Where does your food come from? Do you buy it from the supermarket that stocks food from all around the globe? Do you buy fresh fruit and vegetables at a local farmers market? Do you know how far your food has travelled to get to your plate? Each food choice we make on a daily basis contributes to our carbon footprint.
Canned tomatoes from Italy, Curry sauces from the United Kingdom, Lamb from New Zealand, grapes, cherries and oranges from the USA. The distance, and in turn the fossil fuel burned during transporting these foods to you is costing us the Earth! This brings me to the concept of food miles. Wikipedia states that;
Food miles is a term which refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. It is one dimension used in assessing the environmental impact of food. The concept of food miles originated in 1990 in the United Kingdom. It was conceived by Andrea Paxton, who wrote a research paper that discussed the fact that food miles are the distance that food travels from the farm it is produced on to the kitchen in which it is being consumed (Iles, 2005, p.163). Engelhaupt (2008) states, that “food miles is the distance food travels from farm to plate, are a simple way to gauge food’s impact on climate change”
So it is the distance that our food travels that makes the difference to our carbon footprint. So what are some of our options?
You can buy fruit and vegetables that are local and in season. By buying locally, you reduced the amount of food miles that the produce has had to travel to get to you. You are also supporting local farmers, and not some uncaring supermarket chain, who doesn't care where the food comes from. You can save money by buying produce that is in season. Fruit and vegetables that is imported in the off season is usually much more expensive and the quality is questionable. That is one of the reasons that I do not buy out of season produce, especially fruit, because it just tastes horrid. Give me a ripe, local plum, peach or strawberry any day!
Choose produce with less packaging. The packaging of food adds to the overall cost of the produce and the additional weight adds to transport costs. Buying food with less packaging also helps reduce your household waste. I have found that our non-recyclable waste has reduced considerably since we started taking packaging in to account during our purchasing decisions.
Eat less Meat. I know, most people love a steak on the BBQ, but did you know that it takes nearly 16 times as much water to produce 1 kg of beef than it does to produce 1 kg of wheat. It is a fact that it is easier to transport and process vegetables and grain than it is to produce meat. Now, I am not saying that you can't have meat, just think of reducing your consumption to lower your carbon footprint. We have about three vegetarian meals a week, and have found that our grocery bill has fallen considerably. My favourite is a very nice chickpea and potato curry that I am famous for here at home. Everyone raves about it, and it is a very cheap meal to make. This video from Dothegreenthing.com says it all!
Grow your own produce. Well this tip is not from the website, but it is bleeding obvious. By growing your own fruit and vegetables, you can harvest organic produce, use less water, and use no packaging, all in the comfort of you own back (or front) yard. Now I am no gardening expert. I have just had the good fortune to remember some of the lessons that my Dad taught me when I was a kid, and I have read many books on vegetable gardening and many gardening blogs. Every little bit of knowledge helps. Once you get the hang of it, it comes second nature for what works and what does not. You also get to recognise what produce is in season and what is not, and it helps you to avoid out of season produce at the green grocer or supermarket. It is cheap and rewarding growing you own food. Once you pick your first home grown tomato, you will never look back! More about Sustainable Gardening on Saturday.
Tomorrows post will be about how you can reduce your carbon footprint at Home.
Keep an eye on the official Zero Footprint Week website for more tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint during the week.