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Why Embracing Ugly Food Reflects Your Inner Good

This is an article written by Yasira Yusoff from Food Unfiltered and edited by The Sustainability Project

“Make sure to pick the best-looking apple, all right?”

“If it’s bruised, it’s probably rotten on the inside!”

“It has spots so it must be bad…”

Are these phrases familiar to you? Well, growing up, we were taught that the best indicator of quality while picking our fruits and vegetables is their external appearance. Our mothers told us to avoid apples that had a dent in them, our fathers told us to stay far away from oddly-shaped carrots and our grandparents told us to throw out spotted mangoes. But what we weren’t told was that these blemishes are purely on the surface. Ugly food meant just that – ugly on the outside, but perfectly edible, nutritious and tasty on the inside.

As a result, this habit we picked up has developed into a bias that that has become second nature when it comes to grocery shopping and consuming food. We shy away from bruised produce at the supermarket and are quick to toss out any vegetable that looks less fresh. In a survey conducted among 243 Singaporeans aged 20 to 59 by the Food Unfiltered campaign, it was found that 68.1% of respondents were unwilling to purchase ugly food and 40.7% of respondents were unable to look past slight external flaws and consume ugly food. A greater cause for concern? It was found that even though 93.7% of respondents indicated they were environmentally conscious, almost two in five of them indicated they would continue to refuse ugly food — even after learning that doing so would help to reduce food waste.

Unfortunately, this prejudice we hold has contributed greatly to the issue of cosmetic filtering — the discarding of food that does not meet perceived or market standards. It not only occurs on the consumer level but has also has led retailers and suppliers to reject them from their stores. Ugly food is deemed as unfit for sale, so both retailers and suppliers much rather throw them out than waste resources to transport and store them appropriately. With this understanding, it is no surprise that 46% of all food produced globally does not make it from farm to fork due to imperfect appearances.

We hold misconceptions about ugly food — that they’re less fresh, less nutritious, less tasty and even pose health risks. But this is what we assume of them, solely due to their imperfect appearances. If we open up to ugly good, we can discover the inner good.

We know it’s hard to change our habits, but here are three easy ways to change your perceptions of ugly food and learn to love them:

Know the facts behind ugly food and their impact on the environment

Ugly food is simply any food that is perfectly edible but appears unappealing because they are odd-shaped, discoloured or slightly blemished. They are subjected to cosmetic filtering at every point of the supply chain and even worse, improper handling by consumer (yes, people like me and you!) is a common occurrence that renders the food unfit for sale.

Give ugly food a chance

Ugly food might be off-putting at first glance but if you pick them up and cut them open, you’ll discover that they’re no different on the inside from their perfect-looking counterparts. You’ll find that they are equally tasty and just as fresh as perfect-looking food. Don’t believe us? Check out our mini-series, Ugly Food: Fact Checked, to hear a nutritionist debunk myths about ugly food. At the core, we eat to get the nutrients we need to maintain our health and feel good, and ugly food does that just as well!

Transform ugly food

Surface blemishes can easily be removed by slicing off a bruised portion or removing discoloured skin. If we are using ugly food in meal preparation, skinning and slicing are common practices. Spotted fruits such as bananas can be used in baking and juicing instead — the spots actually indicate higher sugar content, which means you can replace the use of artificial sweeteners with some natural sugars. The bruised portion of vegetables can be cut off and the rest of the it puréed into soups.

At the end of the day, we only see what’s on our plate and not the raw ingredient. Challenge yourself to transform ugly food into something that’s beautiful when presented on the plate.

About Food Unfiltered

Food Unfiltered is an initiative that celebrates ugly food. Led by four final-year students from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, it strives to reduce food waste by embracing the natural goodness of food, regardless of their external appearances.

For more information, please visit their Facebook Page and Instagram!

Others

5 Ways To Practice Upcycling At Home

The content of the article was contributed by Up and Away and re-edited by The Sustainability Project.

Were you ever caught in a situation where you have an item you need to throw out but do not bear to? … and you wonder to yourself if you can make anything new out of it? That thought by itself has already placed you in the first stage of upcycling.

Upcycling, also known as creative reusing, is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality. It ultimately prevents waste from ending up in the landfills and allow you to give an item a new life!

Why does upcycling matter to me?

Contrary to popular belief, not everything can be recycled! These include certain types of plastic (type 6 PS plastic), food waste or anything that are contaminated. Thus, upcycling is an important way of reducing waste of such items. Upcycling can be a fun and meaningful activity which is great for family bonding. Families can do upcycling activities with their loved ones to not only have fun together, to learn more about waste-reduction.

