Welcome to our house. It’s a three-story terrace in Glebe, Sydney and six of us live here, two on each floor.
The house, while charming and with excellent views of the local goings-on, is only designed for four and as far as our landlord is concerned, that’s how many people live here (Sandra, if you’re reading this, no rental in Sydney has two guest rooms, we’re sorry).
As such, kitchen facilities are limited. We have one fridge, a fruit bowl that frequently spills over into a fruit table, a bread spot where all the bread gets piled up, and a single cupboard shelf each. Honestly, it’s a space that would struggle to accommodate two but they used to build ’em different back in the day.
Our house, like most households in Australia, wastes a lot of food. With two nurses and four others working from home, we all eat on a fairly erratic schedule and, while we try to cook communal meals as often as possible, it’s just not practical to share food duties or plans. Things get forgotten about, bread goes hard, avocados deteriorate into squishy messes.
All of the above is the reason why OzHarvest’s new tape has been a godsend. I’ve been trialling it for the past few weeks and honestly can’t understand why someone hasn’t come up with such an effective yet elegant solution before.
The tape works like this: it’s a roll of sticky, bio-degradable paper with a string of squares in either black or yellow that have phrases on them like ‘use me up’ or ‘pick me’. When you’ve got leftovers that you know you won’t get to, you slap a sticker on it letting everyone else in the house know that it’s fair game.
The tape is free – you only need to pay postage – and it’s a great way to both avoid fights over who ate whose fruit and make sure that the money you’ve spent on food actually end up filling someone’s belly and not the bin.
Mia, 28, middle-floor housemate, told The Latch that the OzHarvest tape has been “groundbreaking.”
“It has widened my food choices in the fridge because I get to eat other peoples food. Food I would not normally buy in the store”.
Mia confirms that this has reduced her need to go shopping and therefore reduced the need for excess food.
Alex, 27, top-floor housemate adds that the tape has “completely changed the way I think about putting food in the fridge.”
Liam, 29, bottom-floor housemate, says that there are “so many more food varieties I would never have had a chance to eat.”
“Everything from left-over mushroom risotto to baked beans and that bag of spinach,” he said.
“There’s less going into the food bin, for sure.”
Perhaps the biggest success has been the communal portioning out of several kilos of pulled jackfruit that lower-floor housemate John, 33, decided to make instead of completing his study for senior nursing qualifications in a clear example of procasta-cooking.
The jackfruit itself could only be purchased locally in 3kg tins, according to John, thus resulting in vast quantities of pulled jackfruit which, once labelled, fuelled the house for several days in a variety of creative dishes.
The tape has certainly been a light-hearted addition to the house, little more than legitimising the theft of other housemates supplies, but the impacts are serious. In Australia, 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted each year. This costs the economy over $36.6 billion annually contributes to roughly 3% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. More water is used to grow food that is thrown away that what’s in Sydney Harbour – five times over.
Changing our relationship to food is crucial if we are going to reach our climate goals and knowing what’s in your fridge and what you need to use before going shopping is a simple but easy way to do this.
While there are massive environmental benefits to the tape, the impacts are most likely to be felt when they chime with the social benefits too. In all relationships, there are dynamics giving and taking. Some put more in and others get more out. It’s a fluid system that changes and evolves over time but I’ve definitely fallen into the latter category as shopping has routinely landed on the ‘too-hard’ list during lockdown.
As such, I’ve found myself the recipient of a lot of free food that otherwise would have gone to waste and I’m not complaining about it and thankfully neither are my housemates.
The tape has smoothed the cracks in an otherwise fractured house relationship to food as we all now know where we stand – plus, we’re doing our little bit to reduce food waste and help out the planet.