As we approach World Environment Day, the spotlight turns onto a familiar terrain where the rhythms of life are marked by the sowing and reaping of crops – our food system. Just as the health of our environment is a measure of our collective actions, so is the state of our food system a reflection of our everyday choices.
The global food system is responsible for up to 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions, a staggering figure that underlines our food choices’ direct impact on the environment. A shift in our food habits and consumption patterns, therefore, can have a profound effect on our ecological footprint. This narrative ties into the thread of introspection that our Sustainability Manager, Lindsay, eloquently highlights: how can we, as individuals, make a difference?
The equation seems simple at first glance. Food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption lost or wasted annually. In South Africa, this waste is estimated at around 10 million tons per year, equivalent to R67 billion. Imagine, amidst this excess, nearly 26% of our population, or about 20 million people, suffer from hunger daily.
As consumers, we can do better. If we peel back the layers of our food choices, we realize that we control more than we think. Online shopping, for instance, may seem convenient, but have we considered its environmental cost? From the excess packaging to the emissions from delivery vehicles, the convenience of a few clicks comes at a high environmental price. Furthermore, often these platforms sell products that make no business sense unless created under questionable working conditions and environmental disregard.
We don’t just consume food; we consume the resources used to produce, process, and transport that food. Thus, every decision we make, from the type of food we buy to where we buy it from, has an environmental consequence. By opting for local produce, we not only support our local economy but also reduce the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food transport. It’s a win-win situation.
On this World Environment Day, we challenge you to reevaluate your role in our shared food system. Reflect on the life cycle of everything you consume. Think about the disposable cutlery that comes with your takeaway food – can you reject it next time? Remember, those extra items come with an environmental cost, one that we are paying for even if we don’t realize it.
The journey towards a sustainable food system starts with understanding our role and our power in shaping it. As Lindsay points out, responsible choices eventually become a way of life. By making sustainability a personal commitment, we not only lighten our environmental footprint but also influence those around us to do the same.
This World Environment Day, let’s use our forks as tools for change. Let’s commit to transforming our food system one meal at a time. As we begin with ourselves, we inspire those around us to join this essential journey towards a sustainable future. After all, the change begins at home, and home is where the kitchen is.
Original Discussion with Lindsay
I’d like to try draw people in by taking a different look at this day – it’s not just another awareness campaign day that u rely on others to participate in as it doesn’t “directly” impact you, if you know what I mean? Like cupcakes for cancer, of those 10km runs – unless you’ve been directly affected by cancer, you wouldn’t necessarily consider that particular run… and often the same goes with the environment – because it’s not directly impacting you every day, because u can’t see the impact of the change drastically – like cancer hitting your family – you think it’s for others to worry about.. so by putting some personal accountability on to people I’m hoping they stop and start with themselves… in turn affecting the environment around them.. or have I got it completely wrong???
In previous years we’ve put a lot of focus and all our attention on the riverways and oceans, and all the plastic pollution that is building up and killing off our marine animals. But I do feel it’s time to shift the focus and put more attention on ourselves, as individuals, and also as communities.. it’s very easy to point fingers over there, somewhere in the distance.. but what happens when we look at ourselves and how we affect the immediate environment around us? How are we contributing to the greater good – or on the other hand how have we been sucked into the latest fad or shopping trends? For myself personally, I refuse to order bottled water, and have a stainless steel bottle I carry with me everywhere with water. I don’t order online, purely because of the excess packaging – while I realise travelling to the shops then has its fuel emission issues – I make sure I have a list of things to get before heading out… it’s amazing actually… I start jotting down items I need, or think I do, and when I come back a few days later, or weeks, I realize I actually don’t really need that thing… and it falls away!
Given the state of the world as in general terms, I think Environmental Day is more important than ever – but I think we need to take a step back and rehash what that looks like, and the purpose is. For starters, I feel the word “soul” should be close to it. We talk about plastic pollution and all the bad things happening on our planet – gosh, how overwhelming hey? Now what? Where do we start? It’s all too much… I’ll wait for someone or something to happen to help lead me. Or perhaps you kindly don’t use straws anymore, but then you pack your child’s lunch in a zip lock bag for school every day, rather than a Tupperware. Our environment encompasses everything around us, and it’s all interlinked. We have got to start with responsible choices and decisions, eventually, it becomes a way of life. I find it a far simpler way to live as some of my decisions are made for me.
I’d like to challenge everyone to take a step back and look inwards, take a look at yourself, and the environment that surrounds you. Have you considered the convenience of online shopping, at a platform that sells earrings for a dollar literally makes no business sense.. unless the working conditions are at a bare minimum, and can you imagine the corners that have been cut to keep costs down? Consider starting with local buys – less footprint as less fuel spent, as less distance the product has taken to travel, and you’re encouraging small enterprises. You also don’t need 5 of each of everything.. because then you must visit the nail parlor 5 times a week to match that.. and then there are the matching shoes.. have you ever thought about the pressure you are putting on yourself? And in turn on the environment? Can you see how it is all interconnected? Ok so now you are happy with the stripped-back fresh light version of you, now start to look outward at the waste, and suddenly you will see everything has an impact on each other, and how everything is related to each other. Now consider how you can make small changes, or sacrifices if you wish, to make the environment around u a better and healthier place.
Consider the life cycle of a plastic fork – when you buy take away – do you ever consider saying “thank you, but I don’t need the serviettes, plastic cutlery, single-use sauce packets”… or do you just go with the “norm” and take everything – only to throw those items away as soon as you arrive at home? You have paid for those items, you do realise that? While currently we can’t give those items back and ask for your money towards that spend, for now consider handing it back and make your small contribution to the environment.