Sustainable food involves considering all the environmental impacts of food: production, packaging, transport, refrigeration and disposal /recycling. The following highlights some impacts and gives tips to enable more sustainable food choices.
- Every year Australia sends more than 4 million tonnes of food waste to landfill - fresh food, left-overs, takeaways, packaged food, frozen food and long-life products which have an estimated value of $5.2 billion. Read the National Food Waste Assessment Report - 2011 for further information.
- Fossil fuels are used in the production of food – such as in pesticides, fertilisers and fuel for machinery. Fossil fuels are also used in transportation and refrigeration of food. In landfill, waste food produces methane which is a significant greenhouse gas, trapping 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide.
- The average home waste bin contains approximately 40% food waste. Composting or creating a worm farm will reduce emissions and a garden will benefit.
- Food miles - This term is used to describe how far food has travelled before it reaches the home. The average Australian produce and pantry items travel approximately 1,200km. By buying locally-grown seasonal and organic produce, the pollution generated through transported food is reduced, local farms are supported and people consume healthier, fresher food. Growing fruit and vegetables and keeping chickens in the backyard are all ways people can reduce their own impact.
- More than 70% of all seafood in Australia comes from overseas (fish that is labelled MSC- certified). The Marine Stewardship Council label indicates a product that contains fish caught using sustainable fishing practices. A sustainable seafood App is available at Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide website.
- Reducing meat consumption - The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows that approximately 14.5% of the world’s GHG emissions derive from livestock. That is the same amount of GHG emissions generated by the world’s transport sector. Around 30% of the crops produced worldwide are grown to feed livestock. By reducing meat consumption and not supporting intensive factory farming meat production will reduce emissions.
- Avoiding products containing palm oil - Palm oil is found in about half of the packaged products on the supermarket shelves. This includes biscuits, cakes, soap, ice-cream and ready-to-eat meals. It is used as a base for shampoo, soap and cleaning products. Oil plantations have been the cause of widespread deforestation. More than 90% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years. To find out what products contain palm oil visit Zoos Victoria website.
- Bottled water - More than $500M is spent on bottled water in Australia annually, with most water packaged in plastic. Three litres of water is used to produce 1 litre of bottled water. Manufacturing, transporting, refrigerating, recycling and disposing of plastic bottles consumes fossil fuels and produces greenhouse gas emissions. Clean-up Australia has found that although plastic water bottles can be recycled, only 36% are. It is estimated that 373 million water bottles each year end up in landfill or in waterways, oceans and bushland.