I’ve always strived to be more conscientious about consuming food that is environmentally friendly, nutritious, and chemical-free, and knowing that my money goes to the right suppliers and local communities. So, this year one of my resolutions is to make small changes to my eating and shopping habits to become a more sustainable foodie.
Many would argue that we don’t have enough evidence to say what is sustainable when it comes to food growing and consumption. Perhaps something grown in a lab using fewer natural resources should be considered sustainable but what does it mean to our health and local economy.
For others, sustainable food means having a synergy between production, environment, and nutrition, with less wastage. I tend to agree with the latter approach, which is the main philosophy behind the Slow Food movement. Established in Italy by Carlo Perini as a protest to fast food expansion, its main principles are to choose locally grown, organic, seasonal produce, and to take more pleasure in food and cooking.
The movement has over 100,000 members in 132 countries including Australia. It promotes an agricultural system that preserves local cultural cuisine, and respects the earth’s resources; sustainable farming practices and produces distribution and the health of consumers.
Australian produce is some of the best in the world yet we often choose to stock up on Chinese garlic, prawns from Thailand and Spanish olive oil because we look at the price tag before anything else. Most of us don’t ever stop to think where the food was grown, how it’s packaged, how long it has traveled to reach the supermarket shelf, or how little those involved in the process got paid.
I don’t suggest we stop buying food from other countries, after all, Australia doesn’t produce everything and who could say no to French cheese and Italian wine, but I do think we should be more aware of what we are buying and eating.
It’s not always practical to be sustainable with everything all of the time, but it should be possible to make better choices by asking yourself a few simple questions. Is this food in season? Was it grown organically,
which means not only chemical-free but that eco-friendly practices where used?
Is it locally grown or imported from overseas?
Is the packaging eco-friendly or recyclable/recycled?
Where will my money go?
And finally, how much do I need? with a few of these answers, you can make the best decisions when filling your shopping basket.
A lot of resistance comes from thinking that going organic and local means forking out more cash. However, the benefits for your health, the environment, and our local economy outweigh the cost in the long run. With some planning and shopping know-how, anyone can live according to the Slow Food manifesto. It’s all about knowing what to get when to get it and where!
The number of fresh food markets in Australia is rising and there are numerous health food stores and greengrocers that stock local, organic products. If markets are not your cup of tea, there are hundreds of Australian online suppliers that sell everything from fresh produce to cosmetics and household products.
Organic farming is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the food industry in Australia and it’s due to the increasing number of consumers seeking out locally grown produce. As the demand for local, organic produce goes up, the prices will come down. So, next time you’re standing in front of a multiple-choice selection doesn’t just buy on price. Become a sustainable best foodie.
My sustainable foodie guide
Join the Slow Food Australia network.
Buy locally grown – and if possible owned – produce when available. Check the labels on packaged foods, some products will claim to be local but they are packaged in Asia with only a few Australian ingredients.
Look out for Australian organic certified products, which means that the business’s methods have been audited by an organic certifying group.
In my opinion, organic produce is more nutritious but if something is not available or the price is really concerning use this as a guide: grown above the ground – go organic, below the ground or with thick skin that’s peeled – a non-organic option perhaps.
You don’t need to know what’s in season locally – ask your grocer he’ll know. Seasonal foods will also taste better and cost less.
Plan ahead and only buy what you’re going to use. We often buy more than we need on impulse or because it’s cheap, as a result, we waste food and money.
Meat is good for you but only in moderation, so buy higher quality, organic stuff that is, although often more expensive, is better for you and the environment. The cost should average out. Kangaroo, for example, is an excellent choice of meat – it’s healthy, local, environmentally friendly and cheap.
Pick your eggs and dairy carefully. Remember happy chicken and cows produce tastier, more nutritious eggs and milk without the added hormones.
Globally, we are overfishing many species. We also buy sea offerings that have been frozen and traveled miles to get to our local fish shop. Australians are huge seafood consumers and we have the best in the world. This article has a guide to sustainable fish and seafood consumption.
Other organic, local products to look out for are herbs, spices, skincare, cosmetics, household items, and clothing.
Support your local suppliers; even get to know the – butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers. You get fresher produce, support the community and get a more personal service.
Shop with friends or neighbors for bulk specials and when ordering online to split the delivery costs and saves on packaging.
Make your own – pesto, tomato puree, sweet chili sauce, jams, pickles, bread, infused olive oils, cakes, and pasta. You will have homemade quality and freshness and save on packaging. A good idea is to make something with friends and share it, that way you can split the cost and make things in large amounts. Plus it’s a nice way to catch-up.