GOOD

Making Every Grain of Rice Count in the Philippines

A campaign to promote responsible rice consumption claims millions could live for a year off the rice every Filipino wastes each day.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Without fail, my mom asks the same question at our go-to restaurant: “Where’s the rice?” At house parties, the procession around the large buffet-style spread usually starts at the rice cooker. The grain is a staple of my Filipino family meals, and I’m far from alone.


“The meal really revolves around rice,” says Filomeno Aguilar, a history professor at Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. “It’s always rice plus something else.” That same thinking, Aguilar explains, also applies to restaurants like McDonald’s, which serves rice in the Philippines. “In today’s [Filipino] culture with fast-food restaurants, one could go for burger and pizza, and [without rice] it’s not considered a meal” he says.

So it might seem odd that in November 2004, the archipelago nation celebrated its first national rice awareness month, honoring an already indispensible grain. Though Aguilar says the campaign is directed mostly at schoolchildren, government officials want to use November to promote responsible rice consumption by all citizens: minimizing waste, thanking Filipino rice farmers, and, more recently, swapping white rice for brown.

For a country where the average person eats 250 pounds of rice per year (a figure that’s one of the highest in the world, though decreasing), the Philippines could use a friendly reminder to finish what’s on its plate. The average Filipino tosses out a couple tablespoons of rice each day. With an estimated population above 100 million, that seemingly small amount of per-person waste could feed 4.3 million people in the aggregate, according to the International Rice Research Institute.

Aguilar suspects that wastage skews higher among the middle and upper classes, which in 2012 consumed 7 to 12 percent more rice than the poorest Filipinos, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. “My father regarded rice as sacred, the gift of God,” he says of his upbringing in a family of modest means. “Every grain on my plate had to be eaten. Otherwise, I would get a scolding as a child.”

This new austerity plan goes for businesses, too. In the past few months, councilmembers in Quezon City and Cebu City have passed ordinances requiring restaurants and other food businesses to serve a half-cup of rice, instead of the full-cup norm. A similar 2013 bill from Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.—yes, the son of the “martial law” president and the first lady with an impressive shoe collection—that would fine businesses nationwide for not allowing half-cup orders received some online pushback, to say the least.

Last year, coinciding with the Philippines’ National Year of Rice, the Southeast Asian nation introduced Brown Rice Day, encouraging restaurants to offer the whole grain as an alternative to the customary, more-refined white variety. The push has its roots in lifestyle and economic concerns, says Hazel Antonio who leads the Be RICEponsible campaign for the Philippine Rice Research Institute. The World Health Organization estimates 7.8 million people in the Philippines will have diabetes by 2030, and research suggests a brown-rice swap could lower risk for the disease. Plus, during the milling process, 10 percent more of the grain is retained in brown rice than white, which must have more layers removed and be polished for its pure color. Thus hearty brown rice could be a boon to the country’s overall food supply. (The Philippines was supposed to be rice self-sufficient in 2013, a goal that was pushed back—a typhoon certainly didn’t help—before being placed on hold this summer.)

But although Aguilar acknowledges its popularity is growing, current brown-rice consumption remains small and dependent on a person’s position in society: The middle and upper classes, which may be more aware of health trends, will more likely make the switch.

As for how schools will get involved, in a mid-October memorandum Education Secretary Armin Luistro encouraged everyone from students to department officials to participate in various rice-awareness events, including taking a rice pledge during flag ceremonies. The Philippines government hopes the third paragraph from the Panatang Makapalay pledge becomes a common refrain among Filipinos before they tuck into adobo, lechon, or anything that can accompany rice. A rough English translation reads: “I will get a serving that I can consume so there will be no leftover on my plate.” Wise words for rice lovers the world over.

Articles
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Pixabay

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet