I recently calculated my ecological footprint and found that my lifestyle is far from sustainable. So where am I going wrong? It seems the main contributor to my ecological footprint is the food I eat! This was a little surprising to me. I had imagined the greatest impact would come from things like transport, energy use and water consumption. But no, its food. Next in order of impact is goods (i.e 'stuff' like clothes and appliances), then services (gas, electricity and water), then shelter (house), and finally transportation.
Back to food... One of the main reason the ecological impact of my food is so high, is that I consume animal products. Meat, particularly beef, has a very high environmental impact, using relatively large amounts of water and land to produce, and creating significant greenhouse pollution. Dairy also has a relatively high environmental impact because the high quality pastures and crops which feed dairy cattle require a lot of water.
Beyond the impact of animal products, I currently have only a simplistic understanding of how the food I eat impacts upon my ecological footprint. I understand that each stage in food production has an ecological impact. The growing, processing, packaging and transportation all have an impact. So, in simple terms, if I am going to decrease the ecological impact of the food I eat, I need to decrease the amount of animal products I consume and choose foods that are:
• farmed sustainably;
• processed as little as possible;
• packaged as little as possible and if packaged, using reusable or recyclable materials; and
• transported as little as possible.
Where do I start? To help me make decisions regarding the food I eat, I need to understand which foods I currently consume are OK and which ones I should reduce, skip or swap for something else. To help me in this task I will keep track of the food I eat over the next fortnight. So, another eco task for me...
Eco task 3: List all foods (including drinks) consumed over a fortnight, and as far as practical, make observations regarding how frequently it was eaten, where and how it was grown, processed, packaged, transported, and finally what was left over in terms of packaging after the food was consumed.