it is a question of resources. And most of this waste is preventable, the world specialised organisation assures.
And adds that choosing ugly produce, storing fruits and vegetables properly and eating what you already have in the refrigerator before what is newly purchased are just some things that each of us can do in our daily lives to create a #ZeroHunger world and combat climate change."
“Make room in your heart for ugly fruits so that they fill stomachs and not landfills.”
Fine. The question is where to buy ugly fruits and vegetables? Perhaps if more and more people buy them from small farmers or ask their grocery stores and even supermarkets for ugly fruit and vegetables, they will end up bringing them. Worth trying!