Food wastage not intrinsic to Singapore's culture: Tristram Stuart

Gabriel Choo
Tristram Stuart is an international award-winning author, speaker and campaigner on the environmental and social impacts of food production. Photo: Silvio Palladino, Unveil Arts

Remember when your parents used to nag at you to finish your food? Well, finishing your food actually isn’t so much about wanting your future spouse to have a face as ‘clean’ and ‘spotless’ as an empty plate, but rather, for the bigger purpose of saving the environment.

Food production is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and the largest user of fresh water and a third of the world’s food supply is wasted each day.

Singapore is no stranger to the global phenomenon of food wastage, as buffets for special occasions like weddings and birthdays seem to happen all the time. Indeed, there has been a 50-per-cent increase of food wastage in Singapore over the last decade.

As such, some F&B retailers in Singapore have implemented rules to charge customers for leftover food. While they might not actually force customers to pay up, it shows that efforts are slowly being made to curb food wastage.

Photo: Silvio Palladino, Unveil Arts

“I think that’s a sign that actually wasting food is not intrinsic to Singapore’s culture. In fact, from what I understand, Singaporeans really value their food, they care about their food. It is essential to their culture,” said Tristram Stuart, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer who was born in London.

Stuart, who is also an international award-winning author and speaker, is a campaigner on the environmental and social impacts of food production. Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore over the phone on Monday (14 August), Stuart shared that he strongly believes in anti-food wastage.

“All of the damage that we do to the environment can be massively reduced simply by doing something as obvious and delicious and nutritious as eating and enjoying the food that we grow, rather than throwing it away,” Stuart shared.

Citing statistics from his book “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal” which was published in 2009, Stuart also mentioned that nine out of 10 Singaporeans are actually concerned about food wastage, contrary to what others might think.

“There is something in Singapore’s culture and conscience that we can enjoy all this food and variety of traditions, without throwing away any food,” he added.

Photo: Silvio Palladino, Unveil Arts

Stuart feels that stopping food wastage should be a part of our daily lifestyle, whether as a business or as an individual. He shared that it is actually very easy for everyone to participate in a no-food-waste society because “it’s not like you have to consciously decide not to waste food”.

Domestically, one just needs to buy what they need, and eat what they buy. “You don’t even need to think about saving food because you already are by just eating and enjoying the food in front of you, which is a pretty easy thing to do,” Stuart claims.

As for businesses, Stuart feels that there are more effective tools that can be used to address the same problem instead of charging customers for leftover food. He feels that a reward system via a loyalty card is much more effective. “It is a much more inspiring, positive and encouraging way of getting people to embrace the message (of food wastage) without feeling like they just did something bad,” he shared.

Over the years, Stuart has organised many anti food wastage initiatives all around the world. One of them is Feeding the 5000, a free public feast using food that would otherwise be wasted. Stuart shared that good and fresh quality ingredients are wasted due to “stupid cosmetics standards” put on fruits and vegetables like “slightly crooked carrots or oversized cauliflowers”.

Stuart admitted that he did not really have a serious strategy in mind as he just wanted to get his message across. Looking back, however, Stuart felt accomplished, saying, “We’ve built a massive global movement that has mobilised millions of people to do something about this colossal problem (food wastage).”

Tristram Stuart will be in Singapore on 20 August 2017 to speak on food wastage. (Photo: National Geographic LIVE! Singapore)

Stuart will be in Singapore this Sunday (20 August) to speak on “Celebrating the End of Food Waste” as part of the National Geographic LIVE! series.

The talk, organised in partnership with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the National Environment Agency (NEA), will take place at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theatre at 3.30pm.

Ticket sales are now open and can be purchased at both Sistic and Marina Bay Sands ticketing websites. The official hashtag for social media platforms will be #natgeolive.

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