The food we eat has a huge effect on the environment and on our own personal carbon footprint for a variety of reasons.
Firstly consider the simple act of food production. The land needed to grow this food may well have come from clearing natural habitats while the new farmland offers little in the way of habitats and resources for wild plants and animals.
Farming these days is largely mechanized with fossil fuels powering tractors, combine harvesters and a whole range of other farm equipment. A range of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and weedkillers are also used to control the environment and maximize crop production while antibiotics and other treatments are given to livestock to reduce disease.
The food must then be processed – an activity that normally requires the use of vast fossil-fuel powered factories and large amounts of waste food that isn’t up to standard being thrown away. The food is then packaged, often into packaging made from oil that isn’t recyclable, and then driven or flown to their next destination whether that’s direct to the shop that will sell the food or via a number of wholesalers.
The food then reaches the shops which use huge amounts of energy to light their stores, keep their chillers and freezers cool and so on. Customers drive to the shops, buy what they need and pack it into plastic bags, also generally not recyclable. Of course not all the food gets bought – some will go out of date or go off on the shelves so more food is thrown away here too.
Lastly the food is taken home where the packaging is thrown away, where yet more food will go off and be thrown into the bin as waste before the whole cycle starts over again.
Food production, manufacturing and retailing is a global business – and it’s costing the planet in a huge number of ways. Eco foods aim to try to reverse this issue, significantly reducing the environmental impact of the food we eat every day.
What Is Eco Friendly Food?
Eco friendly food refers to food that has been produced, manufactured, packaged, transported and consumed in a far more eco friendly way than the average food item. In doing so there is far less demand on the earth’s limited resources, food is often healthier, fresher and more flavorsome and without wanting to be overly dramatic those who consume it will be helping to preserve the planet for future generations.
Of course like with so many other green initiatives eco food is really all about “shades of grey” with some foods being more eco friendly than others. With so many elements involved in the food chain small changes can make big differences though of course producing as much of your own food at home, on a small holding or with an allotment is arguably the easiest way to get involved in the eco food movement.
Eco Food Production
Besides growing your own crops, what else can be done to make food production more eco friendly? After all, while many of us would like to grow our own fruits and vegetables, many people have limited time available to them and even those who have all the time in the world may struggle to meet all their needs in this way. After all, many people expect some meat in their diet, a degree of dairy and also love to eat foods that can be a struggle to grow in the average garden such as bananas or rice.
Food produced locally will have far fewer food miles than food that has been produced half way round the world. Buying from local farmers markets, from independent growers and from farm shops and small holders are all options as are investigating local organic box schemes running in your local area.
Many prepackaged foods contain a host of chemical additives to make it seem more appealing. These chemicals alone can be harmful to some people but worse it is difficult to make informed buying decisions when a foodstuff is premade from a huge number of ingredients. For example huge numbers of foods now contain palm oil, most of which is produced in non-sustainable ways, yet it is virtually impossible to avoid when buying from supermarkets.
For this reason a useful eco food tip can be buying no “prepackaged” foods – just basic foods like fruits, vegetables, milk etc and then creating your own recipes from them. In this way you will have complete control and visibility over every ingredient that goes into your kitchen, oven and ultimately stomach.
Organic food is produced to high farming standards that avoid the use of unnecessary chemicals. Whilst organic food may be more expensive in many cases, the small “green tax” may well be worth it for environmentally-conscious individuals.
It’s possible to buy virtually any food you like at any time of year these days. You can have strawberries at Christmas if you like thanks to them either being shipped in from warmer countries or from producing them under glass with artificial lighting and heating.
Whichever way you cut it, these are hardly eco foods and so one way to make your food choices more environmentally-friendly is to choose food items that are in season right now. Relish in the changing seasons and with it the change in available produce and the delicious recipes that can be made from them. Enjoy the variety of foods as they change during the season and make life not just more interesting but more eco friendly too.
Eco Friendly Food Packaging
Food packaging is a major concern for environmentalists thanks to the huge amount of plastic waste that is disposed of every day round the world. Of course the most eco friendly food packaging is to use food that isn’t packaged at all – either by producing it yourself or by buying it in recyclable paper bags and boxes from local farmers markets.
However it does seem that the large food manufacturers and supermarkets are responding to consumer demands and working ever harder to create and use eco friendly food packaging that either biodegrades swiftly or is readily recyclable in most areas.
One further way to make your food choices more eco friendly is to purchase food in larger containers rather than individually packaged which overall uses less packaging. If necessary larger containers of food can then be split up into smaller portions thanks to reusable food containers in the home.
Reducing Food Waste
While the production and manufacturing of food itself creates large amounts of pollution and uses a lot of non-renewable resources a surprising amount of food is also thrown away after all that effort. From vegetables that are considered “below standard” to changes in food taste through to the simple act of food going bad it is estimated that for every carrot you buy, you have paid for at least one more to be thrown away. For salad items like lettuces the numbers are even more extreme.
Reducing the food we throw away unnecessarily is therefore another essential element in the ongoing battle for eco food. Factors such as keeping an eye on use-by dates, planning meals in advance so that ingredients are used in date order and learning ways to prolong the lifespan of food can all contribute towards making your food shopping more eco friendly.
Eco Pet Food
Lastly it’s not just human food that can be eco friendly. As pets are a part of everyday life for so many people eco pet foods are also a consideration for reducing your impact on the environment. Foods that have been produced ethically and in an environmentally-conscious way can even help your dog or cat to become more eco friendly.
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