Want to reduce food waste? Foraging is your friend

The ABC’s War on Waste program has been stirring up a lot of debate about our plastic waste and the sheer amount of food we’re discarding on a daily basis. And it’s a good thing.

Being confronted by the statistics on how many plastic toothbrushes end up on this tiny island in the Pacific Ocean has made me vow to buy a bamboo one instead.

But being green or waste wise doesn’t just have to be for those living in the inner city. Reusing and choosing second hand are options for us all.

I’m all about second hand clothes, furniture and anything else that’s still serviceable. Thanks to the generosity of friends and family we have managed to gather most of our baby needs for our impending arrival without actually having to go into a store with the words ‘bunting’ in it.

Some people like to have brand new things and that’s fine – but when you see how much stuff is out there already – and in good nick – then it seems a waste not to give it a second (or third) life.

It’s the same when it comes to food. The idea of dumpster diving might not be everyone’s thing, but don’t discount the food that is hanging overhead or growing in the verges near your home.

One of my favourite hobbies is to scour my neighbourhood for verge-side figs and overhanging lemons.

Passionfruit is another exciting find. I’d never seen passionfruit growing before I moved to my suburb and I love their exotic looking flowers and greenish purple fruit.

I never buy figs but when I forage a bounty during the summer months I eat them fresh, roast them up with mascarpone and honey, or use the runt of the litter in a cake.

Quinces, crab apples and oranges can be the bright spots outside of the warmer months and don’t overlook herbs – keep a look out for bushes of hardy rosemary, mint or parsley peaking through a fence or growing wild in a verge. A few springs won’t be missed.

I’ve yet to experiment with foraging weeds, mushrooms and the like, but hope to branch out after doing a tour first like this one, or taking a look at the indigenous foods that are right under our noses.

If you’re after a more organised foraging experience, check out The Growing Abundance Project in Castlemaine, Victoria where volunteers get a third of the fruit picked during a harvest of an orchard, with the rest going to the tree owner and community organisations.

The Project is currently running a crowd-sourcing campaign to help purchase equipment for their café, The Local. This café is all about growing and eating healthy local food, harvesting from orchards and backyards and growing the local food economy. You’ll be supporting them safe in the knowledge that 100% of profits go back into supporting the Harvest program and other ethical food initiatives.

There’s still time to pitch in if you’re keen to support a local initiative doing some sustainable and tasty things.

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Apples anyone? Head along to an orchard harvest with The Growing Abundance Project. Photo: Annie Spratt.

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Old wins out in shopping quest

Last weekend I spent hours traipsing from shop to shop without luck.

On the hunt for a new winter coat and some new work outfits I had set off armed with my saved pennies ready to spend.

I began at the mall working my through boutiques, high street chains and department stores but by the end of the first weekend I had failed to buy anything. Nothing was quite right, and, even if it was I bulked at the price tag.

I also fretted over the quality of the item and whether the brand fitted my ethical criteria – namely how high it ranked on the Australian Fashion Report Card on worker exploitation. In the end a decision became too hard and I plodded home empty handed.

This weekend I was adamant I would buy something. I headed off to the same old shops hoping something would jump out at me or I would get to a point where I could convince myself spending $200 on a jacket was justifiable.clothes

A couple of hours later without opening my purse and with my energy flagging, I decided to head home via a visit to two second hand clothing stores.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence op-shop proved to be an undiscovered treasure trove. I picked up two basic tops in great condition and a comfy blue and white striped Yarra Trail cardi for $16.

I then hit the local Salvos store which I visit regularly. This time the clothing gods must have been smiling down on me as I rifled through the well organised racks.

I found a Wish button up cream coat with matching belt that, with a dry clean will be as good as new, plus a cute cropped charcoal Portman’s jacket.

The loot didn’t stop there – I also got a soft grey Zara basic blazer, a short A-line black and white patterned skirt, one Sunny Girl grey jumper with a studded neckline, a black Esprit cardigan, a Ladakh striped shirt dress, two fitted dresses perfect for work or a wedding and two necklaces. The grand total? $98.

I returned home triumphant in the knowledge I had enough new clothes to get me through winter and ethically, my mind was at ease.

Next time instead of leaving the op shop until the last resort, I’ll head there first and save myself a weekend.

What have been your best op-shop finds?