Elders always remind us not to leave any food on our plates. While this has long been part of our culture, this belief may be linked to deeper importance, aside from money and waste-related factors.
Perhaps many would think wasting food should be prevented to get one’s money’s worth, but there’s more to it than that.
Food waste also translates to wasting resources (water, land, and oil, just to name a few), increasing carbon footprint, and wasting labor that is involved in the production, processing, distribution, and retailing of food. Plus, this threatens the country’s food security.
In Metro Manila, about 2,175 tons of food are wasted every day. According to the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), each Filipino wastes 14 grams or a tablespoon of rice daily.
The Sustainable Diner Project
In hopes of fighting the negative consequences of food waste, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines, a local arm of the WWF network, an international non-governmental conservation organization, initiated a project called “The Sustainable Diner” (TSD) in 2017.
A significant part of the country’s food waste problem lies within the consumption and production practices that were built and normalized over the years. According to the WWF-PH, it is part of the Filipino culture to dine out in restaurants and hotels, which is why the food and beverage industry plays a huge role in this matter.
The goal of the project includes raising awareness on the impacts of food waste and contributing to the enhancement and execution of sustainable practices in the foodservice sector. The participation of the government units, restaurants, and Filipino diners is involved in attaining these goals.
Thirty percent of the global energy consumption comes from the food sector, while it is also responsible for 22 percent of global greenhouse gases.
In hopes of ending hunger, boosting economic growth, and preserving natural resources, the organization integrates and promotes sustainable consumption and production (SCP) practices in government policies, business operations, and consumer behavior.
The years-long project may have reached its final year, but not the advocacy it speaks of. During The Sustainable Diner Project Summit 2021, some of the TSD’s accomplishments were recognized in a closing event titled, “The Final Course: Celebrating Sustainable Dining in the Philippines.”
“Our food choices matter and it matters greatly,” said Melody Melo-Rijk, the project manager of The Sustainable Diner Project, during the summit. “We need food, but the reality is, the food choices that we have, it’s deteriorating our planet. It’s not feeding everybody. Collectively, we can make this world a better place by simply choosing the right food and [the right way of producing it that also supports our local producers].”
Food waste reduction ordinance in Cebu City, approval of Food Surplus Reduction Act in the Congress, plus strategies on food waste reduction, measurement, and diversion in restaurants and hotels were some of the initiatives that TSD successfully accomplished over the past few years.
WWF-Philippines collaborated with 24 restaurant and hotel partners and trained over 1,000 employees in this project. They were able to organize and create 12 educational events, 132 campaign posters, and 14 videos, reaching over two million people in 2020 alone.
This included information, education, and communication materials such as training modules for restaurants that aim to be more sustainable in their business, a teaching manual for institutions and individuals, infographics, and more.
Also part of the project is an interactive game called Balay Kawayan, which is developed as a learning and teaching aid that informs users about the carbon footprint that can be generated in every meal they order in the game. Another mobile app is SoilMate, the first-ever composting app in the Philippines, enabling individuals and businesses to reroute their food waste away from landfills and turn them into rich soil.
Even though the project ends this year, the Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman emphasized the need for collaborative efforts from private and public sectors towards sustainable dining.
“Our project may come to a close, it may be concluding very soon, but we feel that this movement, the sustainable diner journey, has just begun,” Melo-Rijk said.