The QUO - How to save the world, by eating (sustainably)
What does 'sustainability' really mean? Bec explores the problems with 'greenwashing' and offers some practical tips as to how we can all embrace sustainability in the true sense of the word.
How to save the world, by eating (sustainably)

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How to save the world, by eating (sustainably)

12 September 2017
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"Sustainable" has become a bit of a buzzword lately. It’s being applied to everything from dolphin safe tuna and organic cotton underwear, to enviro bags and reusable drink bottles. (Am I the only one with a huge pile of green bags at home, which will end up in landfill one day?) We’re even starting to see a dialogue developing around sustainable coal...the finite fossil fuel that experts agree is seriously damaging the planet. Yeah.

This trend of overusing the word sustainable is a type of "greenwashing": when a product is marketed as more environmentally friendly than it it is.

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Up to 42% of Australian fish stocks could be classed as ‘overfished’, according to The Australian Marine Conservation Society, despite the top ten brands in Australian supermarkets calling themselves ‘sustainable’.

The problem is, when we start overusing a word like sustainable, we lose track of its real meaning. The way it’s used now allows companies to tick the "corporate social responsibility" box and make people feel like they can take action on important issues without really changing their habits.  This hides the urgency of the issue, and ignores the magnitude of the change that is required to get us back on track.

Sometimes, baby steps in the right direction are worse than nothing at all, because they make us feel like we’re doing enough (I don’t need to switch to solar, I’m using sustainable coal).

So what is sustainability really, and how can we work towards it in our daily lives?

According to the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, the concept of sustainable development first appeared in 1987 in a UN report called 'Our Common Future’. It says that for economic growth to be sustainable, it must meet three criteria:

  1. Must not compromise the ability of future generations to enjoy economic growth.
  2. Must not damage the natural environment faster than it can recover.
  3. Must not prevent developing countries from developing.

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This is the complex, well-rounded, original meaning of sustainability. However, nowadays it has become a label tacked on to any process that has reduced its environmental impact - regardless of how small that reduction may be or how it measures up against the above criteria. 

So, how can we make a difference?

1. Alfafa House Community Food Cooperative

Alfalfa House describe themselves as a "not-for-profit organic food cooperative" with a focus on minimal packaging and supporting organic and biodynamic farming. Their system of self-serve from bulk containers allows you to buy the exact amount that you need and take it home in your own container – no food waste, no packaging waste. They’ll also deliver organic, seasonal veggie boxes to your door – sustainable farming at its finest.

These guys walk the talk. They return bulk containers back to their suppliers to be reused and have a big focus on recycling and composting and encouraging members to do the same.

Sexier, hipster versions of ‘no packaging’ food stores have popped up in the guise of Naked Foods and The Source Bulk Foods - you can buy plenty of good staples here packaging-free, as well as highly-instagrammable delights like paelo bliss balls and raw vegan chocolate.  It’s win/win.

Because of its community roots and focus on knowledge sharing, Alfalfa House has the potential to really empower people to create their own change. Volunteering allows people to learn more about how Alfalfa sources sustainable and ethical products and about how to keep a small, non-profit, community-focused business going…these skills really could help you change the world!

Click here for more about volunteering or shopping with Alfalfa.

2. Youth Food Movement

YFM are all about educating young people about food to empower them to create change.  YFM don’t hold back from describing the problems in our current system or encouraging debate about tricky issues. Before Woolies and Harris Farm started their "imperfect picks" and "odd bunch" campaigns, YFM were raising awareness about the huge amount of produce that gets wasted because it’s not deemed visually appealing – a huge 20-30%. They admitted that young people are among the worst when it comes to food waste, and instead of skirting the issue or shifting the blame, they ran a series of workshops to find solutions. These guys are serious about creating a better future, not just making us feel warm and fuzzy about sustainability. Check them out here.

3. Farmers Markets and Urban Farms

Modern large-scale farming is not particularly sustainable. Supermarkets have set prices on fresh produce artificially low to attract customers, which puts pressure on farmers to produce in the cheapest way possible – which is not going to be the most sustainable way. Consumers have come to expect these low prices and don’t always recognise that they aren’t sustainable - not for the farmers trying to make a living, the land our food is grown on or even for the supermarkets themselves. Urban veggie patches connect people to the reality of what it takes to grow fresh food – the resources, time and effort that goes into it – which helps us to value our food more highly, and more accurately. They also offer people an oppourtuntiy to learn how to grow their own food, and many even offer planting space to those who join. For those of us without a green thumb, the many farmers markets throughout Sydney give us a chance to buy food lovingly grown by someone more talented than ourselves.

To find your nearest community garden, click here.

For farming workshops at the beautiful Camperdown Commons, click here.

To find your local farmers market, click here.

4. Go Vegan with Sydney Vegan Club

The United Nations has urged to world to adopt a vegan diet as the most effective way to combat climate change and global inequality. It’s cheap, easy (once you know how) and you can still eat ice cream and donuts. So, there’s not really any good reason not to.

For information on veganism, the 30 day vegan challenge and your very own vegan mentor, check this out.

Click here for more info on how vegan diets will save the world. 

And finally, click here for the vegan gelataria in Newtown –  Gelato Blue (just try it, you can thank me later):

…so there you have it. Go forth and eat (sustainably). Our planet depends on it.

Rebecca Campbell

About Rebecca Campbell

Rebecca is a social justice enthusiast who works with community organisations and government agencies. She has a background in law, international relations, activism and campaigning. Rebecca spends her downtime baking vegan chocolate cakes, going to yoga and exploring the great outdoors.

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12th September 2017

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