Most of the food found in the grocery store is the product of an unsustainable food system.
This food is dependent on foreign oil, is destroying soil, contaminates water, has caused disease outbreaks, and may be robbing our grandchildren of the ability to grow food at all.
It is often said that consumers hold a lot of power, but I believe that to stop being a consumer is even more powerful. Choosing not to support the industrial food system is the beginning of sustainable eating.
So what is sustainable eating and how do you do it?
Why Food Sustainability Matters and What You Can Do
The more I learn about our food system and how it came to be, the more concerned I am for our children and grandchildren.
- Animal products are increasingly raised purely for profit, without regard to proper stewardship or health.
- We are monocropping, and the government is subsidizing it.
- Food is transported and processed using large amounts of non-renewable resources.
- Food is being genetically modified, cloned, and patented.
The problem is that we are separated from the origins of our food. So while we may realize that buying organic is important, organic is now just as industrialized as conventional foods.
You may wonder what little old you can do about all of this.
More than you think.
Photo by galant
Vote With Your Food Dollars
What if every time you made a food purchase you could make a difference? Every dollar spent at a farmer’s market is one less dollar supporting the industrialized food system. Every piece of food grown in your own backyard becomes a symbol of freedom.
The moms who feed their families have more power than they know.
What Sustainable Eating Looks Like
We have all been told to “read labels” when we’re choosing our foods. That’s not bad advice, but most sustainable foods do not have labels.
Sustainable foods don’t need labels because they…
- are real foods that our bodies were designed to eat.
- are healthy for us, the soil, and the animals.
- do not harm the environment.
- are humane for both the workers and the animals.
- provide a fair wage to the farmer without the use of government subsidies.
- support the local economy instead of large corporations.
Sustainable food is what people ate for thousands of years, up until 20th century.
Photo by oakley originals
10 Tips For Sustainable Eating
My journey to sustainable eating hasn’t been easy, and it certainly isn’t over. Here are ten steps that we have taken to become mindful eaters.
1. Learn to Cook.
Without basic cooking knowledge, none of this is possible. Learning to cook your favorite foods using local ingredients can really make all the difference.
2. Eat Locally.
If you care about delicious food, health eating, proper stewardship of the planet, and supporting your local economy then you must source out local ingredients.
3. Eat Seasonally.
This goes hand-in-hand with eating locally. Eat root vegetables and hearty greens in the fall and winter. Eat salads, fruit, and tomatoes in the summer. Even milk and eggs are more abundant during certain times of the year.
4. Preserve the Harvest.
If you eat locally or seasonally then you’ll have to learn to preserve the harvest. Try canning, dehydrating, freezing, and lacto-fermentation. Look to Simple Bites for a helpful how-to series later in the season.
Photo by llsimon53
5. Grow Something… Anything.
Start with herbs or lettuce. Radishes are really fast and fairly simple. Even if you rent you can create a container garden. Once you catch the gardening bug you will just want to grow more. Simple Organic had a great article for beginning gardeners.
6. Give Up Store Bought Convenience Foods and Make Your Own.
7. Buy Fair-Trade.
When you don’t know your farmer because you’re buying from a foreign country look for the words “Fair-Trade”. TransFair USA ensures that farmers are treated justly and paid fairly for their work.
8. Know The Cost of Cheap Food.
Do you ever wonder why some supermarket food is just so cheap? You may not pay for it at the cash register, but the cost to your health, the soil, and the environment are there. I rambled about the cost of a nourishing diet not once, but twice. It really is important.
9. Eat Animal Products.
I know this may be controversial, but locally grown animal products can be more sustainable than those grains and beans from the bulk bins. I have seen the “organic” bins be filled with bags from China. I know that not everyone feels the same way, but it is my personal belief that locally, biodynamically raised animal products are a better choice than monocropped grains and beans.
10. Be Willing To Give Up Convenience.
This may be the hardest part of changing the way you eat. On the other hand, it forces you to simplify your food in a way that promotes health and flavor. The simple truth is sustainable food does not outsource it’s preparation.
Eating mindfully may take a bit more effort, but the rewards – for your family and their future – are too big to pass up.
What do you think defines sustainable eating?