Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

We need to use Grandma as inspiration to bring sustainability back into food

Image: Flickr

Deciding what to eat has never been so complicated. Equally, the potential effect of those decisions has never been so profound. Everyone wants to eat ‘well’ or ‘be good’ but what does this mean? Low-carbon, locally sourced, fair trade, organic: how should we measure the ‘goodness’ of our food?

It never used to be so complicated. Researching this article, I came across numerous references to the conventional manners of farming and food production versus the new and different ones.

Conventional and normal is pesticides and chemicals. New, novel and niche involve using manure, planting the right plants to attract certain animals, or working with seasons. Our crazy new concepts are actually the way nature works.

Click here to read The Guide to Ethical Shopping 2012

The same is true when it comes to buying food. We’ve made things more difficult for ourselves the more choices we have offered ourselves. The number of farmers’ markets has grown exponentially in recent years, hitting around 1,000 at the moment.

Buying locally, from the people who grew your food, and having a chat with them about the best way to cook and consume it. This was completely normal until the last couple of decades, when multinationals and conglomerates took over and we lost the personal element of food and retail. Lab-grown burgers might be the latest fad, but they are not normal.

Like most things, it all comes back to being balanced. Locally sourced products naturally will have a lower carbon footprint (or at least when taken at face value, although packaging, transport, and production will make an impact).

Buying from a community member suggests that the financials will be fairer, and if you can ask the producer, you have more chance of being able to find out whether your products are plastered in chemicals. This responsibility may therefore make the producer less likely to do so.

It is also pretty likely that you won’t bring back your vegetables shrink wrapped to death in cling film, but simply loosely chucked in a canvas bag.

This idea of asking about the origins of food is a tricky one. In a society where we are disassociated from the products we eat, and where convenience and cost are the key drivers, we forget to have that personal relationship.

Click here to read The Guide to Fair Trade 2013

Thinking about the origins, ethics and health factors all help drive a more sustainable food industry.

Where does my food come from? How was it produced? Should it even be here – is it in season? How will I store it and prepare it? Will I eat it all or throw it away? All are easy but relevant questions. Schemes such as Love Food Hate Waste are valuable in that they are educational, environmentally friendly, and cost savvy. Knowledge brings great power.

Locally grown, seasonal and ecologically sound produce purchased as close to the source as possible is a combination that works both for the environment and the individual. A healthy relationship with food and the food cycle is socially, environmentally and physiologically sound.

This concept of nutritional ecology very clearly highlights the relationship between the individual body and the natural world, and is a relationship relevant and important. Integrating the two makes for a more responsible consumer and provider.

Think back to basics; think what your grandma would have done. With this will come a healthier body, a calmer mind, and a more sustainable environmental impact.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at

Further reading:

The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live

Government should be ‘reinforcing a sense of urgency’ on sustainable food

Tackle food waste to tackle inequality, government report says

World wasting up to half of global food

Global food system crisis

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