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Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau On The Ins And Outs Of Living A Zero Waste Lifestyle

  • IWB Post
  •  June 4, 2019

Zero waste lifestyle. This phrase in India still seems so new, such a trend, and just so fancy. It’s a novel concept that only super beings in Utopia would be practicing is the image I’d had in my mind when I first heard about it.

But a lot of our disbelief and awe of such a lifestyle comes from the fact that it is such a conscious step away from the one normal that we’ve known. It seems terribly daunting, to forgo plastic, and pre-packaging, and disposable items when all of them make our lives just so goddamned comfortable. Getting out of one’s comfort zone isn’t easy, but apparently, success lies just a little bit ahead of the lane of discomfort, or in this case, the survival of humankind.

At this point, a zero waste life style, or as close to it we can get to, is a drastic requirement not only to help save the environment but to ensure that we can live comfortably on this planet for many more years to come. The degradation of our planet is more of a concern to us humans than the planet, it will always manage to reset itself to a state of equilibrium. This planet of ours has had many restarts since its formation, only the thing is, this cleansing and restoring meant wiping out existing life forms. And quite frankly speaking, it’s all right if we don’t care for the planet, or at the risk of sounding callous, other living things as well, but us humans will be the ones hit hardest if we let things continue as they are now and it will eventually result in our extinction, many years from now, but they sure as hell will be extremely uncomfortable ones.

For our collaboration with the MaahiRoj Eco-Festival, IWB recently conducted an Instagram live with renowned Chef Anne-Marie Bonneau, who leads a zero waste lifestyle. Her Instagram bio states, ‘I follow 3 food rules: No packaging. No processed food. No trash. #Plasticfree since 2011’ and during the chat, she reveals just how she manages to do that.

Here are the excerpts:

On making choices that result in relatively less production of waste

“Start shopping at the farmers market. Because in grocery stores products are mostly packaged but in the farmers market they are loose, just in big bins.”

On what is better, recycled paper or recycle plastic she says, “Depends on a bunch of factors but post recycled paper is actually better. Because when they say recycled, it could actually mean a lot of things. But when they say post recycled paper, it actually means that they’ve used the paper we put in the bins.

Some would say plastic is better, but they don’t take into consideration that the stuff just never goes away. The best choice though is neither. You can’t be perfect, it’s impossible. Just try and make the best choices in your situation.”

And you’d be shocked to know that every piece of plastic ever produced is still on this planet. Plastic takes about 1000 years to decompose and it was invented only in 1903. That is a total of 116 years of plastic just accumulating on this planet that is already overcrowded.

On maintaining the zero waste lifestyle

“I think you just need to start slowly and if you slip up don’t beat yourself over it. Just do your best.
So for me, when I started, I was so horrified with all the plastic being thrown around and ending up underground in the oceans. I used to go to Starbucks and order coffee that comes in paper cups but I also used to order biscotti which used to be individually wrapped and I used to think ‘that piece of plastic is going to outlive me. I’ll finish this biscotti in 5 minutes, but the plastic is going to last forever’. So that thought helps me so much. I just don’t want to contribute to it.

One of the keys to living this way is planning. If you plan ahead, you run into fewer problems. Usually, in my bag, I’ll have a small container and utensils and napkins.”

On involving her daughters into this lifestyle

“So my older daughter, when she was 16, I told her I didn’t like plastic in the oceans and we have got to get off this stuff and I remember, were standing in the grocery store in the tissue aisle and everything was wrapped in plastic and I said to her ‘how are we ever going to do this?’

It was her who did all the research, she figured out what we needed to do. And my other daughter was 10 when we started and never really complained. So if you start with them young, it’s easier for them.

My older daughter used to work in a café and she used to ask the customers if they would like their drink in a for-here cup or a throwaway cup and they would just shudder at that word. When she pointed out that this was going into the trash, that made them say ‘oh we want the for-here cup’.”

On how to reduce food waste

“Yes, food waste is a huge problem. Here in the US, 40% of the food produced goes to waste, and we waste not only that food, but all of the resources that went into growing that food and then it ends up in a landfill only to release methane gas.

I think the first thing is that when you go shopping, do an inventory. When you actually go shopping, see what you actually have on hand. You probably have everything you need to make a meal on hand. So instead of looking up a recipe online and buying all those little ingredients, look in the refrigerator or the pantry to see what you already have. You’ll also save a ton of money so there is no downside to cooking that way.

When I go out to eat, I have my bag with me with containers and utensils and so I take home the leftovers to prevent wastage, and since I have my own containers I don’t have to worry about the plastic ones the waiters usually package food in.”

On the myths around going zero waste

On the general opinion that organic things are more expensive, Anne-Marie says, “Yes, some things are more expensive but in the long run you do save quite a bit of money. One way to reduce waste is to make the most of an item, use it to its last bit. And that means you get more use out of the same amount. Another thing is to only buy how much you need so as to not throw it away later. Buying less will mean you don’t spend as much and the money is spent efficiently.”

MaahiRoj, literally translating into Earth Day, Every Day by AnanTaya is an experience of unearthing the planet’s potential for sustainability in collaboration with like-minded designers and artisans from across the country. With a string of events that include interactive workshops, inspiring talks, films, heritage walks, water meditations, cultural tours, eco drives and the latest collection of sustainable arts, the festival this year is set to bring together experts from various fields who have considered the planet in their choices.

The 10-day festival, from April 19-29 (11am -10pm), will be held at AnanTaya, The Kanota Courtyard, Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, Jaipur. Stay tuned for some more fun activities as we reach out to people to awaken their spirit of conservation.

This article was first published on April 26, 2019.

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