We are often told that we need to live more sustainably. But what exactly does it mean? The enormity of this concept used to paralyse rather than motivate me. Should I recycle more? Stop buying new clothes and re-tailor the old ones instead? Protest against fossil fuels in front of the Parliament? Escape civilisation altogether, grow vegetables and live off my own allotment? More often than not, after some deliberation I would conclude that in practical terms there is not much I can do to help sustainability and carry on as before while feeling powerless and guilty.
The point is - the field of sustainability is huge, complicated and confusing. It is a long journey for humankind, but we at Sustained wanted to start somewhere, and we've chosen to focus on food production first.
Food production is a major contributor to climate change: it turns out that food production generates more than a third of manmade greenhouse emissions that drive climate change. Moreover, not all foods are created equal. Animal-based products (meat, poultry and dairy products) contribute 57% of emissions linked to the food system. Among meat products, beef is by far the worst offender, whereas rice production is responsible for the highest plant-associated GHG emissions. So what we eat is really important, but it may be tricky to put this information into context, and this is what we are looking to change.
Food production is not linked to only GHG emissions, it also contributes significantly to other important aspects of sustainability. For example, certain farming practices used in the production of palm oil, cocoa and coffee have been linked to natural environment destruction, deforestation, as well as child and forced labour.
A great deal of food gets wasted: it’s estimated that the food industry in the UK wastes a massive 3.6 million tonnes of food every year. Therefore not only which goods we buy is important, but also how much. Most of the impacts that arise from food production are directly proportional to food weight or volume, and one of our goals is to make this information more prominent.
Climate-related anxiety is on the rise, and it negatively affects people’s mental health in a variety of ways. With climate change constantly hitting the headlines, it's no wonder that it feels like all doom and gloom. Yet, knowing that there is something tangible that each of us can do is helpful for re-gaining at least some sense of control.
There is a lot of innovation in food production, from vertical farming to new models of distribution that help promote local produce. By voting with their feet and their wallets, customers can influence which food technologies get prioritised.
In summary, food production plays a big part in sustainability, and shopping more consciously is something concrete that each of us could do.
Sign up to our bi-weekly newsletter get the latest sustainability highlights in your inbox or follow us on social media!