THE NEW CLEAN EATING
Free-range, fair trade, line caught, sow-stall free… If sustainable eating has you confused, you’re not the only one
Change your grocery shop, save the world.
“EATING SUSTAINABLY IS SUCH A BROAD TERM,”
says Dianne Mcgrath, laughing. “Where do we even start?” It’s exactly how I feel, but I expected Mcgrath to have the answers – she is, after all, a sustainability expert. “It depends on what you mean by sustainable,” she goes on. “Is it food we can continue eating for a long time? Do you really mean ethical food? Food that’s grown responsibly, by people paid a fair wage? Food that’s from animals treated with respect? Food that doesn’t harm the planet?”
Mcgrath’s questions give me pause. “I mean, all of those things,” I tell her. She laughs again, kindly. “Look, we have to eat,” she says. “We all want to make good decisions. But sometimes it’s not possible – you might eat fast food, or processed food that has a big carbon footprint. Not everyone’s going to be a vegetarian. And if you are, there are issues with soy and even nuts. You can’t eat perfectly ethically all the time.” It’s a relief to hear this.
More than 80 per cent of Australians say they want to eat more ethically sourced food, but with limited options at times, it can be a minefield. What we can do, says Mcgrath, is eat in a way that aligns with our beliefs as much as possible.
New research shows the biggest single thing we can do to impact the environment is avoid meat and dairy, which account for just 18 per cent of our calorie intake (worldwide) but take up 83 per cent of farmland. If you want to cut down on packaging, choose fruit and vegetables that aren’t wrapped in plastic. If you care about animal cruelty, eat free-range, organic meat – and less often, or not at all.
“You can’t solve every problem,” says Mcgrath, “but you can choose to work on the issues that mean the most to you.” Her own journey to sustainable eating, she says, “started one bite at a time”. Yours can, too.