Given that food is one of the four basic human needs it is safe to say that what we all eat has a huge impact on the planet. Take a good look at what you eat. Not just what you eat – how it is produced, where it is produced, is it heavily packaged, were any humans or creatures harmed or wronged to produce it. Our food choices are not flippant decisions that should be governed by our taste buds. There are not only ethical implications here but also a hell of a lot of potential emmissions. So as your New Years resolution why not try green up your diet. Here are some ways to go about it.
Switching to a vegan diet saves 6.5 tonnes of CO2 per person every year. As renowned journalist and food writer Michael Pollan famously said;
“A vegan in a Hummer has a lighter carbon footprint than a beef eater in a Prius”
If veganism sounds a bit too scary at first, try vegetarianism or Freeganism (conciously making predominantly vegan choices as much as possible). Not only will you feel better for it and dramatically reduce your carbon footprint in the process but you will also save the lives of hundreds of animals every year. That’s reason enough for me.
Stop shopping at the supermarket
Ditch your supermarket for small local businesses or farmers markets. These large corporations are creating a scary monopoly in Australia and forcing prices down which is driving small businesses completely out of the market and backing producers into a corner. Farmers are forced to lower their costs (to ensure they get a slice of the Woolworths pie) but these rates are barely enough to cover the cost of production anyway. It leads to unsustainable practices (growing chemically is cheaper) and cruelty to the animals (quick processing or lack of basic care). And after all that what are we left with? Farmers, small businesses, consumers and our communities are unhappy or out of business and the end result is of poor nutritional quality anyway. Support local businesses and your own community.Here are some places you can start!
Now that you are avoiding supermarkets you will get to explore all the amazing local producers! There is nothing that I like more than going down to a farmers market and chatting with the producers or comparing notes with your fellow browsers. Some have live music, you can taste to fruit and it some places even let you take your dog. Not only is the experience nicer but buying local produce cuts down any emissions related to long travel times or produce that is grown out of season. Get to know your community while you shop – it is a really rewarding experience. I have listed a few of my favourite farmers markets here.
A big part of buying local is eating seasonal produce. I used to have a standard menu that I would eat rain, hail or shine and it never crossed my mind that it was being shipped from interstate or even internationally! Not only will you reduce energy usage (travel, refridgeration, petrol) but you will also save money as seasonal produce is cheaper due to availability. If you need to know what is in season in your area see this handy guide.
Eating organically is better for you and the planet. It just makes sense. Eating up to 40 pesticides, fungicides and herbicides every apple just doens’t make sense. Spraying our land with chemicals that kills whatever unfortunate being it lands on is not good. Organic farmers work with the land to get the best from it and while it is a little more expensive you do get what you pay for in nutritional value and taste. I wrote an article about how you can make the transition to organic eating a bit easier, even on a budget. Healthy you, healthy planet.
Avoid Palm Oil
I wrote this article explaining the ins and outs of palm oil (what it is, why it’s bad) and wrote a follow up guide to avoiding unsustainable palm in your products.
Make sure your not killing orangutans with your biscuits!
Buy Fair Trade
Make sure you look for the Fair Trade logo when buying food – especially when buying chocolate, coffee and tea. This excerpt from the FTA organisation website explains exactly why you should buy fair trade –
“Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives”.
Cook wholefoods, avoid packaging
These days we have tablets for everything, artificial flavours, frozen meals and the other day I even saw ‘Chicken In A Can’ – please hold my hair back for a moment while I barf. The bizarre thing is that all these magic pills we are ramming down our throats are derived from plants – why not just eat the plant? If you have a diet full of organic fruit and vegetables you will get all the vitamins you need all the while avoiding wasteful packaging. Frozen meals are labelled as ‘convenient’ but what on earth is convenient about paying ten bucks for a small tasteless meal in a non-recyclable container? Even for a week try and make all your food from scratch. You will end up feeling better and you will reduce your household waste.
Avoid GM Foods
Genetically modified foods come from crops or food sources that have had their DNA modified by gene technology. In simple terms, scientists are trying to produce ‘Super Crops’ that have new characteristics making them cheaper, quicker and/or easier to grow. An example – scientists can take a gene from a deep water fish that lives in very cold ocean and fuse it into a strawberry DNA so it can survive in frosts. It is a contentious subject with some hailing it the solution to global hunger but others (including me) fearful of potential impact. No one knows what effects GM technology will have on our health and the environments. I will leave you with a principle that was first introduced at the Earth Summit of 1992 –
The Precautionary Principle
“Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”
Principle #15 of the Rio Declaration, Rio Conference (or Earth Summit), 1992