About Jean-François

Jean-François Chénier is a social business consultant. He is the founder of the '222 million tons' project, dedicated to giving people tips, tools and resources to help them waste less food and eat well.

Weekend food waste roundup – 28 October 2012

For those of you in L.A., this is just a small reminder that I’ll be speaking at Westfield Century City on Tuesday as part of the CODA Electric Vehicle Speaker Series. If you’d plan to attend, RSVP to concierge@codaautomotive.com by October 29.

And in other news…

Students taking action

JM Gets a New Hydration Station – Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School installed its first “Hydration Station” at the school last month, and paid for it from savings the school achieved by diverting food waste and turning it into electrical energy.

Business Rx: Food Recovery Networks seeks steady income stream – The Washington Post – Student-run Food Recovery Network seeks revenue stream to make it financially self-sustaining in the long term.

The ups and downs of food waste?

Brazil favelas maid fights food waste with ‘viagra’ in Italy – The Malaysian Insider – Regina Tchelly teaches others how to reduce waste in her cooking classes, by showing them how to make such dishes as banana peel brigadeiro. She claims that her trademark dish, watermelon rind risotto, has viagra-like properties. I suppose that’s just as true of my watermelon rind chutney, which has the benefit of lasting longer.

Bengaluru drowning in its own waste | GulfNews.com – Greater wealth has spawned more garbage, and the managers of the country’s development have been unable to handle the load.

A Rise in Food Prices Could Stem the Tide of Food Waste · Environmental Management & Energy News · Environmental Leader Is cheaper always better?

Advertisements

The Great Pumpkin

In October 1992, we bought a pumpkin.

Now, I don’t remember every gourd-like squash I’ve ever purchased, but this one was special. It wasn’t the first pumpkin I’d ever bought, and it wasn’t the biggest. In fact there was nothing remarkable about it at all, except this: it was the first pumpkin that I ever bought as food.

In the past, I had only procured pumpkins with the intention of carving faces into them. When I shopped for them, I looked for ones that were vaguely evil looking … sinister pumpkins, that looked like they would just as soon shoot me as look at me … soulless pumpkins that exuded quiet rage.

That all changed one afternoon in 1992, when we happened upon a pile of pumpkins at our local vegetable shop. In that moment, it struck me that pumpkins were food too … and remarkably inexpensive food at that (important, as we were saving for our honeymoon). And, as I looked at one pumpkin in particular – a tantalizingly plump and inviting one – I realized that it could feed us for a week.

We bought it, and embarked on what was to become a fun, week-long project: finding as many ways to eat our pumpkin as we could think of (this was in the olden days, and Mosaic was still a year in the future, so we had to rely on our own wits and knowledge). I still remember many of the things we ate that week: roasted pumpkin, pumpkin mash, roasted pumpkin seeds, spicy pumpkin stir fry, pumpkin soup (with a hint of maple and a dash of nutmeg), pumpkin pie and pumpkin quick bread. It fed us for a week, as predicted, and only the peel and stem ended up in the bin – something that felt like an accomplishment, somehow.

This year, there was no jack-o-lantern, but we did buy a little pumpkin, which Bonnie Lee turned into one of the most incredibly moist quick breads I’ve ever had, thanks in part to the addition of okara (soy pulp, a byproduct of making soy milk – more on that magic ingredient another day). The recipe is below…

Insanely moist pumpkin bread

The wet stuff & spices

  • 1½ cups pumpkin flesh (roasted then mashed)
  • 1 cup okara
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cups sugar
  • ½ cup soy milk (unflavoured, unsweetened)
  • ½ cup birch syrup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp ground cloves

The dry stuff

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 350℉.
  • Grease two loaf pans (we use glass ones).
  • Mix the wet stuff and spices in a big bowl.
  • Mix the dry stuff in another big bowl.
  • Mix the dry stuff into the wet stuff.
  • Fill the loaf pans ⅔ full.
  • Bake for one hour, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack.

Weekend food waste roundup – 21 October 2012

Jack-o-lanterns: a scary amount of food waste

Smart Suzy: Ready for pumpkin-carving? Cut down on food waste, go green, deals | Our Smart Money — In this entry, Smart Suzy talks about creative ways to carve pumpkins, and about food waste, but doesn’t link the two topics. So what will you be doing with all that pumpkin flesh to keep it out of landfill?

Easy listening

On The Point: GMOs, Food Waste, and Food as Entertainment | Slow Food Los Angeles — Interesting and thoughtful discussion, and a timely one for those in California who will be voting on prop 37.

