Eating for a Sustainable Future
Posted on 04 February 2014 by Leonie Satori
While many of us environmentally frugal types focus on ensuring that our printing paper is made from sustainable resources and our light globes are energy efficient, many of us bypass the important role of what we put in our mouth and its impact on the environment. As we are all consumers of food and many of us enjoy eating, the impact of our over consuming and voracious appetite is costing not only our hard-earned cash, but also the environment. Eating sustainably need not be difficult nor time consuming; some simple techniques can ensure that what we eat has minimal impact on our environment.
Firstly, it may seem obvious, but avoiding take-away foods will dramatically reduce waste. Quick meals such as salads, stir-fries, wraps and steamed vegetables can be both nutritious and just as speedy as take-away foods.
Use stainless steel lunchboxes and storage containers for lunches, snacks and leftovers - stainless steel is antibacterial, lightweight and easy to clean. Also, look at upgrading your disposable coffee cup for a more environmentally sound re-usable coffee cup and you could save over 250 disposable coffee cups per year ending up in landfill.
Avoid pre-packaged foods as much as possible, consuming whole foods, which are less processed, require less energy to manufacture and create less waste with unnecessary packaging. Seek out your local wholefood supplier or market for foods such as nuts, grains, spices and legumes and take your own container to store your purchases.
It is estimated that Australian households throw away $5 billion worth of food each year, equivalent to a massive 20% of food purchased being sent directly into landfill*. Buy only what you need - write a list before shopping with the intention of only purchasing what is necessary for the week, save leftovers for lunches and freeze excess food for a later date.
Learn to cook! Finding some basic recipes for delicious and nutritious home-made meals can help build confidence in the kitchen and get the whole family involved in cooking, inspiring the next generation to eat healthy and care for the environment. There are some great websites that have recipes to help with choosing simple and healthy meals.
Aim to buy local, Australian or grow your own. Transportation costs and refrigeration of foods increase prices of imported products and have a considerable environmental impact. Eating local and in season also means that your food is fresh and you are supporting local and Australian industry.
Animal industries are one of the most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, if you compare the amount of grain required to produce meat, a single hectare of land can produce 78 times more food in the form of vegetables than in the form of beef**. Eating more plant-based foods not only improves your overall health, but also significantly reduces waste of essential environmental resources from intensive animal farming.
Making gradual and sustainable changes to reduce wastage of resources through better food choices ultimately results in a healthier body, bank balance and environment.
*The Australian Institute, 2009, What a waste - An analysis of household expenditure on food
** Cribb, J, 2010, The Coming Famine: The global food crisis and what we can do to avoid it