The concept of eating sustainably is rapidly be becoming the ‘in’ thing to do. Organic produce, eating locally, farmers markets, free range, grass-fed – love it or hate it they are part of our urban jargon.
A lot of the debate surrounding the sustainable movement is whether or not paying a premium for produce is better for you – but the reality is the movement goes far beyond our own health and is a vital step in preserving our precious environment.
In the spirit of Christmas, where the shops are drenched with anxiety and credit cards, I feel it is important to remind you how easy it is to ‘give’ to the environment all year round.
So here are my top 20 tips for making sure you welcome Christmas and the New Year with the savvy environmental chat.
Going to the supermarket:
1. Bring that reusable bag. Shockingly only 1% of plastic bags worldwide are actually recycled – the rest end up in landfill or our oceans where, unable to biodegrade, they release toxic particles. And those handy paper bags? They aren’t any better. Requiring a cool 14 million trees to be cut down and processed. This process alone requires more energy than the production of plastic bags.
2. Buy naked. Choose products with the least packaging. Buy meat from the deli counter rather than the pre-wrapped section, large tubs of yoghurt rather than individual tubs, a wedge of cheese rather than a pre-wrapped block. These are also cost cutting measures, so you kill two birds with one stone!
3. Go to a market that isn’t super. Buy from establishments that are committed to Australian produce and products. I feel so much better handing my money to the farmer who grew my broccoli rather than the supermarket who gave me a discount petrol voucher. Often these stores also operate with practices that curb environmental waste and several farmers, if you ask, choose farming methods that recycle resources.
Fruits and Veggies:
4. Buy from the source. This is becoming significantly easier with the burgeoning of farmers markets, so it is no excuse to cite ‘exclusivity’ as a major preventative. Eating locally not only gives back to the grower directly, but reduces your carbon footprint. As a plus the produce is far fresher than the veggies from South America I so often see at supermarkets!
5. Embrace the raw. Up your intake of raw veggies to reduce the energy spent on using cooking appliances. Simple, much more convenient and potentially more nutritious!
6. Tis the season. So embrace what is growing now in Australia (cherries, tropical fruit, beautiful vibrant lettuces!) Have a look at what’s in season now.
7. Get a green thumb. Yes, they are hard to find (my efforts in growing lettuce and basil have yet to yield a tangible result) but it is a nourishing experience to grow your own food from pots and planters, even if the results are underwhelming!
8. Quality over quantity. Factory raised meat has the largest negative environmental impact in comparison to any other consumer food. I am a massive meat-eater, and I consider it vital to my sense of wellbeing, but I choose to eat modest amounts and only buy animals that have been raised ethically. I am quite adamant about this and will spend a lot more on quality meat, knowing that I will stretch it out over a week rather than a day.
9. Chew on some roo. Kangaroo is local, has far less of an impact on environmental degradation, is a great source of iron and is super lean. Mastering the art of cooking the perfect kangaroo fillet is fun and making burritos with kanga mince is a staple in my kitchen. It is also phenomenally cheap. Need I say more?
10. Grass is always greener. Pasture-raised animals have a more humane up bringing, have a smaller negative environmental impact and are fed a natural nutritious diet composed mainly of grass as opposed to processed grain.
11. Hook up with the steward. It can be confusing as to which fish to buy but a small Marine Stewardship Council badge on the fish tag ensures that it has met the strictest of sustainability standards, both in terms of how it was caught and the variety of fish.
12. Get a’mong’ it. Know your fish and make it a priority to choose Australian fish that are abundant in the environment. It will likely mean that the product has been reviewed by the Marine Stewardship Council and you have a better awareness of whether or not the fish is sustainable or not.
13. Step away from the tuna. Try something different! Expand your repertoire to include sardines, garfish, john dory – this will ensure your daily tuna or salmon addiction won’t potentially wipe out an entire species or render us reliant purely on farmed versions of the breed. (Ok that’s extreme, but you understand right?)
14. Cut back on your hormonal intake. It is true that livestock in Australia is pumped with antibiotics to make them grow at a faster rate. This has profound health impacts for the cows, the people who drink this milk and our environment (large industrial dairy sites emit large greenhouse gas emissions). At the end of the day, milk from happy cows is readily available and not cost prohibitive. Otherwise try almond milk, coconut milk or rice milk.
Out on the town:
15. Bottle down. Remove the need for bottled water and ask for pure tap. Consider also the advantage of drinking beer from the tap. A superior taste sensation and it necessitates the use of a reusable glass not a disposable bottle.
On the home front:
16. Don’t buy paper for mess. Cotton napkins and sponges for spills (not paper towel) are small investments towards less waste. I will let you continue your toilet roll habit. 😉
17. Don’t chuck out ‘old’ food We are all far too sensitive when it comes to ‘use by dates’ and potentially rancid food. Food can stand the test of time; you would be surprised what a refrigerator can do. Old meals can be revamped into new or even (shock/horror) eaten as a cold lunch a few days later. You will reduce waste and also energy expenditure given that you won’t have to cook a new meal in a few days time.
18. Multiply your food. Now that you are firmly over the concept of eating ‘old’ food, cook more than you require and freeze leftovers for meals ahead. Planning ahead is an excellent way to save money, lose weight and use less energy throughout the week.
So let me ask you guys. Do you try to incorporate any of these habits regularly? Or is there a tip I have obviously missed? Let me know what tactics you use in the comments below!