Dumping food waste – ABC South Australia – Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) — This audio program, with two Aussie Food Waste Experts, shares tips and recipes to help reduce waste and save money.

And in other news

Study Finds That Cutting Food Waste Could Feed One Billion Hungry People | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building — In inhabitat (an online magazine that promotes sustainable design), Kristine Lofgren reports on a study that our current approach to feeding 9 billion people may be short-sighted. This study found that approaches that cut food waste, rather than increase food production, could feed 1 billion people.

Anger over waste scheme (From The Northern Echo) – Is Politically speaking, it is still hard to convince communities to embrace food waste solutions

Modern alchemists

Food waste is one raw material we have way too much of, and there are plenty of schemes to turn it into usable products.

30,000 TPA Food Waste to Biogas Facility for Edinburgh – Waste Mangagement World — Edinburgh plans to turn 30,000 tonnes of food waste in biogas each year

Waste could prove a money-spinner – Taipei Times — Entrepreneurs in Taiwan have developed new technologies to make the wasted sorghum grains into value-added products.

Starbucks turns food waste into plastic | Green Futures Magazine — Meanwhile, Starbucks is looking to turn food waste into plastic.

Composting in the Valley Cuts Down on Food Waste — Black Bear Composting is helping restaurants turn waste into compost for local farmers. I’m not sure this is helping reduce food waste, as the title claims, but it is a good way to divert it.

Composting—Turning Garbage into Black Gold – State of the Planet — Food waste is now collected at 25 GrowNYC Greenmarket locations and many other sites in New York City for composting.

Let Us Compost helps apartment dwellers, restaurants be more green | Online Athens — A new start-up that is providing a solution to help urban dwellers compost.

Lebanon news – NOW Lebanon -Food for thought on World Food Day — Two great causes that go great together: food recovery and composting.

Levi’s Launches New WasteEcouterre – OK, this one isn’t about food waste, but thought I’d throw it in here anyway…

222 million tons app mentions

4 Mobile Apps Helping Minimize Waste in the Food Industry | Sustainable Cities Collective — This article seems to be making the rounds.

Apps Only Apps » 222 Millones de toneladas …. — A Spanish app review site. My high school Spanish lies abandoned corner of my brain, but I remember enough to be happy with the words “222 Millon Tons es una brillante idea (creo yo)…”

Mad dogs and Englishmen. And me.

What is most troubling, and sad, about industrial eating is how thoroughly it obscures all these relationships and connections.

Michael Pollan

The gate to the Hindu temple grounds was locked, and had a sign on it warning off non-believers. From my vantage, I could see a small corner of the main temple building, which sat on Bukit Gasing’s peak, on a point overlooking the jungle – and its elaborate, colourful design hinted at wonders within. There was no getting closer to get a better look, though. Even a walk along the outer wall was impossible, the only path being closed off by fences.

Clearly, the temple wasn’t the main attraction for hikers here – and it wasn’t immediately obvious what was. The way forward was blocked. To my right there was a cliff; to my left, some fairly uninviting jungle. The only way forward, in fact, was backward, down the road the cab had used to bring me here, and I already knew there was nothing particularly interesting about that. Still, I had no choice.

It occurred to me that I could have taken a minute to do some research before heading out, but I had made the decision to go on this hike on a whim. After lunch, and some prompting by Bonnie Lee over Skype, I had realized that I needed to take a few hours off. Between work and things 222, I had stared at my computer solidly, day and night, seven days a week for more weeks than made sense – and I knew there was some hiking to be done on Bukit Gasing. So I headed down to the main road without much thought, and grabbed a cab.

The cab driver had no idea where Bukit Gasing was, let alone any hiking trails, but after asking a few other drivers, he had whisked me here, up the road I was now walking back down. At least I wasn’t staring at the computer – and it was a beautiful, sunny day, on a road that offered a view of a huge mosque with a sprawling mess of city spreading out from it in every direction.

Still, I had come here for a hike, and so when I saw a gap in the trees, I decided to step through it and into the jungle. If all I was destined to do was walk down a hill today, then I figured I may as well do it surrounded by nature. I was immediately rewarded with the sight of a couple of macaques busily foraging. The one closer to me stared me down, and made a noise that I’m sure he thought was threatening, but which only managed to be cute. I steered away from him to let him get on with his day, and started my descent into what I had thought of as a jungle, but which the macaques (it now occurred to me) probably thought of as a big salad.

