American chef Max La Manna is vegan and zero-waste, cooking only with plant-based products in his kitchen that he says is 95 per cent “plastic free”.
The 30-year-old buys only the food produce that isn’t wrapped in plastic, and any potential food waste like vegetable skins and tops are cooked up as snacks or stocks or sauces.
“If your fruit and vegetables are not wrapped, buy those and eat those before they go to waste. Eating the food that you cook or buy is a big thing – one third of the food that we grow globally goes to waste. And 40pc of the food you buy ends up going to waste,” he tells Independent.ie.
“I love working with food waste, it allows me to be creative – I sometimes cook the whole vegetable, I wash it off, cook it and eat it, it’s totally safe to do so.”
He adds: “I can create a veggie stock from food waste, or put it back into compost, or use them as crisps or garnishes on top of your meal. With potato skins, I chop them up, fry them up in cooking oil and season them. I did this the other day, fried up the skins and seasoned them when I was cooking for friends and they were amazed and said ‘I didn’t know you could do this’.”
“When I approach cooking, I think: how can I make the most of all of it, can I be creative? Say the top of this carrot where the leaves are… chop them up and sauté them and season them with pepper and salt.”
“Or make a pesto and flavour it up with the carrot leaves.”
The zero-waste philosophy goes beyond cooking. Maz buys only sustainably made cleaning and personal hygiene products, or makes his own. While clothes shopping, he buys clothes that he believes he’ll wear over his lifetime. And when travelling, he’ll offset his carbon air miles by paying for eco projects online.
“Look at what you can do today, maybe bringing in a reusable water bottle today, or taking a reusable bag with you.”
“Myself and my girlfriend buy 95pc package-free food. I would love to make my own peanut butter from scratch for example but I buy the peanut butter in glass jars and use those for storage and then reuse or recycle them or give away.”
But he admits: “Some of the good stuff we really miss and love like ice cream or tofu that comes in packaging, that’s when we say ‘we were really good these last few weeks, we’ve made own milk, cooked from scratch, bought at the farmer’s market, we can allow something like this into our lives’. But then we think how can we dispose of this properly?”
Small steps at least can make a big difference, Max says, and the lifestyle is about being kind in your choices.
“We bought tofu the other night that came in a package, and I cringe, but you know what? You’re living with your partner… you make peace with it.”
Max La Manna will be appearing at WellFest 2019 in association with KBC at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham on 11th and 12th May.
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