New to upcycling and want to give it a try? Here are 5 simple ways on how you can upcycle at home:

 

Transform your old t-shirts into bags

For decades, the donation bin has offered a guilt-free way to unload your old clothing. In a virtuous and profitable cycle, a global network of traders would collect these garments, grade them, and transport them around the world to be recycled, worn again, or turned into rags and stuffing. However, that Fast fashion in Singapore is a worrying trend and donating them away to a charity might not be that rosy of an idea anymore.

Furthermore, only 7% of textile waste in Singapore are being recycled. So, if you want to throw away that oversized shirt or that dress from last season? Think again.

Why not solve that problem by looking up on Pinterest for some simple tutorials and inspiration on how you can transform your t-shirts from yesteryears into bags again – by simply cutting and tying, no sewing require at all! Interested to learn more? There are also workshops in Singapore that offer these classes such as Taikensonzai and WahSoSimple.

 

Goodbye plastic containers and hello, keychains

Did you know there are 7 grades of plastic in use and not all of them can be recycled in Singapore? Type 6 plastic is an example and they are most commonly found for use in kuehs and sushi packaging. Apart from reusing them, you could also upcycle it to become shrinky-dink keychains.

 

Turn fruits and vegetables waste into eco-enzyme cleaner

Food waste, such as fruits peels, are almost unavoidable as we consume them on a very frequent basis. Instead of throwing fruit and vegetable scraps away, you can turn them into a household cleaner, simply by adding sugar and water. Enzymatic cleaners are powerful all-purpose cleaners that can be used safely on most surfaces, including metal and glass. So do not let those foods waste go to waste! Find out how to make your own eco-enzyme cleaner from these Facebook groups!

 

Turn your food packaging into zip-pouches

One of the most common plastic waste is from food packaging like the potato chips that you cannot resist. These packaging might seem insignificant but pose a great threat when they are found in our oceans, causing marine pollution. But have you ever thought of transforming these packaging into pouches? They make great gifts and bring out the inner hipster in you! It is a simple and easy item to make as it requires no sewing and all that is needed is just stapler, scissors, masking tape from your home (although you do need to purchase is a zipper). Find out how to do it here!

 

Turn up for huat

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, you will receive abundance of red packets. But what to do with them? Well, you can use those red packets to make mandarin orange bags or candy baskets! Online tutorials are aplenty and you can make it together with your loved ones. These items can even contribute vibrant colours to your household and brighten up the atmosphere for Chinese New Year!

 

About Up and Away

It all began with a group of four individuals, who were passionate about the environment, and wanted to reduce waste in Singapore. The big question was, what else can we do to help solve the waste problem? That is when we discovered upcycling. ‘Up & Away’ is an environmental campaign which targets both parents and children (7-9 years old), to encourage families to reduce waste through upcycling! Find out more about their campaign on FB: fb.com/upandawaysg or website at upandawaysg.com.

Others

The Ocean Movement – Creating Waves of Change

Marine pollution has been a major issue that has been garnering attention across the world over the past few years. From pictures of shores full of plastic waste to videos of plastic straws getting stuck in the nose of turtles, these images have left an impactful impression on many individuals and spurred them to take action towards marine conservation.

The Ocean Movement, is a project started by five 17-year-old students from School of The Arts Singapore back in 2017. The founder of the group was an aspiring marine conservationist which inspired the group to start raising awareness about marine life. Since then, The Ocean Movement has conducted a session sharing common problems that our marine ecosystem faces such as climate change, plastic pollution and overfishing with their school. In addition, they initiated the sale of reusable straws in SOTA which successfully sold about 80 straws.

Over the past few month, the group’s objective also transformed into raising awareness about marine life particularly in Singapore, as well as creating platforms for students in our school as well as the public to contribute towards conservation efforts. This objective is achieved by making reusable goods accessible and creating avenues where different environmental groups can work together towards a common goal of saving our environment.

Coming this February, The Ocean Movement is organising an event – TIDAL.

 

 

TIDAL is a series of environmental events brought together by various organisations. The first 2 events in the series include a film screening of ‘A Plastic Ocean’ with a post-screening dialogue as well as a guided coastal walk/beach clean-up. (However, these 2 events are already sold out)

In addition, a ‘Know Your Seafood’ Workshop by SiBiol will be conducted on 4th Feb from 10.30 am – 12.30pm where one can observe the dissection of common seafood in an aid to explain how marine organisms function.

The main highlight of TIDAL is the awareness concert held on 4th Feb from 5 pm to 7.30pm. The event will be centred around the theme of the environment, with acoustic performances by local performers and students from SOTA, various fringe events, booths selling sustainable products and booths where you can learn how to make reusable goods out of recyclable materials or how to make your own compost bin.

All the above events are completely FREE OF CHARGE so what are you waiting for? As there are limited seats for each event, do sign up quick!

Be sure to support these young inspirational individuals and support them in their cause towards marine conservation!

 

Others

How You Can Contribute to the Year of Climate Action

It is official. 2018 has been declared to be the Year of Climate Action for Singapore!

