Turning the tide: how marine life gave me a new perspective on my relationship with food
My childhood summer holidays revolved around the sea, first running naked around the beach, 306 - the number of our wooden beach hut - in marker on my back.
In the article ‘Enhancing effective sustainability with your fork’ it was shown that choosing a mainly plant-based diet is very useful if you want to live more sustainably. In particular the impact of meat is enormous and also the production of dairy products is unfavourable to the climate.
We then went on to discover ‘Why local, packaging-free and organic food is not always more sustainable’ and that also the prevention of food waste has a significant impact. Then, you can use your Vegetable and Fruit Calendar to take into account the environmental score which is dependent on the production and the transport of vegetables and fruit. If it does not result in additional wastage, your best option is organic and products which are not packaged unnecessarily.
This is already a lot to think about, but I am keen to share a few other points with you which may help you to make a big difference in the store, on the road and at home.
Do you always buy weekly groceries or do you go to the store every day? Especially if you go by car you can certainly imagine that it is far better for the environment to go as infrequently as possible and then get as much as possible each time. All this requires some planning, because if half of your weekly groceries is spoilt, there’s not a lot of sense in that. You can possibly plan a weekly menu, make a shopping list or at least start cooking with the products which have the shortest shelf life.
I don’t know precisely how car usage relates to the shopping itself, but given that car usage is at number four in Babette Porcelijn’s impact top 10 and half of all journeys are shorter than 7.5 kilometres, I suspect that there a considerable amount of (unnecessary) shopping trips here. If you are concerned about the long-distance transportation of those tropical pineapples it is important to remember that the final little bit of transport from the shop to your own home might actually have more impact.
Cycling or walking to the shop is a better idea since in this way you are making little or no impact. It is still sensible not to go every day, because if you are anything at all like me you are likely to take a few more extras home with you more often than intended. And those are usuaslly precisely those snacks which are not very good for the environment or ourselves.
Delivery services may be a more sustainable option compared to going by car yourself, because if they deliver at to various addresses in your neighbourhood at the same time this is more efficient than everyone driving driving there one by one. However, it is likely that these services will be used a lot by people without a car. If they otherwise were to walk or cycle, and want to take advantage of the convenience in particular, they are worse off when it comes to sustainability.
Which store do you go to for your shopping? The supermarket is nice and handy, they can buy in and sell efficiently and is almost always in the vicinity. You can find everything organic at the wholefood shop and the greengrocer might have a greater selection of locally produced seasonal products.
With regard to sustainability, it is complicated to say what is the best option. If you have to travel a few kilometres for organic strawberries straight from the grower then an efficiently harvested and transported package from the supermarket could well be a better option.
Your choice for the kind of store is possibly mainly a social choice. Did you know that many supermarkets use their dominant position to squeeze down prices so much that some farmers hardly get anything for their harvest? In order to ensure that your money reaches local businesses or farmers directly you may decide to go to greengrocers, farm shops and wholefood shops despite this not always being the most sustainable option.
Did you know that home cooking is not really all that efficient? In particular in the case of a gas stove a lot of heat is lost. Induction is more economical and also future-proof.
More efficient cooking is best done by adjusting the size of your pan to the quantity of food and the size of the burner. Use as little water as possible, since heating water consumes a lot of energy. Cook larger portions at the same time provided you obvisously do not waste anything. By placing the lid on the pan you can save as much as three quarters of the energy! Reduce the heat as soon as the water is boiling or take the pan off the stove and let it continue to cook in a modernised hay box or sleeping bag.
Not only are canned vegetables sustainable because they don’t degrade and are harvested in the optimum growing season, but they are also cooked on a large scale and efficiently in the factory. If you had otherwise used an ordinary pan and gas stove to cook your chickpeas for one and a half hours, the less efficient transport and the packaging will outweigh this. Prefer to cook at home yourself because home-made humus is a whole lot tastier? Use a pressure cooker or hay box and cook several portions at once which you can then freeze.
If you are dining out, you should also opt for as much plant-based food as possible. Restaurants are notorious for waste, so it is better to choose restaurants that serve smaller portions or that use, such as at Instock, products which otherwise would have been thrown away. Ask for a doggy bag to take your leftovers home with you. furthermore, more and more restaurants use organic ingredients, regional produce or seasonal vegetables.
Do you still have the overview with all this informatino? In short, in order to eat sustainably, plant-based food remains key and it is very important to prevent food waste. In addition, we must avoid wasting a lot of energy with unnecessary car journeys and inefficient cooking practices. Consider spending your money in small stores or at restaurants which consciously select their products. If you keep this in mind, you are making the biggest difference and it doesn’t matter if the smaller things don’t always work out. Keep it fun for yourself and above all: enjoy your food!