By Roddy Denness and Sovina Taneja
We have never had so much access to so many varieties of food and beverages.
Let’s take milk as an example - Throughout the day, there are so many different opportunities for us to consume milk and we do so at a substantial rate. In 2020 the US consumed a total of 21.2 million metric tons of milk, and the numbers are only increasing.
When we eventually run out of our dairy delights, it is a simple process of walking to your local shops and selecting your favourite brand from the multiple different options. And boy, are there options - full fat, semi skimmed, skimmed, 2%, 1% … so many choices.
This is a process that has been normalised and ingrained within society but do you ever stop to think about the steps that the milk has gone through to eventually end up on our shelves and whether it is sustainable?
What is Sustainable Sourcing?
Source - Ecovadis
Now that we’ve scared you off from drinking milk everyday, we’ll do you a solid and explain a little bit about what it means to sustainably source products, so that you can make more informed decisions moving forward.
Sustainable sourcing is a process that involves looking for ingredients that have been farmed in a sustainable manner by farmers who are aware of the environmental and social impact that they have. An example of this could be working with a farmer who doesn't use certain fertilisers as he knows it will stimulate growth but is more aware of the long term effect that it will have on the environment.
According to Chicago Botanic : Phosphorus is a component of most fertilisers that helps plants to grow. When too much is applied or is applied at the wrong time—such as right before it rains—most of it is washed away and ends up in the local waterways. This type of pollution is called non-point source pollution.
In previous blogs, we have explored how our food is connected and the importance of creating a sustainable food system if we are going to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable sourcing plays a large and vital role in both the environments and our own wellbeing.
Why is it important?
Adverts such as this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMoIKpqQdQQ have always preached “If you don't drink your milk you won't grow up to be big and strong” and it's the same story for proteins.
What if I told you this was a lie?
Poor education and misinformation has caused us to become reliant on highly processed foods due to the ease at which sausages, canned products like tuna or ready meals like a quick lasagne are available. How often are we tempted into buying a frozen pineapple pizza (sorry haters) that you can put in the oven for 8-10 minutes rather than going into the market to buy and source fresh ingredients - the answer is, very tempted..
Just like WebMD tells us, these bad eating habits have a massive impact on our health as these foods can have long term effects such as diabetes, high blood pressure and alzheimer's disease. If we focused on consuming more environmentally conscious and sustainable food such as organic products sourced from environmentally friendly farms via producers who minimize the use of preservatives and additives, we’d probably be better off.
Source: Adam Kuban/Flickr & Wavebreak Media Ltd.Corbis
Good quality fresh organic food has many benefits: some herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger and cayenne pepper have antigens that help slow disease and fight aging. There are fruits and vegetables like spinach and kale that can help defend against chronic ailments, just showing how easy it is to make a healthy change to the way we eat as most of us eat these produce and ingredients anyway!
Earlier in our Misplaced series we spoke to Paul Newnham about the effects that farming and in particular livestock farming has on the environment, When talking about sustainable sourcing it is also important to take into account and question the environmental factors.
Stats like livestock production being responsible for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions and livestock production accounting for 70% of all agricultural land use is enough to shock anyone. The true scale and sheer magnitude of the meat industry poses the question we have been asking throughout the Misplaced series - is it sustainable?
MEAT the alternatives...
The emergence of plant based alternative protein sources such as beyond meat and impossible have given consumers the opportunity and choice to change. You can now buy plant based products that look and taste the same as the actual thing and have the same nutritional benefits of the proteins, but without any of the environmental impact.
Source - Kroger co
It is now the norm to have meat alternatives on your menu at a restaurant, there is always some sort of plant based burger or some other vegan option.
We’re not telling you that you can’t have bacon for breakfast or a chicken sandwich for lunch - let’s be reasonable. All we’re saying is that if we all take the time to simply replace one meat meal a day thereby reducing our protein intake, we would see the world's consumption drop by 50%. Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s not just the environmental factors that play an important role in trying to eat as sustainably as possible, it is the humanitarian factors as well.
In Punam Chopra’s episode of #Misplaced, she spoke of how she and her husband watched a film called Dominion. Which exposes the meat and dairy industry and the inhumane and cruel conditions of the food chain. This inspired her to not only live a meat-free and conscious lifestyle but also to take action and open her own eco friendly store and cafe SpiceBox Organics.
Organic food is too expensive!
In the past there has been a stigma surrounding eating organically that it is too expensive and hard to find and in some cases it is on the pricier side and can be inconvenient for lower income households but
“You might not be able to afford to be organic but we can definitely afford to be more sustainable”
Here are a few steps you can take to start a more organic and sustainable lifestyle:
- Buy in bulk - One way to reduce the price of products is to buy items such as cereal, fruit and organic greens in a large quantity.
- Buy local - Visit your local farmers and wholesale markets to cut out the middleman and reduce the costs further.
- Plant based alternatives - Pricing for these products is becoming more competitive and in some cases cheaper that some meats, so why not try them!
- Educate your community - Hold and attend talks and meetings to discuss with like minded people to find alternative economical solutions.
The power is in your hands
Gone are the days and beliefs that one person cannot make a difference, because you can. It takes one person to be the catalyst for change whether this be through educating your friends, family and community or boycotting something you believe is not right.
As consumers we have the power to influence retailers, let’s take for example something most of us love, cheese. If we all decided that we hated cheese and it was the worst thing ever created and we stopped buying it, stores and supermarkets supplying the various cheeses would simply stop ordering and stocking so much of these certain products.
If we all stopped buying and consuming so much protein then the shops would have no option but to stop sourcing and seriously reduce supply, which in turn would have a massive impact on the environment.
Saying this it is also therefore important for us to support those retailers who are sourcing sustainable and organic food and to drive customers and raise awareness of their business as much as possible.