Like it or lump it, our current climate crisis go hand-in-hand with our modern food system.
On a global scale, how we grow, produce and transport our food contributes up to 37% of global greenhouse gases and is a huge contributor to deforestation, biodiversity loss and declining water levels.
In many cases we may feel that there is very little we can contribute to this from home and it’s up to governments and huge global conglomerates to make the changes. But the good thing is that’s not the case and in fact we can change so much by making small changes with what we do. It’s when small changes are made on a mass scale that our governments and global companies will be forced to make change.
When we talk about food waste, the largest amount happens in our home. Why does this happen? Simple – we have a total disconnection to our food. So few of us actually know how the food on our plate was produced/grown, where it came from and what it is actually worth.
As a general rule, the decisions we make when shopping and eating out disproportionately affect people on the other side of the planet. It’s like thinking of a water bed; if I jump on one side it is the person on the other side that is thrown off.
For instance, where did your cup of morning tea come from? And who actually got paid for the chocolate bar you had as an afternoon treat – and how did every square affect our climate? Am I happy to have an avocado in my lunch salad knowing the deforestation and climate change they have caused? Do I really want salmon for dinner knowing that it is a huge pollutant to our oceans and that double the amount of wild fish species are killed during the farming process?
The list goes on…
My advice is to always start with one change rather than trying to change all at once and becoming overwhelmed or feeling that you are failing.
Plan, plan and plan some more. This is not a long exercise that feels like work, it’s more about taking five minutes at the end of the week to plan the next weeks’ meals.
Eat the seasons – it can be confusing at times in supermarkets to know what is in season as we see the same vegetables and fruits throughout the year. A simple click and search will show you what great Irish food is in season and when. Ireland has some of the best horticulturists and growers in the world, but worryingly they are a dying breed.
Fifteen years ago there were over 600 growers in Ireland, today there are less than 170. By supporting them we are also protecting biodiversity and reducing carbon footprint. But our food system is also a global system – exotic fruits, coca, grains, coffee, teas etc – foods that we simply can’t grow here. Always look for the most sustainable option; ie. one that promotes the ethical production of food and the ethical treatment of those who make the food.
Write a list of what meals you want to eat/prepare throughout the week and Incorporate each dinner into another.
If you are having roast chicken on Sunday, then you have all the basic ingredients to make a yummy ramen on Monday with the leftovers. If you’re making your favorite curry, cook some extra rice for a tasty egg fried rice the next day. (anyone else getting hungry just reading this?)
Single-use plastic is having a huge effect on our planet. With this in mind, the next time you’re doing the food shop, try opt for food and condiments that are sold in glass jars; ensure you buy your milk in cartons and where possible buy your vegetables and fruits unpacked.
Also, don’t get caught up in supermarket deals where it’s “buy one get one free”. In most cases this means that you have bought more than what you need and contributes to more food waste.
Start looking at what waste you are producing at home; a good exercise is to take a weekly note of what you throw away each day/week. With production waste there is always an alternative to throwing it out. For leafy greens, stalks and bits of vegetables they can be transformed into a fantastic kimchi or sauerkraut, which not only tastes great but is better for your gut, too!
Don’t be afraid to start making kombucha or kefirs which are a great way for using up fruit including skins. Once you start to change your mindset what mightn’t be obvious at first soon becomes a simple way to tackle waste. All of this is good for you, the planet and your money….. small steps, big impact.