Tips around the sustainability & background of our nutrition, urban gardening and avoiding food waste.
I have a question: How often do you think about food?
If you’re not taking this as a rhetorical question and start counting, you’d probably think of being hungry during class, thinking about food instead of following a boring conversation, having quite interesting conversations on favourite foods, watching cook shows, deciding what to order or if you cook, what to cook, when to cook and when to eat… To shorten the list: We think about eating a lot! (That’s, given the necessity of nutrition, not surprising.)
But no matter how much time we spend thinking about food in general, it’s easy to forget to think about the background of our nutrition. Especially in Europe and North America our diets have a major impact on environmental and humanitarian issues. There are so many topics to consider! Food waste and agriculture, livestock breeding, hunger problems and healthy diets. The difficulties already start when deciding what to work on, right?
Especially as a student, the life circumstances might make it difficult to pay mind to the sustainability of our diet. But there are a few ideas and tips to consider. And to make the start even easier, THE FIZZ is helping you!
Your kitchen or the supermarket are not the start of the journey.
Seed trade, farming and shipments mostly happen behind the curtain, especially in the cities. But we can take some initiative! (I’m apologising in advance for the bad pun, I just had to…) Urban Gardening is a growing trend and it’s not growing because it’s regularly watered. Urban Gardening is an awesome hobby! It’s about community and making friends, it’s a way to learn about plants and crops. You spend more time outside and you profit from your own work! Harvesting own-grown fruits or vegetables is a highlight and they taste so much better than from the supermarket!
In most cities, there are multiple Urban Gardening communities looking for helping hands and enthusiastic members. There may also be initiatives from local farmers or allotment gardens. I know these little “city gardens” carry the reputation of being very conservative and pettier than anything, but since more and more young people participate in allotment communities the vibes are changing. And if you’re not convinced of gardening, even if it’s just occasional – that’s fine! Growing your own herbs on the window sill requires nothing more than a green thumbnail and feels just as good. 😉
THE FIZZ in Vienna Brigittenau took real initiative there and decided to make their own little garden. With the help of some professionals, the team and the residents built several raised garden beds and new furniture for their rooftop terrace. Of course, these beds became a home for new vegetable plants the same day!
The next step takes us to the supermarket…
… and then to our fridge. And this step comes with a well-known problem: Food waste!
In Europe, most discarded food is wasted in households, followed by gastronomy and places of trade. I think we all know the feeling of throwing away something mouldy with a bad conscience because we didn’t eat it earlier… But I also have good news. Reducing food waste isn’t that hard!
Buying second-choice wares in the supermarket or planning your purchases can change the overall picture, even if they are nothing more than little habits in your day-to-day life. Take ten minutes at the end of every week to plan ahead. Make a list of dishes you plan to cook and write your shopping list according to your plans. On which days do you have time to cook and when is it easier to order something?
The best thing is, that you’re not just saving food but also time and money. Not having to visit the supermarket every other day sounds good to me. Or you can include stopping by certain shops or weekly markets in your plans if you know that you’re going to be in the vicinity anyways. Opportunities like the “to good to go” App where you can save businesses leftovers for less money are also a great addition to your little reducing waste initiative.
Saving food doesn’t stop at the shopping list
If you come home with your groceries make sure to store them properly! So many things last longer if we know how to treat them right. Did you know for example that bananas turn brown earlier when stored in the fridge, but stay fresh underneath the peel even if it doesn’t look like it? Luckily there are plenty of tips and lists online to find out the different “needs” of your groceries.
To help you keep track of everything, the “FIFO principle” is great, not just because you could name a dog after it but also because it’s simple and effective. FIFO stands for “first-in-first-out”. The groceries that have been the longest in the fridge or the cupboard are the ones that should be taken out first. Therefore they should be stored in the front where they are easily visible. The things that go “first in” are to ones to go “first out”.
Oh, and the community kitchens profit from this principle too 😉 I admit planning what to eat, what to buy and how to organise your food storage might take a little time at first. But once it’s a routine, it will steal none of your time anymore and instead save food and money.
Let’s talk about cooking!
Cooking is a bit like liquorice, some people like it and some people don’t (and some people take a stand in between but they are not really to be trusted…). But different than liquorice cooking is quite a useful skill. And what is even more useful? Being able to cook with leftovers! There are so many recipes teaching you how to use leftover parts of your groceries, that would have been wasted otherwise. And when experimenting a bit with that lonely zucchini in your fridge, you might create something delicious instead of leaving it in the vegetable drawer until it’s all wrinkly.
Why don’t you ask your fellow FIZZies to share the burden?
Find a few other people and everyone cooks once every few days for themselves and the others. Or you can cook together in the community kitchen (that even reduces the time you spend tidying up afterwards). There are also cooking events organised by our house managers – which means you don’t have to plan or buy anything in advance, quite convenient huh?
Cooking for yourself instead of choosing premade dishes from the supermarket is (in the long run) cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s better for our environment and it’s so much tastier! So as a little motivation, I have the most incredible and absolutely worn-out tip in terms of cooking: Don’t let failed attempts discourage you and put salt in your water before you boil the pasta!
In the end, there is more to sustainable nutrition than being vegan or vegetarian and while these lifestyles can do a lot to help the situation, you can still make an impact if these diets aren’t the thing for you. Now you can add “reading this article” to your “thinking about food” list and consider it as a sign to start some new habits and make the world a better place – no matter how cheesy that sounds 😉
All photo rights by International Campus GmbH.