Why should we care about food sustainability?

You’re probably thinking what on earth is food sustainability and what does it even mean? The food choices we make today have a large impact on our carbon footprint, from the production, packaging and transport of food, this all contributes towards greenhouse gas emissions. But how exactly do these factors negatively influence our carbon footprint?

Animal protein is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that in Australia, 50% of methane emissions are derived from livestock industries, and more than half of the methane emissions in Australia are attributed to beef (1). The demand for beef in Australia is continually rising, as is the demand for beef internationally as Australia is one of the largest exporters of beef. In order to maintain and increase beef production, cattle feedlots are developed. This means cattle feed less on forage, instead are fed grains which raises methane production. In Australia, 80% of beef sold in major supermarkets is sourced from cattle feedlots (1). Additionally, beef production requires a higher amount of water in comparison to vegetables, in fact to produce 1kg of beef, approximately 15,000 litres of water is required, compared to 1kg of vegetables which is only requires 200 litres of water (2).

Transport
The term food miles’ is a rough measurement of how far produce travels between the production and the final consumer (3). Rather than food being sourced locally, food is transported long distances, which is another major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (4). This generally means produce has been stored for long periods of time to preserve its quality, which means food is often not seasonal and has not come from local farmers.

Processing and packaging
Food packaging has a major influence on the food supply chain and on the environment. The energy required for the machinery in packaging processes, along with the large space of landfill occupied by plastics and packaging from fruit and vegetables are both damaging to the environment.

What can we do about it?

Ethical Shopping
Focus on the ‘paddock to plate’ approach when sourcing produce. This may entail growing your own fruit and veggies, sourcing produce from a local farmer or purchasing food from your local farmers market. Avoid major supermarkets if possible, often produce is not fresh, it is packaged in plastics and has travelled kilometers to make it onto your plate. Visit https://sustainabletable.org.au/all-things-ethical-eating/ethical-shopping-pyramid/#organic-grocer for more information.

Purchase fresh and seasonal produce
There is nothing better than the taste and smell of fresh, seasonal produce. Honestly you can notice the difference in the quality of the produce purchased from a farmer’s market compared to a supermarket.

Sustainable packaging
Use sustainable food storage and reduce the use of plastics. I love the brand Ever Eco, they have some amazing eco friendly essentials that you will use everyday! https://evereco.com.au/

Aim for a meat free day once a week

Buy organic and sustainability harvest food

This ethical shopping pyramid provides a guide as to where we should source our produce from the most to support our health and the environment  source:  https://sustainabletable.org.au/all-things-ethical-eating/ethical-shopping-pyramid/#organic-grocer

This ethical shopping pyramid provides a guide as to where we should source our produce from the most to support our health and the environment

source: https://sustainabletable.org.au/all-things-ethical-eating/ethical-shopping-pyramid/#organic-grocer

Reference List

1.           Morawicki RO, Díaz González DJ. Food Sustainability in the Context of Human Behavior. Yale J Biol Med. 2018 Jun 28;91(2):191–6.

2.           Davis R, Watts P. Feedlot Design and Construction: Water Requirements [Internet]. 2016. Available from: https://www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla-corporate/research-and-development/program-areas/feeding-finishing-and-nutrition/feedlot-design-manual/04-water-requirements-2016_04_01.pdf

3.           Estrella Orrego MJ, Defrancesco E, Gennari A. Are food miles sustainable? The issue of food miles for Argentinean wine. 2013.

4.           Wakeland W, Cholette S, Venkat K. Food transportation issues and reducing carbon footprint. In: Boye JI, Arcand Y, editors. Green Technologies in Food Production and Processing [Internet]. Boston, MA: Springer US; 2012. p. 211–36. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-1587-9_9