A Personal Life Experience: How Food Waste Slapped the Sustainability Out of Me
What comes to our mind when we talk about ‘food waste’? Well for me, it’s merely just food that people don’t finish then they proceed to throw it into the garbage bin, simple isn’t it? At Least that’s what I first thought back in my early teenage days. The substantial truth behind it, however, is much more than just ‘unfinished food that people throw up’, though it is not wrong, it isn’t fully right either. When we talk about food waste, each individual may see it as, “Well.. It is only one fourth of my plate wasted, so I guess it’s fine”. Do I fully agree or at least slightly agree with this statement? Surprisingly I do agree with this statement. I could probably guess you readers who are reading this now thinking;
“How can this guy be writing about sustainability when he does not even care about a single food waste!”
“Is this really a sustainability story???”
“I thought this guy was slapped to the point where he started to care about sustainability..”
Hold up your anger guys, I know what I said and I do agree that it’s completely undoubtedly fine if a person wasted just a fourth of their plate… If… the person that wasted that one fourth of a plate is the last standing human being on earth while other people have vanished or moved to Mars because Earth is no longer a place worth living caused by man-made destruction who didn’t give a single thought on sustainability, then yes, it would be perfectly fine. But seeing that there are still 7.7 billion human beings inhabiting this doomed of a planet, then my answer is no, it is not fine at all. Let us imagine while we read this beautiful story, if 7.7 billion people on earth wasted one fourth of a plate, that means 1.9 billion plates of food are wasted in a SINGLE meal! Outrageous if we put our perspective on numbers, right?
Let us talk a bit about facts guys, according to OzHarvest.org (2022), around 1.3 billion tonnes of food which is equivalent to one third of all food produced is wasted. This costs the global economy up to $940 billion each year which is more than 4x the whole net worth of Elon Musk! That is a lot! Moreover, we talk a lot about emissions or even plastic production. But in reality, food waste is worse than total flying emissions up to 1.9% and plastic production up to 3.8%. Such a small thing to do yet has so much impact on this earth.
Now, let us get back to our storyline rather than circling through the boring numbers in which it will only get higher if we don’t do anything about it. So, my goal here to you readers is to inspire you guys to be more sustainable, in my own words, it means to slap the sustainability out of you all, with this single story. Though, at the end, it all comes back to my favorite quote, “no single person and no single thing can change someone, they can only be the reason for them to change”. It all comes down to every person’s decision on everything. So, this story is about myself, a kid who once never gave a single piece of thought towards food waste, let alone sustainability, until I experienced it myself.
My name is Sinatrya Perdana Bayu Aji and I was born in Indonesia on 23rd of December, 2000. I grew up in a family where I could say I was considerably lucky due to the fact that I can still enjoy quite a lot of meals everyday, in every week, in every month, and every year. When we take a look at the streets surrounding me, I was always going to see a lot of unlucky people with hardly any snacks, let alone proper food. Everytime I walk across them or sit down in a car with my parents passing through them, they always going to remind me, everytime until I got bored,
“Son, you should always be grateful for what you have, look at those people on the streets, they are not as lucky as you are, be grateful for everything, even the smallest of gifts.”
As a kid, of course it’s not easy for me to understand how others are living their lives with their perspectives other than my own, my mind as a kid wasn’t that open to consider what’s lucky and what’s not, hence I don’t really care about what I should and should not be grateful about. As time moved on, I began to learn how to be grateful about my own food. Considering that I was a kid with a great enthusiasm for fantasy stories, I even believed that when a tooth falls off and we hide it under the pillow, it will turn into a coin. And so every time my mother accompanied me to eat, I was always going to be told a story where I remember it until this very moment. The story is about rice where they would always cry if they are not finished or thrown away. So for my elementary school years, I would always be told by my mother,
“Son, you know that if you don’t finish up your rice, those rice there will cry when they are thrown away..”
Well surprisingly, that got into me, emotionally. As I was always emotional regarding everything, embarrassingly. Though, to be fair I was just a little boy. Ever since that, I never spent a day for a couple of years at that time to throw away food, especially rice.
As I grew older, I believed less in the authenticity of fantasy stories, though I still have high enthusiasm towards it, the belief of it being real slowly decreases overtime, until it vanishes completely. During my teenage life, I began to be, well, “teenager” as everybody else. Not caring about anything in my surroundings, let alone food waste. At that point of my life, I just want to have fun just like other teenage kids. Feeling the sense of brokenhearted by a relationship to the point I eat less and throw more food away, happened too. Though once in a while, I feel guilty about throwing food away as I always remember the value of being grateful considering a lot of my surroundings are not that lucky, but most of the time, I couldn’t care less. If I was full and couldn’t be bothered to eat or even not liking the taste of the food, I would just throw it away.
