Updated: Mar 31, 2020
As regular readers will know, I love to write about food (especially food in season or less common foods) and my supper clubs but this month, I wanted to climb on my soap box and talk about sustainability. I feel as though it’s a word that’s being bandied around a lot, but does everyone understand what it means? Do you know what you can do to lead a more sustainable life? Are you aware of the what big corporates are doing to help the planet? Let’s start at the beginning.
This is the best definition I’ve found online from website Investopedia, “Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” It’s about being able to exist, constantly, and as we know, thanks to the coverage of climate change, Greta Thunberg and our increased awareness, that is in doubt for our children’s children and beyond.
If you’re like me, you might be starting to make decisions on your purchases based on their environmental impact. A Lidl supermarket has opened up close to where I live, for example, but despite the huge cost savings I could make, I’m reluctant to shop there because much of the produce is wrapped in plastic. They could do with taking a leaf from fellow supermarket Co-op’s book which is aiming for 100% recyclable packaging by summer 2020!
This is fantastic and, all being well, shows some of the bigger players like Sainsbury’s and Tesco and, of course, Lidl, that it can be done.
Farmers’ Markets around the country have been showing us how it’s done for years though: produce fresh from the ground or freshly produced, brought to a market locally – so a much lower carbon footprint* than supermarket produce - and often given to you in more environmentally friendly wrapping like paper bags. My favourite farm shops are Falconhurst Farm near Edenbridge and Flower Farm at Godstone.
Local spirits’ producer Greensand Ridge is a regular at Shipbourne Farmers’ Market near Tonbridge and is an award-winning carbon neutral distillery that prides itself on its sustainability.
Almost everything about the bottles used is recyclable or biodegradable and it uses local fruit in its drinks. “We built our business from the ground up with sustainability in mind; every decision we make is made with that ethic. Making a premium product - in our case spirits - from produce which would otherwise be wasted is a real hit with consumers but isn't right for every business. But being a sustainable business is; finding uses for our own waste, reducing water use, using green energy and only using biodegradable chemicals, these are things that all businesses should be doing. It means that our eco credentials feel genuine - not manufactured - and that more than anything it’s that which resonates with consumers.” Will Edge, Greensand Ridge distiller and owner
We all like eating out and we should continue to do so but perhaps next time you book, you might start asking about the restaurant’s green credentials. Many restaurants now are considering their environmental impact: Ben Sulston of TOFS Tonbridge is a great exponent of using as much of the animal, veg or fruit as possible and The Deli in Oxted is great at managing its waste.
In London, the Crown Estate has teamed up with the Sustainable Restaurant Association to push its restaurants on Regent Street and around St James’s to reduce food waste by 25% by May 2020 whilst Silo is a restaurant that’s making zero waste and less processing of food (ensuring it’s ‘alive with flavour’!) ‘cool’ on the London restaurant scene. Food waste from diners and the kitchen are added to compost which is then used to fertilise more crops ‘closing the loop’, as they say on their website.
These are great initiatives and hopefully encourage other eateries to do the same. If we all start asking the right questions, too, then restaurateurs might start to take notice.
All this sounds great, doesn’t it, from these companies and restaurants but what can you do to lead a more sustainable life? Here are my top five ideas:
1. Try to buy your food from places where it is sourced locally – your High Street butchers, fishmonger or farmers’ market would be my go-to places. You’re helping the planet, investing in the local economy and buying better quality.
2. Grow your own food. You really don’t need a huge garden to grow certain produce – tomatoes just need a sunny spot and a grow bag and some foods can be grown inside. Herbs are easy to start with as they just need a pot and some seeds or a starter plant – snip some seasoning whenever you need it!
3. Make more food at home yourself – processed food and ready-meals have a higher carbon footprint due to the mechanics of making them. Try to minimise processed food and perhaps cook from scratch a couple of times a week. Another great tip is to batch cook and freeze portions for other days.
4. Meal plan – this is a great way to reduce waste and means that you’re not aimlessly wandering around the supermarket, picking up random bits here and there that won’t be used. Also, a great time saver.
5. And lastly, if you are buying from a supermarket, look for Fair Trade products. The Fair Trade logo tells us that products have been manufactured using sustainable practices.
Despite all the doom and gloom about the planet, we can all do our bit to make it better. Restaurants and supermarkets are aiming to be more sustainable; do you think you could make a small change too? Let me know how you get on and if you have any other ideas!