A cousin of the troupe I saw on Bukit Gasing, who I met in Batu Caves

The way quickly got steep, and it was at times a bit hard to get my footing, which made for a clumsy but controlled descent – and one that was noisy enough to scare off any and all creatures of the woods. Whenever I stopped to take in my surroundings, I could hear frantic activity about hundred yards ahead, as macaques crashed through the leaves to escape from the new guy in the neighbourhood.

One big salad

I came to a level clearing, and as I walked across it, casually wondering where I was, a sudden rush of sound and motion gave me a start. The dirt just ahead of me seemed to come alive, and sprinted away with a rapid series loud thumps. Whatever it was came to a stop just as suddenly, and as I got closer to take a look, I saw that it was a lizard (a monitor lizard, I now know) – at least two feet long – and it struck me that I had no idea what lived in this little piece of jungle. Did these particular lizards bite? Were there snakes? I didn’t have a clue, and hadn’t done an ounce of research, though it was clear to me now that the salad I inhabited wasn’t purely vegetarian, and I wasn’t 100% certain where I sat on the local food chain. Yet here I was, on a little used path, staring at a medium-sized carnivore staring at me, with a way to go (I guessed) and no easy way back. I reminded myself that I should plan a bit better next time, and moved along giving my new friend a wide berth.

Dragonfly

For the next fifteen minutes or so, I moved down the hill a bit more cautiously, and paying a bit more attention to the shadows. I don’t know if there are snakes on Bukit Gasing, but I do know that something brown with yellow stripes that might be a snake lurks there … as do some very cute little mammals that look like squirrels with funky haircuts. And there are dragonflies, beautiful red and burgundy ones – a small cluster of which swarmed around me when my jungle path finally met up with a real hiking trail.

The real trail was beautiful and wide. I could see the way back to the road from where I was, but decided to explore the more manicured part of Bukit Gasing while I was there, even though I was a bit thirsty by then. I made a mental note to bring water on my next impromptu hike in the tropics.

I stuck to the flat paths just to get a feel for the place, and was about to turn around and head home, when I met a sweat-drenched couple coming in the other direction. They mentioned that they had gotten lost in the paths ahead, and for a second I considered turning back. Then they mentioned that there was a river ahead, and that they had followed a steep path on the right after that. This had led them to some abandoned homes, and a very spooky ancient deity.

Well, the universe doesn’t have to ask me twice, and the wisdom of turning around suddenly evaporated.

Jungle mushroomsSo off I went to find the river and the path and the spooky deity. The river I found soon enough (the water was brown and undrinkable), along with some very funky looking mushrooms (which at this point were looking quite tasty), and I chose one of the steep paths on the right. And up I went. And up. And up.

The jungle eventually gave way to a steep escarpment, which I clambered up, until I came to a wall – a very familiar looking wall, with a Hindu temple behind it, only now I was on the wrong side of the point. Rather than climb down the escarpment (which seemed a bit treacherous) I followed a narrow path along the wall out to the point, and back to the side I had come from, hoping I would see a way through to the road (though suspecting there was none that didn’t involve pole vaulting).

And this is where I lucked out … there was a gap in the wall that I could step through, and suddenly I was where only the faithful could go, locked into rather than out of the temple grounds. I was tempted to get a closer look at the temple, but there was a gatekeeper nearby, who, when I explained how I had accidentally found my way in, was only too happy to let me out.

And so there I stood again, outside the gate, back where I had started. Drenched in sweat. In 100 degree weather, I would later learn – something that would have made sense to check before I headed out.

I found another path into the salad, and headed down the mountain again. By now, I was a bit peckish, and parched – and it seemed ironic to me that I felt this way in what was essentially a giant buffet. Edible greens, fruits, nuts, mushrooms and roots were all around me, not to mention bugs and meat in various forms – yet I had no way to know what was edible and what was not. I didn’t have the basic sense not to starve in the middle of a buffet. I was dumber than even the bugs here, who had figured out that I was food hours ago.

Note to self: the next time you go to the jungle, bring bug spray.

Weekend food waste roundup – 14 October 2012

We didn’t see very much about food waste in the news this week, though it was great to see the 222 million tons app mentioned in one of the articles we found, as well as a call for action in Singapore (my home away from home much of the time).

I’ve also included links to a couple of blog posts in this week’s roundup, from two of my favourite bloggers who go the extra mile in the composting department.

