In recent weeks and months there has been a great deal of media talk about the idea of sustainable living, including sustainable food. But what does this phrase mean and how is it possible to incorporate this into our everyday lives?
In a world where we are constantly depleting the earth's natural resources, we need to start living more sustainable lives in order to reduce the negative environmental impact of the human race on the planet. The food we eat, particularly in the developed world, is a major contributor to our carbon footprints and therefore climate change, so this is a key area which needs to be addressed by us all.
The concept of sustainable food can be said to cover a few broad areas. Firstly, in aiming to be sustainable, it is necessary to use less of the earth's resources such as oil, which is heavily involved in the transportation of food and a major contributor to climate change. Secondly, it is important to respect the land in terms of how it is farmed and how food is produced, and, thirdly, sustainable food is about treating those who work in the food chain better, both in respect of conditions and pay.
In the UK, and throughout the developed world, we have got used to eating what we want, when we want, regardless of whether it is in season in this country. Trying to eat products which are in season locally, and indeed buying as much food as possible from the local area, is a key part of a sustainable food ethos, thus helping the local economy and reducing food miles. We have, however, got used to more exotic foods, and where products are not available locally or from within the UK, it is worth considering Fairtrade products (preferably not air-freighted, if this is known), which ensure that the workers in developing countries get a fair deal.
In terms of food production, organic farming is considered to be much more sustainable than intensive farming methods, as this has the least environmental impact on the land. In the case of animal products, livestock farming is considered to make a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing the amount of meat and dairy products consumed can also make a real difference. With regards to fish, try to eat products such as the flatfish dab, which is not considered to be at risk from unsustainable over-fishing.
Eating locally and reducing meat consumption are certainly areas which we can all think seriously about. And, whilst organic produce can be more expensive, the range available in the UK is growing rapidly with local box schemes often offering excellent value for money. So next time you are stocking up, think carefully about where your food has come from and help to reduce its environmental impact.