As noted by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, “As a small island city-state vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Singapore is committed to the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement”. Singapore, being a low coastal area country, will definitely suffer from climate change, with the daily mean temperature projected to rise by up to 4.6°C towards the end of the century and sea level estimated to rise by up to about 1m by 2100.

With the government making this declaration to commit towards combating climate change, it is time for us as citizens to acknowledge our responsibility and play a part as well.

Here are 3 small and simple changes in your life to contribute to the Year of Climate Action.

Just say NO

These two words hold great power when it comes to helping us make a decision in our lives! Say no to straws. Say no the plastic bags. Say no to any form of plastic. Also, these two words are free of charge! Just by saying no, you are using the power of a small action to make a big change in the world.

 

Think twice before buying

In Singapore, the amount of solid waste generated in 2016 increased to 7.81 million tonnes, up by 140,700 tonnes from 7.67 million tonnes in 2015. If you re-evaluate your buying habits, you will realise that you are able to eliminate unnecessary waste. Think of buying second hand. Think of using reusables. Think of borrowing books or doing book swaps. Most importantly, think of whether it is a need or a want.

 

Be more aware

To be able to make responsible decisions for yourself and for the environment, it is crucial to be aware of the events happening in the world. Relying solely on others to feed you information is not enough. Take a step out of your comfort zones and read on all these issues that affect your view on climate change. Go in with an open mind. Read on issues such as ocean pollution, renewable energy, starving polar bear or plastic waste. Start somewhere and you enrich yourself with the knowledge to make better and wiser decisions in your life!

 

These are three small and simple steps that do not require you to devote a large number of resources or time to be committed to. So what are you waiting for? Make 2018 the year you start making a change.

Others

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit EarthFest 2018

EarthFest is a Singapore festival that is designed to be sustainable, fun and inspirational for all ages. It features a food fair of delicious international and new age planet-friendly foods, a Farmer’s Market of local businesses with more sustainable products, an eco-carnival of engaging low carbon games, talks, screenings, etc. There will be something for everyone and all interests, all packaged in one of the most sustainable and beautiful venues in the world. EarthFest is scheduled to take place on 14 January 2018 from 11 am to 4.30pm at Marina Barrage!

Still deciding if you should check it out? Well, here are the top 5 reasons on why you should attend EarthFest 2018!

1. They are really really serious about sustainability

We kid you not, this event “talk the talk and walk the walk”. Here is how they ensure sustainability is in the core of the event:

  • Biodegradable plates and cutlery will be used and then composted
  • If one-use materials are necessary, they must be biodegradable
  • Food is all planet-friendly requiring less water, land, and food inputs to produce
  • One-use plastic carrying bags will not be given out (Reusable bags will be available for purchase)
  • No pamphlets can be handed out – vendors have to do digital distribution
  • Palm oil is banned
  • Vendors are given a financial incentive to create less waste
  • Everything is designed to be reusable for future EarthFests

 

2. It’s free of charge!

Did we fail to mention that Earthfest is FREE OF CHARGE? They are, however, limited in number. So what are you waiting for? Get them here!

 

3. Everyone has something to do

If you are wondering if there are activities for you to do, fret not! EarthFest has activities planned for everyone of all ages.

Highlights and additions to the festival this year include:

  • New bands on stage, including local artist Christiane Mikaela
  • Our first hybrid food truck will be part of the food fair
  • New talks and workshops curated by Green is the New Black!
  • PitchFest by Awesome Foundation – win $1000 for your sustainable project
  • NEA Exposition on Climate Change + Waste
  • Screening of Landfill Harmonic by Singapore Eco Film Festival
  • Singapore Really Really Free Market
  • Exhibition of the Green Warriors by The Wedge Asia
  • WWF Eco-School exhibitions
  • Bookswap hosted by Secondsguru

4. Opportunity for you to change your lifestyle

EarthFest is about creating effective change in people’s daily habits. By attending it, you can easily learn about your carbon footprint based on your daily behaviour, have access to many different organisations educating on key sustainability issues and discover knowledge to realise various action options. Ultimately, the mission of EarthFest is to “To inspire and empower us all to create a sustainable future.” With all the tools aforementioned, EarthFest will provide you with insights and knowledge to lead a more sustainable lifestyle!

5. Support local

EarthFest serves as a platform to help you connect with businesses they didn’t even know existed in Singapore! These businesses all main one goal in mind – Sustainability. By attending EarthFest, you are supporting both local and Mother Earth! You can check out all the businesses that will be there by visiting EarthFest’s website.

 

With all these reasons, we don’t see why you should miss EarthFest 2018! See you at Marina Barrage on 14 January 2018 from 11 am to 4.30pm!

