Monday, October 15, 2007

Food and environment: things you can do

I'm writing this post as part of Blog Action Day - I love the idea of mass action for a cause, even if the cause is as broad as 'the environment'. I hope you enjoy it!

How we choose to eat has a big impact on the environment. If you find a nifty online calculator, and find your ecological footprint, food makes up a big component. Growing, processing and transporting food uses land, energy, water and often nasty chemicals. It produces landfill, water polution and carbon emmissions, and can contribute to shrinking biodiversity. Not that I'm a saint. I calculated my ecological footprint today, and depending which calculator I used, we would need between 2.2 and 5.6 earths to support the whole world living like me.
For an example of how to live within our global means, check out Linda Cockburn and family, here. I think they are awesome. But until my landlord lets me keep a goat, or installs a composting toilet, here are some greener eating habits we can all attempt:

Buy less processed food. Seriously, the less energy that goes into creating your snack, the better. And probably the better for you, too.
Buy less packaged food. I'm not sure about you, but most of what goes in our rubbish bin is the packaging for things we bought at the grocery store. We paid for our rubbish? That bites. And it cost energy, water and pollution to create.
Buy organic. Meh. This is my least favourite tip. The jury is still out on whether organic is better for you, even if it means it's been grown sustainably. Plus, if you bought it at the supermarket, it probably had more packaging, and travelled further, than the non-organic stuff sitting next to it. But still - certified organic means grown according to sustainable best practice. That counts. Just don't buy organic beef from the other side of the world to clear your concience.
Buy local. The less it travels, the less emissions. The less it changes hands, the better for your pocket. If you've got access to farmer's markets, like we do, you can get nearly organic and very local, with no packaging - an environmental bonanza! Besides, it's fun and tastes good.
Grow your own. All you need is a half a balcony, and you can grow your own tomatoes. Can it get more local? Generally, growing your own vegetable uses much less water than the market garden equivalent. In these drought-stricken times, that's a plus.
Eat less animal products. This is the biggie. If you're already a vegetarian, you are doing more than your fair share for the planet. The difference in resources used to create a kilogram of beef and a kilogram of beans is astronomical. Just try adding one meat free meal to your week. It's better for you, better for your pocket, and better for the planet.


cerebralmum said...

I like the eat less meat tip. I have been a vegetarian and will never be one again - I simply cannot keep my iron levels at a reasonable level. I now try to have 2 meat meals and 2 fish meals a week. That works well for me healthwise and financially and while it may not be the as good for the environment as being a vegetarian, as you say even just a day off can make a difference.

kermitjohnson said...

Thank you for your article relating food to environment.

Kudos to you for participating in blog action day.

I did not participate. However, I wrote a belated post of my own about an environmental issue that might strike a cord with some of your readers.


You can find it at:

Anything that you can do to help promote awareness of this issue will be greatly appreciated. Normally, I don't ask for this kind of help, but the issue is that important to me.

Thank you!

kermitjohnson said...

Sorry about that last link that got cut off. Try this one instead.