Happy Earth Day everyone. I’m gonna tell you all a quick story.
When I was in high school, I wanted to get a job in a bakery. I found a job at a big supermarket called Loblaws that had just opened up at the mall near my house. This would be my first time working in the food industry.
The bakery section of this supermarket was tucked into a corner. They sold everything from birthday cakes to baklava to cannolis. The supermarket itself had a pretty steady stream of customers, but the bakery section was always dead. My job was to restock whatever was running low in the case and to serve customers. “Restocking” meant running back and forth to the huge walk-in freezer to grab frozen cakes, peel the plastic packaging off, slap an expiry date on the bottom, push them into the case, and pretend that it was freshly baked. (A huge reason why you should purchase your baked goods from a real bakery but that’s an argument for another blog post)
Since I was a full-time high school student, I could only work late nights. I worked until closing every night–9pm. My first night closing, I was trained by another employee. She taught me how to clean things up and stack things away until finally we reached all the food in the case.
“Here,” she said, handing me three large garbage bags, “Throw away all the cakes and cupcakes that are past expiry and all of the freshly baked goods.” My job every night was to take all this perfectly good food and toss it.
Perhaps I was naive or perhaps I didn’t want to admit it in the past, but I was shaken that this is what happened every single night. It absolutely destroyed me, and I so desperately wanted to take the whole bag of fresh croissants and hand them out to homeless people all over downtown Vancouver. Every night when I left work I felt sick, and I would brainstorm all the things I could do to reduce the amount of food waste that supermarkets produced. I asked my boss if I could take the bags home, and she said no. She told me I wasn’t even technically allowed to take one or two things home for myself, but that she would look past that. I lasted at that job for 2 weeks before I couldn’t take it anymore and left.
This experience sparked something in me. I vowed to myself that when I owned my own food business that I would do whatever I could to reduce food waste. I vowed that when I owned my own home and when I had complete control over my life that I would do what I could to reduce my carbon footprint and reduce my negative impact on the environment.
Now, I work at Butter Lane–a small cupcake shop in the East Village. Every night, we also toss all our cupcakes because our cupcakes are baked fresh every morning. Every night it still hurts to see all that perfectly good food in a garbage bag.
The difference is that now I can do something about it.
I know this post has already been long and winding, but I’m getting to the point I swear. This Earth Day, I want to share some of the things that I do in my daily life as an employee in the food industry, as a pastry chef and cake decorator, and as a homeowner, that help reduce food waste and also make my life more sustainable. Every day I am aware of the waste I produce and I am constantly trying to change. Every difference is a big difference if we all do it, so I hope you continue reading and try to employ some of these things in your own lives.
A Food Employee
A Chef and Decorator
A Consumer and Homeowner