Its no surprise that the world has come to a boiling point with food production, over farming and harmful packaging resulting in uncontrollable pollution and climate change.
It can be difficult to know where to start when making an effort to be make more ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly choices, especially when it comes to food. Many people have raised an eyebrow when they have been told that their diet affects the environment and I don’t blame them – how does nipping to the shop for supplies affect the environment? Does it really matter? Yes! it really does have a large impact so it’s important to make some educated decisions and implement them into your daily routine.
To start with, what is sustainable eating? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietics have summed it up nicely in this statement – “the concept of sustainability is applied toward the production of food or other plant or animal products using farming techniques and practices that help to conserve natural resources and have minimal impact on the environment. Sustainable agriculture enables us to produce healthful food without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same.”
Below I have highlighted various ways in which I believe we can start making a difference:
1. Reduce meat: Unfortunately, the production of meat requires a huge amount of water. IME state that to produce 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water whereas to produce 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres of water, and the likes of tomatoes requiring just 214 litres. Reducing your meat intake will significantly help conserve the earths water consumption. Try implementing vegetarian lunches or save your meat for just the weekend. With vegetables considerably cheaper than meat your wallet will thank you too.
2. Reduce waste – The average household wastes around 30% of the food it buys! Yes, 30%! How often do you say there’s nothing to eat but in reality there’s plenty left in the fridge and surrounding cupboards? Nothing good comes from unnecessary waste. I read recently from “outrider” that we throw away so much that if food waste were a country it would be the world’s third largest carbon polluter! To help reduce this obviously buy less, try shopping with a meal plan so you aren’t unnecessarily adding things to your cart that won’t be used. Also try and make your food go further, its amazing what you can make from so little, experiment!
3. Shop local – Shopping local means shopping at your local grocery shop rather than a chain supermarket. The benefit of this is that the produce in the store will have come from local farms and suppliers whereas a chain store is likely to have imported their produce based on the cheapest price. Not only will their produce have spent days in transit, with their ability to ship from remote places the produce won’t necessarily be in season locally so you’ll find it as a combination of these two factors its not going to last long when you get it home nor is it going to taste as good.
4. Shop smart: This is important, if a little tricky. We have to become more aware of what’s on the packaging of the food we buy. There are various standards you can find on food packets that make sure our food is sourced and produced sustainably. Logos to look out for next time you’re shopping include Fairtrade (protecting farmers and workers in developing countries), Freedom Food (animal welfare), MSC and ASC (seafood), and RSPO (palm oil).
6. Shop prepared: When I go out 9 times out of 10 you’ll find 5 shopping bags in my handbag along side numerous mesh produce bags, reusable straws and 2 insulated cups (one for me and one for my other half.) I do often feel like Mary Poppins and question why I constantly lug this around with me but when I think of how many one use plastics in the time I’ve been doing this that I’ve been able to turn away I realise that it really does make a difference. It takes a one off purchase at an affordable price and a really small amount of consistent mindfulness. Keep them in your handbag, keep them in your car, work it into your daily routine. Little changes regularly have big overall results.