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The World That We Live In Encourages Us To Waste Food

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Ask this to yourself. When you think about stuff that is hurting our environment, what do you imagine? Chimneys puffing out black smoke? Cars and automobiles with their greenhouse emissions? Water with that rainbow glimmer due to the oil spills?

You’re not wrong, but did you even think about the perfectly good food that gets thrown into the trash, every day, all over the world?

When we think of climate change and what is deteriorating our environment, we don’t think about the tonnes of food that go to waste every day. In India, nearly 40% of the food produced goes to the bins, while the needy remain hungry. Three in every 20 Indians, go to bed hungry every night. And all of this wasted food is a huge contributor to climate change.

In 2018, the food waste in India was estimated to be worth about 92,000 crores per annum. When food is wasted, it not only makes the whole chain of resources involved seem meaningless but also leads to the release of greenhouse gases when it decomposes.

To put this into perspective, if global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just behind China and the USA.

The sad thing is no one likes to waste food. So what is causing this problem, which may grow into an existential crisis shortly, you ask? There is not a single reason to be pointed at, but a bunch of them.

Refrigerators

A study on food waste revealed that most of the food that goes into the refrigerator is worthless to us than something fresh. It revealed that people experienced more guilt and remorse when throwing away a fresh carton of eggs than throwing away a perfectly fine carton of eggs that stayed inside the refrigerator for a week.

Another fact is the steady growth of the average refrigerator volume for the last 50 years. It has grown from 18 cubic feet in the late 70s to about 22 cubic feet in recent years which accounts for an increase of about 22%. Since we have larger storage options, we overbuy and as a consequence throw away a lot too.

Portion And Plate Sizes

A new multi-country study found out that large, high-calorie portion sizes in restaurants are a global problem. They found that 72% of fast food meals studied in five countries contained 600 calories or more. Not only are servings getting larger, but some top fast-food chains are also engaged in cunning marketing ploys which could confuse customers who think they’re ordering less than they are.

But, even when consumers try to do right by their diets by choosing a small or medium of something at a fast-food chain, they get more than they expect. Gigantic portion sizes of the fast-food restaurants subtly encourage us to overeat. eventually making us throw away a lot too. ‘Value-sizing’, getting ‘more’ food for the dollar, is the culprit to be blamed here.

Also, globally, the average size of the dinner plate has significantly grown with time, from an average diameter of 10 inches in the 80s to 12 inches in the present times. Which translates to an increase in the area of about 40%, which is massive. When you have a big plate, you tend to put a lot of food on it, whether or not you can eat it all.

Time To Blame Our Brain

When it comes to food, our brain is uncomfortable with empty white spaces. This is linked to our primal instincts and is the reason why we don’t like seeing empty spaces either in our refrigerators or in our plates. Subliminally, we love stocking up food. This instinct helped us survive the wilderness a long time ago when food supply was unstable but seems obsolete in modern times. If we overcame these primal urges, that in itself would lead to less waste in our homes.

The Advent Of Supermarkets With Their Sleight Marketing Ploys

The business strategies of supermarkets have to take a lot of blame because they make us overbuy unconsciously exploiting our psychological weaknesses. For a start, the “Buy one get one” (BOGO) offers. While the offer seems like a steal, often it is the opposite of that, extremely deceptive and not a good deal at all. “Multi buys” are also similar to BOGOs.

All these business models deceive us into thinking that we are saving money when we are buying in bulk. But we are not. The reality is, we are overbuying with the intent of saving money. Confusion over date-labelling leads to billions of pounds of food waste every year too. Also, remember the fact that shopping carts these days are bigger than ever.

Representational image.

Levels of population and food production have grown exponentially in the last 50 years, leading to an increase in greenhouse gases. This creates a paradox in exchange, where the rising amounts of food production are speeding up climate change, but on the other hand, climate change is threatening food production.

We have to overcome these mind games played by the consumer industry and see the big picture, the real picture behind the facade. Of all the things we can do towards saving our environment, reducing food waste is the easiest thing to do, that has a bigger positive effect on our planet.

Don’t waste food. Don’t overbuy.

About the Author: Monish is a free-spirit with a passion for art and science. A modern age ‘Jack-of-all-trades.’

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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