The denigration of our environment and global warming are big cues for people and organisations to start acting to do something both in New Zealand and around the world. Food production, distribution, consumption and waste all have an impact on our environment.
So how do our food choices affect the environment? And more importantly, what environmentally friendly changes can we make to our food intake?
Some big facts (production level)
- Greenhouse gases (GHG) warm our atmosphere as they absorb heat from the Earth’s surface. In New Zealand, 50% of greenhouse gas admissions are produced by the agricultural industry
- 35% of GHG emissions in New Zealand is methane produced by the digestion systems of our livestock
- A large amount of water is required for the production of food. Meat requires the most water to produce as 3000 litres of water are required to produce 170g of steak
Food companies and organisations around the globe are putting sustainability and environment at the top of their agenda – setting goals in terms of efficiency of water and energy use, aiming for zero waste to landfill at manufacturing level, reviewing types of raw materials used, increasing the amount of recyclable or biodegradable packaging – to name a few actions. But what about individual behaviours and consumption? This also has an impact.
Interestingly, we can also look at how we are more efficient in our use of water and energy in cooking – our wastage and our packaging.
- Each year, New Zealanders throw away 122,547 tonnes of food. That’s equivalent to 612 blue whales of food that has to decompose
- That food is worth $872 million
- Kiwis throw away 30% more rubbish over the Christmas holiday period than the rest of the year
Check out our article ‘How Wasteful Are You’ for ways to reduce food wastage
Smart swaps for your trolley
- choose chicken, fish, nuts and eggs, all of which are generally more efficient to produce, instead of red meats and processed meats
- choose brown rice and wholemeal bread instead of white rice and white bread, and whole rolled oats and wheat-based cereals instead of highly processed cereals – all which require less processing
- in fact, any food that is highly processed with lots of sugar and additives uses a larger amount of environmental resources
- choose seasonal locally grown fruit and vegetables when you can
- select products that have recyclable or less packaging
- put your fruit and vegetables straight into the trolley – they don’t need to be put in separate plastic bags from the produce department
- use your recyclable carry bag at the supermarket
Ideas for preparing food
- buy seasonal fruit in bulk and preserve them as a jam, pickle or dried food item
- eat the crusts of breads or use them to make breadcrumbs
- use leftovers instead of throwing them out
Tips when eating out
- drink tap beer when you can to reduce bottle and can waste
- ask for no straw when ordering drinks
- invest in a useable cup for your coffee to reduce waste from coffee cups
Making positive changes to diet is not just about health. Small alterations to food consumption can have a positive effect on our environment too.
- Statistics NZ. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. 2018 – [cited on 20 October 2018]. Available from: http://archive.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/environment/environmental-reporting-series/environmental-indicators/Home/Atmosphere-and-climate/nz-greenhouse-gas-emissions.aspx
- Water Footprint Calculator. Foods big water foot print. 2018 – [cited on 20 October 2018]. Available from: https://www.watercalculator.org/water-use/water-in-your-food/foods-big-water-footprint/
- Love Food Hate Waste NZ. What we waste. 2018 – [cited on 20 October 2018]. Available from: https://lovefoodhatewaste.co.nz/food-waste/what-we-waste/
- Recycle.co.nz. Everyday recycling. 2018 – [cited on 20 October 2018]. Available from: http://www.recycle.co.nz/kiwis.php
- Friel, S., Barosh, L.J. and Lawrence, M. (2014), “Towards healthy and sustainable food consumption: an Australian case study”, Public Health Nutrition, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 1156-1166