We’ve all got to eat, making food one of the key environmental issues.
In Australia and globally, farming accounts for 70 per cent of water use. It takes up to a third of the earth’s land and uses huge amounts of synthetic, often toxic, chemicals in pesticides and fertilisers.
It also contributes to global warming. A big factor here is beef – it’s been estimated that cattle account for about 15 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse emissions from land clearing, transport, methane and nitrous oxide from fertiliser, animal waste and soil disturbance.
To cut your environmental impact reduce meat and waste, use the money you save to buy more organic food and buy local produce.
l Australia’s farmers use 100 times more water for irrigation than UK farmers.
l In the past 50 years, the number of fish in large species such as tuna and cod has fallen by 90 per cent.
l It takes up to 50,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef.
l 70 per cent of the world’s arable land is used to rear livestock.
l Australians throw away more than $5 billion of food a year.
eat less meat $
It may sound odd, but cutting down on red meat could be the easiest way you can help fight global warming. Meat is inefficient: animals, especially cattle, eat much more food over their lifetime than they supply as meat, which means more resources and more land cleared for grazing or growing feed. In fact, for a family of four, eating one less meal of red meat a week could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as buying a hybrid car. And it’s a lot cheaper too!
food: other key steps
1. Buy organic food. That is, food grown without using synthetic chemicals. Get a regular local organic box delivered.
2. Buy locally grown food. To reduce the C02 produced by transporting food.
3. Go native. Eat native produce such as lemon myrtle, macadamias, Davidson plums or wattle seed,which need less synthetic chemicals and water than introduced crops. And eat kangaroo. Their soft wide feet don’t destroy Australia’s brittle topsoil and their meat is lean and healthy.
4. Avoid overfished fish. Three-quarters of commercial fish species face extinction due to overfishing – see the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Sustainable Seafood Guide.
5. Don’t waste food. Cook only what you need, turn leftovers into fried rice, soup, etc. It is estimated that a quarter of all the food that is sold in Australia is thrown away – a total of 3.3 million tonnes a year.
want to do more?
q Drink organic wine.
q Buy from farmers’ markets (www.farmersmarkets.org.au). $
q Campaign against genetically modified (GM) food. Critics say altering the DNA of plants and animals is just too risky (www.truefood.org.au).
q Buy organic bananas. Run-off of synthetic chemicals from banana plantations has been cited as a threat to the Great Barrier Reef.
To be sure you’re buying organic, check the organic certification. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) accredits certifying bodies including Australian Certified Organic (ACO), Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (Demeter), National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA), Organic Growers of Australia (OGA), Tasmanian Organic Producers (TOP) and Safe Food Queensland (SFQ).