Food is a huge issue, and a hugely complex issue, and one that we won’t be able to deal with in just one short month during our One Planet Living year.
I haven’t posted anything else since my intro post to One Planet Food, because to be honest, I’ve been struggling to know where to start. I keep starting posts and then abandoning them as it all seems to get so complicated so quickly.
So I’ve decided to go back to basics and have been giving a lot of thought to what ‘sustainable food’ and sustainable eating might mean. Which brings me to SLOW.
I wrote a post about slow last year, in relation to making and crafting, and came up with a slow pneumonic:
The more I think about food, the more this slow pneumonic seems to apply here too.
We live on a planet of 7 billion people, and this is forecasted to be nearly 10 billion by 2050.
We are going to struggle to feed all of those people (we already do), so it really is important that we give some thought to how we are going to personally reduce our ‘food footprint’ and cook and eat responsibly.
‘Sustainable food’ will mean different things to different people, and we will all prioritise things differently.
For me, sustainable food means that is has been grown and produced with care and thought as to it’s impact on the land and on those that produce it. It encompasses things like Fairtrade, organic, farm approved, free-range eggs, etc etc. I choose these products where I can because the principles behind them sit with my own personal values.
I do eat meat, but I choose a ‘buy less but better approach’. We have several meat free days a week, we limit the amount of red meat that we eat, and I buy British, organic meat whenever I can.
For some people sustainable food will mean being vegan, or vegetarian. For others it will involve growing as much of their own food as possible.
As I said, sustainable food will mean different things to different people, but above all I think it is about valuing and respecting the food we have. Taking care with our food, buying the best we can afford, giving thought to where it has come from and who has grown it, and then making sure we use up every last scrap, and that none of our precious food goes to waste.
Local food seems like such a straightforwards and sensible thing to aspire to. We all hear tales of exotic produce being flown in from every corner of the earth to satisfy our increasingly diverse tastes, and many of us shudder at the thought of the carbon emissions of all those planes burning up fossil fuels to bring us mange tout in the middle of winter, or strawberries at Christmas time.
But sometimes, when we dig a little deeper, local food isn’t always the best choice. English strawberries grown under cover in heated polytunnels will have a higher carbon footprint than those grown without the need for additional heat in Europe and then transported here by boat. Extending growing seasons to meet customer demand for local produce, by simply growing things indoors using up vast amounts of energy to heat polytunnels and greenhouses simply doesn’t make any sense.
Which is why at the same time as thinking ‘local’ we also need to think ‘seasonal’. We have lost touch of the seasons, of what it is appropriate to be seeing in the shops at particular times of year, because we have grown used to be able to get whatever we want, at any time of year.
Zero Waste eating is a massive part of eating sustainably.
I’ll repeat the statistic I shared in last week’s intro post:
The food thrown away in Europe and North America would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world three times over.
That is truly bonkers, and so incredibly sad. And at the same time there is also something motivational in there. If we could reduce food waste, we could feed more people. Food waste is something that I can take responsibility for, that I can change.
I can take personal responsibility for ensuring that the food that I buy doesn’t go to waste. That we use it all up, respect the people who have grown it, and the land that it has come from, and ensure that none of it is thrown away. That I can do. That we can all do. Which is kind of exciting!
Zero Waste also applies not only to the food itself, but to the packaging it comes in. Sustainable food means being aware of all the issues around it, not just the food itself. So much of our food now is processed, and comes in single use plastic packaging. It can be incredibly difficult to avoid, and is one of the reasons why I choose to cook from scratch as much as I can.
It’s worth taking some time to think about what it is that sustainable food, ‘one planet food’, means to you. How you can make your food budget sit with your values and feel good about the food you are eating?
Do leave a comment below, or pop over to our Facebook group to join in the conversation!