That attitude stayed inside me for a couple of years until I arrived at the point in my life where I started university and living by myself. My university was back in my home country, University of Indonesia. When I started living by myself, though I still am lucky enough to still get an allowance even though it’s limited per month and not that much, I began to see the value of things, even food. I used to eat whatever I wanted and not think about the price of every meal. But ever since I lived by myself, I started buying groceries and cheap foods. Though sometimes I really don’t like the taste and of course, when you’re buying groceries, you should know or at least try to know how to cook. And that’s what I did, I began trying to cook and failed miserably initially. The taste of the food was horrendous yet I still need to finish it because I should value no matter how small of a gift it is, just as my parents told me.
At this point of life, I did not see sustainability as an existent thing, rather I acted sustainable because I was somehow “forced” to do that because of factors like, for example; budgets. But hey, at least I started somewhere. My actions are not limited to just food wasting, though I bring a car to where I lived in uni, I rarely use it because gas prices are quite expensive and I decided to walk instead. Even so, my actions including reducing carbon gas emissions from cars shows I act sustainable in many other ways. This point of life was the point where I did not think of sustainability on a whole collective level, but rather an individual factor of myself.
When Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, this sustainable lifestyle shattered suddenly. I was back to myself where I did not need to care about food waste or even other wastes as I was back at home. This time, not only food and other common wastes, mask wastes are one of the most, if not the most wasted thing out of all. Everyday I get out of the house, one mask is ready to be thrown away and thinking back about it, everybody on Earth is doing the exact same thing. It was devastating really at that early stages of covid.
As time moves on, the pandemic settles down and borders open between countries. That is where my life changed drastically. I continued the second half of my university life in Australia, in particular University of Queensland where I am now doing one of their told assignments. My life here in Australia has changed the way I look at things (especially in university where you are pushed to be critical in thinking), specifically, food wastes. A lot of you guys might be wondering, how so? Well, ever since I was in Indonesia, all I wanted to do here in Australia is definitely studying and what interests me the most is doing the part time job. With a way better pay here doing part time than it is in my home country, I was highly enthusiastic diving in a new experience for me to have. And so, I applied to a lot of different kinds of jobs, from hospitality, food industries, and even sports industries. At the end of the day, I was accepted in a restaurant in Woolloongabba specifically in a Hotel Steakhouse. There I learnt a lot about how industries work, especially food industries. My position there as a kitchen hand, pushed me to handle all the food waste that was thrown away by unfinished food from the customers’ dishes. The garbage bag was super heavy and I am not exaggerating it. What’s more surprising is that it is all food waste and not just 1 bag! There were 2-3 big bags per night that I should throw away.
Everytime I came home from work, it got me thinking in the shower as one of those famous “shower thoughts” that everybody is on about, thinking;
“How in the world would they keep storing all those food waste while the space on this Earth is getting smaller and smaller. That’s just one restaurant, how many restaurants are there in Brisbane? Queensland? Australia? Oceania? The whole world!? That is… a lot… And a lot is an understatement..”
Ever since working in a restaurant and thinking of all the disastrous things that could happen, I have never wasted a single food since then. Every time I received food or buy food, if it is an excess food that I could not finish, I went back to my old values that my parents taught me;
“There will always be someone who is in need of food. Look at our surroundings, your surroundings, help them.”
With those values planted inside me and sustainability values as well, excess food can always be given to people in need such as the homeless people that sleep in tunnels and roadside who will always be grateful of what we give to them.
We are reaching the end of my personal story experience regarding food waste sustainability. People have different kinds of perspectives on how they receive messages. No matter what messages that you readers have gotten from my short story, as long as it’s positive, keep it deep within you and implement it. Though, my own supposed message to you readers is mainly of course, stay and always be sustainable no matter what it is, whether it be food waste, carbon emission, plastic usage, veganism, and many more, it doesn’t really harm you at all. If for instance that you guys have not at all been a sustainable person, don’t fret! We all have somewhere to start, one day we will all feel the impact of being a sustainable person.
To close this out, let me share to you readers what my progress looks like from being a literal zero sustainable person to improving to be a more sustainable person. As of now, I have completely refused to add food waste to our ecosystem, hence I never throw away food anymore. Although I haven’t fully completed using no plastic-based material, I have far reduced the usage. The only moment where I used plastic-based material is in an urgent situation where I needed to use one, but besides that, I don’t. Concerning veganism, it’s quite tricky for me. One phrase, I really like meat… To the point I really am learning about different kinds of meats such as the wagyu or regular meat, how the ribeye and sirloin tastes differently and many more things. So that part of sustainability is really quite hard for me to change, I may not change at all! But of course, if you guys can, it won’t bite! Afterall being vegan, especially as a student, really helps your budget, if you ever are concerned about that.
Hopefully one day I could share with you readers again on my progress in always improving being a sustainable person. See you soon!
Food Waste and hunger facts. OzHarvest. (2022, August 3). Retrieved October 14, 2022, from https://www.ozharvest.org/food-waste-facts/