On the second day of Tzu Chi’s annual vegetarian lunch buffet, Tzu Chi volunteers remind the guests to eat to their heart’s content but leave with their plates clean.
As they ready a fresh batch of sumptuous meat-free dishes, the volunteers also post signs all over the dining area. In Mandarin and English, the signs remind the roughly 400 guests to “take what you want but eat what you take.” Fortunately, as the volunteers observed, the guests left the venue with clean plates.
Tzu Chi volunteer Margie Sy, among those who collected the clean plates, believes the veggie buffet is a good way to teach zero food waste. She says the buffet, vegetarian or not, tends to generate a lot of leftovers patrons can’t take home.
“When there’s a buffet, people tend to get a lot of food and they just leave it on the plate. As they paid for the buffet, they have to get their money’s worth. We’re teaching people to get what they can only consume so that there will be no leftovers,” Sy explains.
Across the globe, food waste is an utmost concern. The World Food Programme estimates that, despite the world producing enough food, one-third of it is wasted. In the Philippines, data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute states that Filipinos wasted an average of over three kilos of food a year between 2008 and 2013. Leftovers bound for landfills, according to the data, could’ve fed millions of Filipinos.
This disparity in global food distribution, among other factors, urged Dharma Master Cheng Yen to initiate the 80-20 campaign. This urges people to “eat until 80 percent full and give 20 percent to the needy.” Not only will such a practice reduce food waste, it will also feed starving mouths all over the world. Doctors even state that eating 80 percent is the ideal amount for meeting the body’s daily nutritional needs.
“[Food waste] is a bad effect for [the poor]. We have to be thankful that we have food, but we also have to think of others that don’t have food to eat. If we have something, we should share,” Sy adds.
Abstaining from meat doubles the positive effect of zero food waste on the environment.
“A zero-waste policy will help the environment. Going vegetarian will also help the environment. Because we don’t kill the animals, the ecosystem will not be imbalanced,” Sy adds.
For the duration of the lunch buffet, the Jing Si store opens its full spread of food and non-food products to the swelling numbers of guests. While waiting for the buffet to open at exactly 12:00 p.m., the guests took a look around the store.
Tzu Chi volunteer Lili Lin, who heads the Jing Si Books and Café in downtown Manila, manages the influx of patrons. Feedback has been positive due in no small part of her sharing of the story behind every product, namely the tea sets crafted by the monks of the Abode in Hualien.
“I also explained to them about the ‘no work, no meal’ policy. The monks don’t accept donations and instead rely on their hard work,” Lin explains.
Janet Lai, a Taiwanese working in Makati City, found the instant rice fascinating. With a fellow Taiwanese working at the Jing Si Hall as her guide, Lai found out that she can make a serving of rice with cold water. Although it will take longer (60 minutes in cold water versus 20 minutes in hot water), she finds it useful should hot water be in short supply.
More than the versatility of cooking instant rice, Lai also believes in the capability of Jing Si products to contribute in protecting Mother Earth.
“The rivers in the Philippines are tainted with solid waste. Worse, I can see children swimming in those rivers, which affects their health. These products, I believe, can reduce the waste and make Filipinos’ lives much safer,” says Lai.
Another buyer, Michelle Hou, bought several Jing Si aphorism pocket books for inspiration on the go. She learned that “getting angry is actually punishing yourself for the mistakes of others.”
“I bought these [Jing Si aphorism] books to understand more. When we have lots of problems, we can turn to such wisdom to shape the way we look at life,” says Hou.
The tea sets are made by the monks of the Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan. Tzu Chi volunteer Lili Lin, who manages the Jing Si store, shares this teapot’s story with a patron how the monks worked for hours to craft this set with knowledge that they won’t get any meal if they don’t work at all. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The clothing on display is made using DaAi Technology, turning recycled PET bottles into fabric. A Taiwanese who works at the Jing Si Hall shares her knowledge of the process to her fellow Taiwanese friend Janet Lin (right). 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Michelle Hou (center) takes interest in Jing Si aphorism pocket books and portable paraphernalia in hopes of learning more about Jing Si wisdom. One of the aphorisms that caught her attention taught her that: “Getting angry is actually punishing yourself for the mistakes of others.” 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
The second day of Tzu Chi’s annual vegetarian lunch buffet kicks off with roughly 400 guests feasting on sumptuous meat-free meals. Over the duration of the event, the buffet recorded a total of over 800 attendants. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
Guests take as much food as they want, keeping in mind that they must be able to finish everything on their plate. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】
A Tzu Chi volunteer collects a guest’s finished plate. With a limited number of plates and utensils, volunteers have to wash them so that more guests can use them. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】