 

Others

Oslo Innovation Week 2017

Oslo Innovation Week is an event that brings together speakers, experts, entrepreneurs, investors, startups and innovators from around the globe and challenges them to solve problems, collaborate and drive sustainable change. Oslo Innovation Week 2017 highlights solutions that solve real global challenges through entrepreneurship, technology and innovation to push the world forward towards sustainable change.

This September, we were given the opportunity to attend a few talks during Oslo Innovation Week and here are 2 key takeaways that we have learnt!

  

Sustainable Business Model

One of the speakers, Ms Ragnhild Nilsen, shared her take 4 traits (FAIR) a business needs to compete in a sustainable way:

Fairplay: Competing amongst equals

Attract the good stories: Search for people who perform well and make it better

Innovate: Be creative and try to do the usual things in a different manner

Respect: Practice balance and have a win-win attitude for both parties

 

Circular Economy Strategies

Currently, linear companies practice the “take, make, waste” concept and engage in the following activities:

  • Utilise non-renewable or toxic resources
  • Prioritise sales of new products
  • Monopolise knowledge and IP
  • Maintain status quo

As shared by Circle Economy‘s Matthieu Bardout, circular economy strategies include:

  1. Prioritising regenerative resources
  2. Preserving and extending what is already made
  3. Rethinking business models
  4. Using waste as a resource
  5. Collaborating to create joint value
  6. Designing for the future
  7. Incorporating digital technology
Others

A Peek Into Norway’s Waste To Energy Plant

Norwegian salmon. Northern Lights. Brown Cheese. These are just a few items that are associated with Norway, the country ‘powered by nature’. But did you know, the country is also known for their sustainability efforts? The country is driving environmental conservation through its unique waste to energy disposal system. This system converts waste to energy and contributes to Oslo’s district heating!

So how do they exactly do it?

The green and the blue bag

In Norway, green and blue plastic bags have a much deeper meaning to it. Waste in the green bags contains food waste while waste in blue bags contains plastic waste. Any other form of waste, excluding paper and glass, will go into bags of any other colours. Even though it is not compulsory to sort your waste, most citizens do it out of goodwill! They can find these free green and blue plastic bags readily available at supermarkets/recycling centre.

Where does the trash go?

After the various waste bags are being collected, they are being treated in the waste to energy plant. In the plant, the bags are being separated by their colours through an automated system. Green bags are sent to the biogas plant and transformed into biogas and bio-fertiliser. A bus can drive 250 meters on the waste from a green bag.

The blue bags are transported to Germany for plastic recovery or recycled into new plastic.

The remaining waste will be incinerated. The energy obtained from incineration can be used to provide heat energy to the district heating system in Oslo.

The 3 Plants

Currently, Norway has 3 Waste to Energy Plants – Haraldrud, Klemetsrud and Romerike Biogas.

The Haraldrud Plant was the first waste to energy plant that was built in 1967. It has a recycling and sorting capacity of 100,000 tons of waste annually.

The Klemetsrud Plant is the largest plant with a recycling capacity of 310,000 tons of waste annually.

The Romerike Biogas Plant was completed in 2012 as Oslo’s largest biogas plant. It produces both biogas
and bio-fertilizers based on food waste and has a capacity of 50,000 tons of food waste per year. The plant supplies 135 buses with biogas and 100 medium-sized farms with nutritious bio-fertiliser.

Pollution from incineration?

Fortunately, the smoke that is released during incineration goes through purification. So, 99% of the smoke is actually pure water!

 

 

To watch the whole documentary of the waste to energy plant, click here!

Others

Biodegradable vs Compostable vs Recyclable

Biodegradable. Compostable. Recyclable.

These are terms that are increasingly used by companies to describe their product. But does choosing one over the other make a real difference? Well, to be able to make a more informed decision for your next purchase, here is the breakdown of what each term means!

Biodegradable

Biodegradable products are those that are capable of being decomposed with the help of bacteria and other organisms. As compared to non-biodegradable products, they do not require any use of chemicals for decomposition. Hence, they are less environmentally damaging.

Compostable

Compostable is being defined by scientific standards ASTM D6400, ASTM D6868 and EN13432 as having the following characteristics:

  1. Biodegradability – 60-90% of the product is going to break down within 180 days
  2. Disintegration – 90% of the product is going to break down into pieces that are 2mm in size of less
  3. Eco-Toxicity – When that product breaks down in a commercial composting facility it is not going to leave heavy metals that are toxic to the soil

So basically, they are products that provide nutrients to the soil upon decomposition and has the least environmental impact!

Recyclable

As defined by ISO 14021, being recyclable is the “characteristic of a product, packaging, or associated component that can be diverted from the waste stream through available processes and programmes and can be collected, processed, and returned to use in the form of raw materials or products”. In layman’s term, recyclable products can be turned into something new. For example, notebooks made of recycled paper or skateboards made of recycled plastic.