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There are a number of important considerations with food and CO2 emissions. My goals are: Low food miles (ie food isn’t grown or made a long way away), shopping locally to avoid petrol miles, buying more local products and avoiding packaging.
I’ve known for a long time that transport (ie “food miles”) is a big factor in carbon emissions for our food, clothes and other purchases but I’ve been a bit half-hearted (and I admit lazy at times) about acting on this. In the past, if it was easy I’d do it but I wouldn’t put myself out too much, arguing that time and cost were more important. The one thing I have been very good at for many years is taking reusable bags with me – I almost never use plastic bags. However, I need to improve my shopping habits. This means thinking more about seasonal produce (which is less likely to have travelled a long way), reading labels to see where things come from, buying local products when possible, and shopping locally. Buying less processed food is also good as this means less packaging and emissions from food processing.
My daughters and I are mostly vegetarian (we eat fish, eggs and dairy) but the guys eat meat, although less and less often, and usually only if they’re out.
If you are a meat eater, climate scientists like David Karoly https://www.climatescience.org.au/staff/profile/dkaroly say that eating cattle and sheep (which have ruminant stomachs) is worse for emissions than eating chicken and pig meat. This article from the Guardian discusses beef and emissions http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars and this site http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-carbon-footprint-diet compares the carbon footprints of different diets though I’m not sure where the info comes from. Beef also uses way more resources in production (including water) and is responsible for more land clearing than other meat, so is the number one baddie. I’ve read articles suggesting that we don’t have to give up meat and dairy all together, we just need to cut down our consumption. For my family, that means trying to eat less dairy and fish, being fussier about where our fish comes from, and getting more protein and calcium from other sources. There’s a great app to help with buying fish from http://www.sustainableseafood.org.au/ and Greenpeace have lots of information on sustainable fishing https://www.greenpeace.org.au/blog/?s=sustainable+fish
We get a reasonable amount of produce from the garden but are far from self-sufficient. The chooks give us plenty of eggs and during winter there’s lots of leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and a range of herbs and other things. In summer we have a bigger range with tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, zucchini and onions, in addition to the greens and herbs. But some things are too hard to grow, like celery, or hard to grow enough of, like beetroot or potatoes, or can’t be stored easily as we don’t have a cellar or storeroom. And I’m not really the bottling and preserving kind of person – only once in a blue moon on a whim. So we generally only pick and eat things fresh. As for our fruit trees, the native wildlife and birds get more of it than we do, though we’re working on it.
I’d love to buy all organic produce but that is harder than I’d like. There’s a great organic fruit shop and supermarket about three kms away, which is very popular and has a great range of products, which is good. But on the downside I have to drive there, parking isn’t easy, and the shop is always crowded. It’s time-consuming shopping and waiting in the queue to pay and I don’t always have the time. I’ve decided I can go there about once a fortnight to stock up on things like grains, nuts, cheese and organic groceries (which surprisingly are much cheaper than in Coles) and a small amount of fruit and veg. Closer to home, there is a great fruit shop which I can walk to with my shopping cart if I’m feeling motivated to get some extra exercise as well. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a good cart in Melbourne. In Europe they are much more common and there are lots of places that sell them. Here, I’ve looked at the Queen Vic market and online but there’s not a lot of options. My cart ($21 from a $2 shop) is not great. It’s a collapsible wire one that has clunky wheels and the handle is too short. I’d use it more often if it was more comfortable, but usually look at it and then get in my car instead. Carts aside, buying fresh food that is grown from Victoria and in season isn’t too hard, but there are a few things I’m not quite ready to give up (like tomatoes and capsicums in winter!) which need to come from further afield.
Benefits have come from eating more fresh food and reading the labels more. We are now buying much less packaged and processed food, and much less imported food. This means less packaging to get rid of. Another side effect is we’re eating more healthily and our overall food bill is less.
Two of my big weaknesses are chocolate and coffee. I really don’t want to give these up although the more I read about where and how they’re grown, exploitation of workers, sensitivity to climate change, etc, etc, the more I’m worried about how long they will be around for. In the meantime, we toured a coffee plantation in far north Queensland recently and since then have been ordering online from them. It’s pretty good coffee, grown organically and in Australia, so hope it’s other credentials are clean. http://www.jaquescoffee.com.au/ I’m still working on the chocolate thing. Cutting down a little bit…