Sustainability implies the use of resources at levels that do not exceed the capacity of the Earth to replace them. For food, a sustainable system might be seen as encompassing a range of factors such as security of food supply, health, safety, affordability, quality, a strong food industry in terms of jobs and growth and, also, environmental sustainability, in terms of issues such as climate change, biodiversity, water and soil quality. There are therefore a couple of important factors to consider when deciding if your food use is sustainable:

  1. Where and how was it produced?
  2. It is heavily processed?

Food is an essential part of the world we live in, and in turn it can have a big impact on the environment around us. Unfortunately, our food is currently a major source of greenhouse gases – to farm, process and deliver the food releases CO2, the gas that’s the main cause of climate change. Research shows that the most effective ways for affluent societies to contribute to sustainable food habits are to minimise consumption of meat and dairy products (especially beef), to eat organic fruits and vegetables, and to avoid goods that have been transported by air on both individual and institutional levels (e.g., public procurement, public catering) (Reisch et al., 2017).

Some tips to help ensure that what you are eating adds to sustainable living include:

  • Wherever possible look for fresh and seasonal produce - this means that less energy has been used in its production and it is a healthier option than highly processed food. Around 95% of our fruit and at least 50% of our vegetables are imported. Check out the Best in Season website.
  • Buy from the producer - that way you know your food is fresh, seasonal and is likely to have less packaging.
  • Eat less processed food - as processing food uses fossil fuels leading to carbon emissions. Think about eating less meat, as livestock farming carries a large carbon footprint.
  • Support your local farmers' market.
  • Ask questions of retailers to learn more about where your food is coming from.
  • Avoid bottled water - instead serve tap or filtered water to reduce packaging.
  • Look out for Fairtrade products such as coffee and chocolate.
  • Have a left-over night instead of a take away night.

The Lunchbox solutions

It is never easy for a child to be always interested in their lunch. Yet here are some tips to try and enliven lunch times with sustainable food.

  • Vary the bread - pitta bread and wraps are great options for kids.

  • Nuts and fruit are a great replacement for crisps and sweets.

  • Why not try pasta or rice salads instead of sandwiches?

  • Don't be afraid to use leftovers as salads the next day.

  • Give water or diluted fruit juice instead of fizzy mineral.

  • Remember those five fruit and veg a day!

Eating Green need not cost the earth

Cheap food has become more and more popular over the years, but for just a little extra you can get much healthier and better tasting produce. In fact, we spend less on food now - as a proportion of our disposable income - than at any time over the last 100 years. Organic food is becoming cheaper and is filtering through to the regular household shopping list, so put some in your shopping basket today. Then you can enjoy a much better taste, and help to save the environment at the same time!

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