Food is important in our household (and indeed in almost every household in the world). I was asked to prepare workshops on sustainable food, which really got me thinking about the concept in a more structured way.
I would say I am already quite aware of the food I buy; constantly trying to find products that reflect my ethics and values, while also trying to make sure the family has a reasonably balanced diet, that food bills don’t break the bank, and that food preparation fits in with my lifestyle (full time work, full time mum, not a very creative or patient cook).
What I discovered
Through preparing for (and running) workshops about sustainable food, I came to understand that for the majority of people, price is one of the strongest deciding factor when it comes to purchasing food (also because it is very easy to compare price, as there are clear labels – other factors such as origin, ingredients, manufacture process, etc may not be as easy to compare).
Through research and running the workshops, here are some of the other factors that can be taken in to consideration when purchasing foodstuffs:
- country of origin
- distance travelled (affecting greenhouse gas emissions)
- packaging (including volume, material source and recyclability)
- production method (e.g. use of pesticides and fertilisers)
- human welfare (e.g. fair trade, country of origin)
- animal welfare (e.g. free range, non-animal alternatives)
- dietary requirements
- … and… and… and…
After a lot of reading and discussions, my list of the top 5 factors to consider if you wish to consume more sustainable food are:
- more local/seasonal
- more natural production method (more organic/fewer pesticides and inorganic fertilisers)
- less packaging
- less processing
- ethical (strong human and/or animal welfare principles)
Since the initial workshop I carried out this research and planning for (which was paid) I have since run the workshop an addition 3 times (and am booked for several more) on a voluntary basis.
I have also increased our food budget so we can buy products more aligned with our values even if they are somewhat more expensive.