Food Sustainability

food sustainability food wastage

Have you ever thought about the food you eat? Where it comes from? How it's made? AJ Mac, a Learning Support Teacher (and poet) from Newcastle, NSW shares with you her experience about food sustainability!

 

When next you eat, think what is on my plate?

Have you ever heard; you are what you eat?

With our food choices, it’s the Earth we cheat

 

How far has your food travelled in a crate?

How much forest land was cleared for this meat?

When next you eat, think what is on my plate?

Have you ever heard; you are what you eat?

 

How much of your food ends up as food waste?

What do you know of your almond milk treat

Or the cows and the methane they excrete?

When next you eat, think what is on my plate?

Have you ever heard; you are what you eat?

With our food choices, it’s the Earth we cheat

 

Food Sustainability

One area where my family has tried to minimise our impact on the environment is around food sustainability. There are many issues that could be addressed under this topic and it covers everything from food miles (the distance from where a product has come from/was grown or produced to the shops) to food wastage. It also considers the way a product has been manufactured, whether it was produced in a sustainable manner or with sustainable products.

Food miles was a phrase that I heard bantered around when I lived in the UK. The concept of food miles was not anything I had considered prior to living in London. It was a particularly important topic there as a lot of food that was sold had come from outside of the UK and so consideration of purchasing products that had travelled a shorter distance was of importance. Australia produces much of the food it sells. However, much of our food is trucked across the country to distribution centres and then trucked back from there to supermarkets all over Australia. As well as this, some products are shipped from overseas and bottled here, or are grown here then shipped overseas to be bottled or turned into something else and then shipped back for sale in Australian supermarkets. So, what have my family done to make more sustainable choices around food miles? Initially, we started to buy our vegetables and fruit at the local farmers' market. This has now progressed to buying a locally sourced and supplied fruit and vegetable box weekly. By doing this, we have cut down on buying fruit and vegetables from the supermarkets, to reduce the food miles that our food takes when it goes from paddock to plate.

Food wastage is a big issue in Australia. Did you know that the Government estimates that food wastage costs the economy $20 billion each year? Over 5 million tonnes of food waste end up in landfill, which is enough to fill 9000 Olympic sized swimming pools. This equates to one in five shopping bags or $3800 worth of groceries per household per year. That is $3800 you could have saved - just being thrown in the trash! I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not have a spare $3800 to just throw away. As well as this, it is worth noting what the impact of food wastage has on the environment. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after the USA and China).

"...food that is produced but not eaten each year guzzles up a volume of water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted." 

This quote comes from the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization and it makes a really important point about how food wastage isn’t only about the after effect impact on the environment, but also in the impact to the environment of producing food that goes on to be wasted.

Which gets me thinking about the sustainable (or not sustainable) way food products are produced. This part is huge and takes in everything from land clearing of natural habitats (think the issue with palm oil or the issue with deforestation of the Amazon for cattle), to the use of water to produce foods. I know of people who are concerned about the impact cows have on the environment (land clearing, methane excretions, dairy practices etc) and so have made the switch from meat and dairy to plant-based products. Many of them drink almond milk. Did you know that 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California? California is a naturally dry environment, much like parts of Australia, and it experiences large drought periods. The production of almonds uses 20 times more water than dairy and has resulted in a lot of natural wetland habitats being destroyed. I’m not saying you can’t drink almond milk, but it is worth knowing the facts around your food choices before switching to something that seems better that may not necessarily be.

In my house, we have cut down the amount of milk we drink, as well as this we use oat milk rather than almond milk when we have needed a dairy alternative (thanks reflux babies!). We haven’t cut milk out altogether though, but we try not to waste it and only buy the amount we think we are going to use. This brings me back to food wastage. We are quite masterful in our house regarding this matter. One thing that helps is to only buy what you know you will use. To do this, it is helpful to plan meals in advance. We also freeze leftovers. Our freezer is full of leftover meals that can be grabbed out and defrosted for a lunch (small serves) or an easy dinner (bigger serves). We also plan meals based around the ingredients that we already have and that need to be used. We also only shop in season products and buy things like meat in bulk and freeze it prior to using it. That way, if we don’t end up using it, it doesn’t go off. We end up with very little food wastage. With the waste we do have, much of it goes into our worm farm, so that the only things ending up in the rubbish bin are the things that cannot be consumed by worms.

There are many other things to consider about food sustainability - I have only briefly touched on a few things...but it is a great starting point to think about what you eat, why you eat it, what you are not eating and throwing away and whether or not you can make any changes to ensure the food footprint we leave on the environment is as minimal as possible.

Poem and Blog by AJ Mac

Image by Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

 


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