And, yes, there is a direct correlation between over-consumption in the West and shortages in developing countries. We produce enough food to feed 10 billion people yet hunger prevails due to a combination of poverty, economics and, increasingly, climate change. With a growing global population, we urgently need to find solutions to the problem.
So, on that cheery note(!) here are our top 5 things you can do to eat sustainably – for your own health, your fellow earthlings and the planet!
1. Buy Well
The first thing is to buy sensibly – it may not be sexy but planning main meals, like our grandmother did, is the first step to saving food waste and money. I particularly love this planning tip from the brilliant Jack Monroe to get started - we all have cupboards full of dry and canned goods that could be eaten up, or form the basis for new recipes, with a bit of imagination. Any food you discover that you really don’t want can be donated via our friends at Olio – download the app and someone locally will want what you don’t.
2. Eat Less Meat
If you want to make the most impact, then you need to re-think your relationship with meat and turn it back into what it was: an irregularly consumed treat. Buying less also means you have more money to buy better. High welfare standards are a must - no if’s, no but’s, unless you have a heart of stone for the plight of intensively reared animals. Get inspiration from Meat Free Mondays and any number of amazing plant-based cookbooks – we’re massive fans of Anna Jones. The pulse will become your friend as you replace meat with plant based protein such as her amazing Dhal recipe that will never be off your stove.
3. Eat Local, Seasonal, Organic
The issue of food miles is complex – local should mean less emissions but it’s not always true, especially if you’re trying to shoehorn someone else’s crop into our soil (there’s a reason tomatoes don’t naturally grow in Winter in the UK!) Instead, focus on eating seasonal (it will be fresher and taste better having had less distance to travel) and organic where possible. I know it costs a little more but less pesticides and artificial fertilizers really are better for you and the planet! We love Eat The Seasons as a handy reference as to what’s good when.
4. Buy Packaging Free
Although some packaging is necessary to get products to consumers in optimum condition (and therefore reduce food waste) – a lot of packaging is unnecessary which is why we set up Unpackaged over a decade ago. Luckily Planet Organic agreed so you can find our refillable products at their Muswell Hill branch.
The key to refilling is preparation – although all you really need a shopping list so you know what you want to buy, a set of containers (that are lightweight, easy to transport, and seal well) and a strong shopping bag. There is no need to buy new containers – just attack the Tupperware mountain that you probably have in your kitchen cupboards. In the shop, just follow the instructions on our scale which will enable you to deduct the weight of your container.
But it’s not all about just shopping with us – your local butcher, baker and candlestick maker will usually let you shop with your own containers – just ask! But my tips would be to do so on a day they’re not busy, explain to them why you want to shop without packaging and ask them to help you – all small businesses want to keep their customers happy and will often oblige. For more inspiration, check out the 100 tips from our friend Bea at Zero Waste Home.
What can you make? You can reduce your spending, and packaging, with some simple recipes. Take bread products – once you get in the habit they’re super easy to make. Give them a go and don’t be put off if they don’t turn out right first time (they’ll all still be edible) They’re also great ways to get kids involved in cooking too. Our favourite recipes are basic bread, bread sticks, oat cakes and flatbreads which has massively minimised the packaging in our bin!
If you’d like to explore more – could we suggest watching any number of amazing food documentaries, although you will need a strong stomach for some of them – the truth behind the curtain of the industrial food chain is often not very palatable.
Happy sustainable living and we’ll be back next month with our guide to being sustainable when you’re out of the house & on the go!