I would like to say first off and straight away that I am not an expert on sustainable food. However, what I have gleaned from my research is that we can all eat in a more eco-friendly way without much effort.
You probably already know the basics of being environmentally friendly. Buy local. Eat seasonally. Cook from scratch. Or that it’s better to sip your flat white out of a coffee mug than a paper cup. And that a plant-based diet can be good for your health. But if you want to start thinking a little deeper about the impact that our everyday food has on the planet (and for future generations), then read on…
A few general tips
In the UK, it’s estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink is wasted, 60% of which could be avoided. How? By planning our meals and having a shopping list. Of course we’ve all had something in our fridge we have forgotten to eat that is past its sell by date and needs to be chucked, but planning definitely reduces food waste (and saves us money).
Growing your own vegetables (whether in your garden or in pots on your patio) is very satisfying and often tastes better than shop-bought food.
Eating less meat. Meat that has been industrially farmed requires a lot of energy.
Choosing your fish carefully. The Marine Conservation Society has a very good guide on what fish is sustainable. Hake is one of them – check out this Hake with Chorizo, Cannellini & Spinach recipe.
Recycling your food. Turn food scraps into compost for your garden. Not only will this help create a natural fertiliser and keep your garden green, it’ll also reduce the amount of waste going to landfill – and as it won’t break down anaerobically, there will not be a build-up of methane gas.
Bearing the above in mind, here are a few delicious, low impact foods that you can feel great about eating:
Peas are, quite simply, eco-stars. They make their own nitrogen which enriches the soil they grow in.
A locally grown, summer ripe tomato has a very low carbon footprint. They not only taste good (unlike bland shipped tomatoes that are often found in supermarkets) but their deep root system absorbs moisture limited the need for water in hot summer months.
Choosing beans as the staple protein in meals over meat works well. Dried beans have a very long shelf life which means less food waste.
This nutrient rich vegetable can be grown without synthetic pesticides. A member of the cabbage family, broccoli produces natural compounds that act as a natural pesticide. This means farmers can grow broccoli without the need for excess chemicals.
A wonderful low-carbon protein source – unsalted nuts make an efficient snack. Bear in mind that peanut butter doesn’t fall into this category as it requires processing which adds to its carbon footprint.
Potato plants also produce natural pesticides and fungicides that reduce the need for synthetic chemicals. They are water efficient crops, only consuming 50 gallons per pound compared to rice – 403 gallons – and can also be stored for long periods of time without going rotten.
Requiring only 55 gallons of water per pound, fresh oranges rank as the most water-efficient fruit. Water consumption is important when calculating the environmental friendliness of a crop. A pound of oranges requires approximately 55 gallons of water. Bananas require 102 gallons, peaches 142 and mangoes 190 gallons.