Tuesday, June 4, 2013

FERN - Decreasing Food Waste in Lebanon

June 5 is the World Environment Day and the smartest way we can preserve the environment is by action. We can 'think' all we want that something must be done to protect mother nature, or we can do something about it >> Exactly what FERN advocates are doing! FERN, Food Establishments Recycling Nutrients, is a Lebanese NGO founded during November 2012, tackling the issue of food waste in Lebanon.



F.E.R.N. increasing awareness on food waste
in Souk El Tayeb
In Lebanon, 63 to 95 % of waste is organic, meaning actual food that can be composted, while the remainder of the waste is basically recyclable glass, plastic, metal and paper. In addition, at least half of the food grown in the market is thrown away, especially when fruits and vegetables are aesthetically considered lower than the market's selling standards because of skin blemishes. Consequently, this has increased food waste, cost, methane gas emission and overall pollutionTherefore, FERN is determined that food establishments in Lebanon can have an overall of ZERO waste, recycling food to generate more foodSo if you're skeptical, walk with me.

  • F.E.R.N. contacts food establishments, analyzes their food preparation process and
    Cedar Environmental recycles
    organic and non-organic waste!
    trains employees on how to reduce their foodprint and on how to sort out organic material (food) from the rest of the waste generated on site.
  • Food is then collected daily
    >> Food waste is sent to treatment facilities such as Cedar Environmental (www.cedarenv.com) in order to generate 100% environment friendly and organically certified compost for farmers' use. I remember meeting Ziad, the brains behind Cedar Environmental, in TedX few years back. His talk was absolutely inspiring as he was in love with recycling our Lebanese garbage! What I love most is that when such compost is applied to the soil, it can improve its quality as it is rich in essential nutrients originally found in food while reducing the use of chemical fertilizers!
    >> As for leftover safe food, it is donated to those in need through organizations such as FoodBlessed and the Lebanese Food Bank (which deserves a post of its own!).
  • FERN is also committed to increase awareness about decreasing food waste and nutrient recycling to children as well as food establishments and farmers.
Currently, 83% of waste is being dumped in landfills or directly into nature whereas only 17% is being composted and recycled. This is why FERN has started this easily implemented initiative where any food establishment can take part! FERN is currently working with 10 restaurants to recycle, reduce and prevent food wastes all over Lebanon!

So my question was, given that I don't own a food establishment, what can we do to decrease our foodprints and food waste??
>> Naji Boustany, FERN co-founder, was helpful enough to give me few tricks on what I can personally do for the environment!
Fruits and vegetables with blemishes
can be turned into jams, pickles or soups!
  • Start by adjusting your food shopping behavior: Buy the exact amount of food you need. If it's hard for you to assume that, start by keeping a list of the leftover food you throw away. This will definitely give you an idea on what you are buying in excess!
  • Apply FIFO: First In, First Out! Store them back and move the older food items to the front, this way you can use these foods before their expiration date.
  • Fruits and veggies with blemishes should not be thrown away, as they are as safe and nutritious as perfectly-shaped produce. They can be eaten as such or made into soups, jams, cakes, smoothies, pickles or juice! And I actually applied this few weeks back when we had extra bananas on the verge of dying - Turning them into banana ice cream was a success!
  • Of course in Lebanon, we cook as if everyday is a fiesta (at least that's what mom does). But the trick lies in never throwing left overs away
    - When we cook huge amounts, we make sure to invite lots of people over or send my teta, aunt, family and even colleagues some of the yumminess.
    - We also freeze those extra meals and have them in coming weeks.
    - Or we have leftover days! Boy is this common in our house! This is usually done on Thursdays or Fridays, where all foods left from the week are gobbled!
  • And one tip I loved is separating all food waste from non-organic ones, turning them into a bland and using them as fertilizers for my plants, smart and nutritious!
FERN also provided us with this printable poster for more ways to decrease food waste!
So FERN is currently expanding its awareness campaign to decrease food waste, increase food recycling and include more food establishments that FERN-alize their organic waste! You can check their website, twitter or facebook page to know more about their activities as they are having an environmental quiz night tomorrow June 5th and a fundraiser on Thursday!


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