What on earth is Food Sustainability?

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It sounds like a dauntingly complex issue, something that only environmental activists and scientists studying climate changes should care about. It sounds like a boring topic that highly qualified specialists discuss as they stress about the future. It sounds dull. Maybe it’s because ‘food sustainability’ is a mouthful or maybe it’s because we don’t hear the words enough, but we rarely ever connect our food choices to our carbon footprint.

Our societies have become globalised and whilst we see that clearly in so many other aspects of our lives, we haven’t quite woken up to the globalisation that is happening in our kitchens. Our fruit and veg can come from any number of European countries, not to say anything of packaged foods that are shipped in from far away continents: by the time we get to cooking, our food has had a whirlwind adventure across the globe. So what? Well, the issue with sourcing your food internationally, or even from opposite ends of the country, is the carbon cost of transportation.

While the carbon cost is just one unsustainable side-effect of global food sourcing, it is one that we can easily combat. Exercising an awareness of the environment when you make your weekly grocery shop means that you can reduce your carbon footprint by simply choosing to buy locally. Choosing to buy British, or even better, Lancastrian produce, means that you’re cutting out the fuel spent on logistics. You’re picking produce that hasn’t had to travel a long way and therefore hasn’t been pumping as much carbon into the environment. Choosing to grow your own herbs in your flat means that you can have the lowest carbon greens possible. Choosing to use one of Green Lancaster’s free campus growing spaces means that you can lower that carbon footprint even further. And, in addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you can choose to buy organic or free-range products and benefit the local livestock as well.

There are so many little things you can do make yourself more accountable to the environment and it so easily goes unnoticed. People are also hesitant to grow their own produce because they feel like they’re not equipped with either the skills or the spaces to start digging and planting. What we need to do is explore the opportunities that already exist. Green Lancaster is an example of an initiative on campus that provides students with free growing spaces, guided volunteer sessions, and free harvests from the local site. It’s a no-fuss way to try something out and see whether you could pull it off, so why not? Use the internet, use social media, use friends in the know, and use your student officers – there is no end to the number of resources at your fingertips.

It’s about time we started breaking down the issue of food sustainability into an accessible, actionable cause that we can all work towards simply by making tiny changes to our lifestyle choices. If all you have to do to make a difference is buy locally from farmer’s markets, choose free-range over battery, or grow herbs on your windowsill, there is really no reason not to. Food sustainability isn’t big and scary, food sustainability is waking up to what your community can offer you.

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