A Quick Consumer Guide to Ethical-Eating
More and more people are getting involved in the environmental movement. Many are starting by making informed decisions about what to buy and where, with the switch from the corrupt, profit-driven corporate supermarkets, to sustainably-sourced, organic farmers markets. If you want to get involved, but need a bit of a head-start, read on for a quick summary of how you can switch your weekly shop to being a more environmentally-friendly.
Local produceNext time you do the weekly shop, have a look at the countries that your vegetables are grown in, often displayed on the packaging. The first time I did this, I was shocked to find the abundance of stock sourced from countries like Guatemala, Kenya, and Spain. The demand for internationally grown foods contributes, inevitably, to climate change through green house gases released from their transport. We have the ultimate power to reduce these air-miles by simply choosing food thats grown a little closer to home.
Local produce can often taste better and is more likely to contain less pesticides, preservatives, and other harmful agents. Farmer’s markets are a good, reliable place to start (if a little expensive sometimes); if you are unsure of where your nearest farmers market is, try this local food directory, listing postcodes across the UK.
Anyone can tell you that flowers come out in spring, leaves die in Autumn. Fruits and vegetables are not naturally available throughout the year – the reason you can buy these year-round is because most are artificially grown or imported from abroad. Try and pick seasonal fresh food for better quality, and to help reduce your food miles and the looming threat of global climate change.
By doing the above, you’ll also reduce your intake of harmful preservatives and chemicals linked to Western diseases like cancer and diabetes. In addition, choosing locally sourced meat products, for example from a butcher or farmers market, can help this; a recent study found a rather disconcerting link between processed meats and adult leukaemia.
Animal welfareThe publics knowledge about battery farmed chickens is pretty well covered. But topics including antibiotic injections, growth hormones, GM-feeding, and unethical killed livestock are not regularly shown in the mass media. Eating less meat, less often, can help reduce the pressure for intensive meat farming. Alternatively, vegetarianism seems an easy answer. Read more here about my attempts at turning vegetarian.
Alternatively, choosing organic, free-range, and locally ‘grown’ meat can help. Look for symbols from the Organic Farmers Association, or Organic Farmers Growers on the packaging.
With global fish stocks plummeting, now’s the time to be responsible about what fish you’re going to choose to eat, if any. A hot topic at the moment, unsustainable over-fishing, pelagic-trawling, and by-catch are posing serious threats to the marine environment. If you want to read more, check out the Fish Fight campaign, started by TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. If you want a pocket-sized card which has a quick summary of information for you to whip out at the fish section of the supermarket, download this document and print it off for reference!
InnovationsWhat else can you do? My recent article on urban foraging can help encourage you to look for alternative, wild sources of food. Growing your own food at the local allotments (or taking the surplus that’s often left for other growers to take) is an easy, organic, and practically free way of producing your own food, especially if you live in an urban setting. There has also been an increasing trend for insect-eating, with fast-reproducing, high-protein creatures have been feeding countries like Cambodia and Thailand for centuries. Tapping into this food source seems a cheap, sustainable way of feeding the growing population (so far)… In addition, you can consult the idea of getting some chickens to live in your garden, providing you with free eggs!
If you’re interested in reading more, try some of the links within the text. Alternatively, try here for a directory on ethical buying, or here for information about a new ethical supermarket to open in Brighton.