In the news

Mobile Apps Can Help Reduce Food Waste

Eagles recycling extends to the parking lot

TODAYonline | Voices | Food is to be eaten, not dumped

Composting - going the extra mile

Stealing Trash – A New High « Dirt N Kids

Hair cuts = compost | Attempting zero waste lifestyle in a military household

Weekend food waste roundup – 7 October 2012

This week’s roundup has a tips on preserving food (including using etheylene absorbers to prolong the shelf life of produce) and reducing waste (including an article on reducing Thanksgiving waste – timely, if you happen to be Canadian), as well as a couple of articles about the issue of food waste.

Tips for preserving food and reducing waste

How to Absorb Ethylene Gas | eHow.com

Budget Tip: How To Vacuum Seal Food Without a Vacuum Sealing Machine | The Kitchn

Save Your Food: Canning and Freezing 101 – Earth911.com

Cooked Apple Recipes Great for Fall, Baked Apples, Apple Crisp and More – AARP

7 ways to reduce household food waste –  News – MSN CA

Tips from the pros on cutting Thanksgiving waste – The Globe and Mail

More on food waste

UN Says Europe Wastes 50% Of Fruit And Vegetables — And America Isn’t Much Better – Forbes

Radio Prague – Study maps makeup of Czech household waste

Wish you were here

One of the great tragedies in life is that we often don’t truly appreciate people until they’re gone. As I reflected on my recent eulogy for our three cup Cuisinart, I realized that the same is often true of appliances – and that’s a shame.

That’s why I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge our immersion blender, a plucky little orange kitchen warrior that is often called upon to help out with a meal – and one that I am truly missing this week, as I try to make meals in a kitchen equipped with a Teflon-coated wok and a wooden thing that is neither spoon nor spatula. There is also a bowl.

Now here’s a fun (and germane) fact about vegetables: if they’re a little limp, any dish that calls for them to be pulverized probably won’t suffer. So when I see a vegetable that’s a little less turgid than I’d like it to be, one question I ask myself is: what would happen if I took my orange friend to it?

The most recent meal old orange and I made together was a refreshing cold cucumber soup – a favourite at our place that, I should hasten to point out, can be made with limp cucumbers. It’s one of the recipes in Bright & Bold collection on the 222 million tons app, but you don’t need to buy the app to get the recipe. It’s right here:

Cold cucumber-yogurt soup (serves 1)

Cold cucumber soup

Ingredients

  • ½ cucumber (turgid or limp)
  • 1 scallion (turgid or limp)
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro
  • ½ jalapeño pepper (turgid or limp)
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 4 oz plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp salt, or to taste

Directions

  • Chop the cucumber, scallion and cilantro coarsely.
  • Remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapeño pepper, and chop coarsely.
  • Crush the garlic.
  • Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, blend all of the above with the lime juice, olive oil and salt, until it looks like soup.
  • Put the soup in the refrigerator to chill.

Weekend food waste roundup – 30 September 2012

It seems that food waste is getting a bit more attention these days, and so I’ve decided to share information on Twitter and Facebook as I come across it, with the occasional round-up here. Some recent finds follow…

Consumers want it. Now is the time to act on food waste | Comment & Opinion | The Grocer – It’s nice to see that there’s some dialogue about food waste in the grocery industry.

Grocery Chain Figures Out How to Stop Wasting Food | Care2 Causes – If you make money selling food, it makes good business sense not to waste it. Stop & Shop has bucked traditional supermarket wisdom and made that discovery.

From Farm to Landfill – NYTimes.com – As we struggle to find ways to grow more and more food to feed more and more people, one obvious way to increase the food supply is often overlooked: waste less.

Chuck Newcomb: Avoid wasting food by buying what’s needed, storing it properly – A little common sense advice on how not to waste food.

Lessons from the animal kingdom

There’s a lot we can learn about better ways to interact with the environment from our fellow creatures. Edo and Pyx, much to our amusement and edification, make it their daily challenge to find new ways to reuse old things.

Caught hiding in their new fort

Our tireless feline upcyclers

As imaginative and dedicated as they as they are, they can’t hold a candle to Norman.

222 million tons, live in L.A.

There are few things that I enjoy more than making people think and laugh, and hopefully I’ll be doing a bit of both in L.A. on October 30, 2012 at the CODA Electric Vehicle Speaker Series. It would be great to meet a few of my fellow bloggers and followers there, so I’m hoping some of you live nearby and are available. As a bonus, you’ll get to test drive a CODA.

If you’d like to attend, RSVP to concierge@codaautomotive.com by October 29.