Eco Tips: living sustainably with what eat 

What does sustainability look like in daily life? I thought I would share our (me and my husband) experiences. What we cook and eat and where we shop, has been shaped by three principles. 

First there is the LOAF principle, a useful nemonic devised by Green Christians. It is a guide for choosing what food to buy and eat.

L is for local: locally produced food, which can include things grown or produced in one’s immediate locality and things where local can mean the UK rather than abroad. For example in East Sheen we can buy honey that comes from Richmond Park. We can buy coffee beans roasted across the river in Chiswick. We can have breakfast in Putney enjoying porridge or eggs Benedict made on the premises. We can choose to buy strawberries from Kent as opposed to imported from Spain. Equally we can eat strawberries grown in our back garden. We buy beans and pulses, seeds and grains such as quinoa, from Hodmedod whose produce is all UK grown. 

O is for organic: organic food has a less damaging impact on the planet than non organic food. Indeed it’s effect can be positive, with soils improved with vegetable matter rather than being stripped of its micro-organisms by fertilisers, with pollinators encouraged rather than being killed by pesticides, with livestock well cared for rather than being routinely treated with antibiotic prophylactics. We buy organically grown oats, and flour that comes from farms in Cambridgeshire and which is milled in a windmill!

A is for animal friendly: animals that live as near a natural life as possible (often organically raised). If we buy eggs for my husband we opt for free range, organic ones (although at the moment no eggs are free range owing to restrictions around bird flu). At Christmas the festive bird for my husband is a cockerel that has enjoyed a whole year of life unlike most of chicken meat which comes from birds that live may be 6 – 8 weeks (up to 12 for organically raised birds).

F is for fairly traded: the Fair Trade mark is well known as measure where production has guaranteed a  price above the market minimum, where the work force receive fair wages and where provision is made for services such as schooling and health care. We buy fair trade bananas, chocolate and tea which are now widely available. We buy coffee beans that have been ethically sourced from small scale producers who grow top quality beans, appreciating that the higher cost reflects their value.  

Secondly we avoid excess and plastic packaging, a habit we learnt through a zero waste experiment. We buy dried fruit and nuts, and dry goods such as rice, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, spices, sugar, cocoa, millet and polenta from local refill stores where goods are dispensed into paper bags – often ones we have brought to reuse. We also buy refills of olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, tahini and peanut butter, taking our own jars and bottles to refill. Milk – both oat and dairy – comes in reused glass bottles on the milk round. Since we cook meals from scratch we avoid lots of single use plastic boxes. Likewise making our own cakes and biscuits reduces the amount of waste we generate. Jam jars are reused when we make jam, marmalade and chutneys and when we bottle summer fruits. Deliveries from Hodmedod come in paper or compostable bags, flour and oats come in bulk in paper sacks. 

Thirdly we seek to reduce the carbon footprint of what we eat. Most meals are vegan – Paul enjoys cheese in his sandwiches and dairy milk on his cereal. A vegan diet can save in the region 400 and 900 kgCO2 a year. Even with a vegan diet there are ways of being more or less carbon efficient. By  choosing locally produced food, food that is in season and cutting back on food waste (other vegetable leaves, tea bags and coffee grounds all go into the compost bin whilst apple cores go to make cider vinegar) we aim to minimise our carbon footprint. We have a weekly fruit and vegetable delivery from OddBox which collects fruit and vegetables from farmers and suppliers that would otherwise go to waste – because supermarket demand has dropped, crops have been larger (or sometimes smaller) than expected), crops have ripened too quickly/ slowly, or items are too small/ big/ misshapen for general sale. OddBox by preventing food from going to waste, saves some 11,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

Green Tau: issue 29

Caring for creation with every meal – Use your LOAF!

What we eat impacts the world around us – the welfare of animals, the welfare of wildlife, the fair sharing of water, the  fertility of the soil, the  well being of those who grow and produce food. It also contributes to the climate crisis. Making step by step changes, we can better care for creation.

The organisation Green Christian has produced the nemonic LOAF – Local, Organic, Animal friendly, fairly traded – to help us buy and eat sustainably with care for the world.

L locally grown, locally produced. 

Local reduces the carbon miles attached to our food. Local keeps us in touch with those who grow, make and sell our food. Growing our own keeps us in touch with the soil itself!

O organic.

Food, whether that is crops grown or animals raised, that is produced organically removes chemical fertilisers and pesticides from the environment where they cause damage to water supplies, wild life and human health. Instead organic farming works in harmony with the environment boosting its well being and biodiversity.

A animal friendly. 

Animals including birds and fish, should always be treated with care and respect. Factory farming for example, treats animals as profit-making commodities. Arable farming also has a responsibility to be animal friendly, including the wellbeing of birds and insects.

F fairly traded. 

Throughout the supply chain from farm labourer to shelf stacker, lorry driver to barista, each person deserves to be treated fairly.

In a previous issue of the Green Tau –

I have written about food and our carbon footprint. The Ethical Consumer’s Climate Gap Report notes that to be on track for net zero we need to reduce the carbon footprint of our food by 15% by 2030. So far (ie since 2019) reductions have not even risen above 0%.  It is imperative that we do look at and adjust what we eat, to reduce waste, to reduce our carbon footprint and to reduce the negative impact we have on the environment. Eating sustainably we can safeguard our own futures and improve that of the world in which we live.

  1. Eat less meat and dairy, replacing these with plant-based alternatives. “Veganuary” makes this a good time to try different vegan options. See the Eco Tips page on swopping to a vegan diet –
  2. Use local food shops. Buy locally produced food. 
  3. In supermarkets choose UK grown rather than imported fruit and vegetables. 
  4. Eat what’s in season – strawberries in May/ June, blueberries in July/ August. 
  5. Subscribe to a veg box – eg Riverford’s or Abel and Cole – or OddBox which fills its boxes with fruit and veg that would otherwise go to waste.
  6. Use local farmers’ markets 
  7. Expand the variety of fruits and vegetables that you buy. Biodiversity is an important way forward for farming –
  8. Opt for UK produce over imports. Hodmedod sells UK grown beans and pulses rather than those that come from Canada/ China etc.
  9. Opt for organic produce.
  10. Opt for fair trade products. This article relates to chocolate –
  11. Use refill shops – also known as bulk stores. Take your own containers or use the shop’s paper bags to buy loose ingredients such as beans and pulses, grains, dried fruit etc. 
  12. When buying meat, find a butcher who knows where the meat comes from and how it has been raised.
  13. Be prepared to pay more for meat and diary products that have been reared to a higher ethical standard.
  14. Use a milk delivery service such as Milk and More for both dairy and oat milk in refillable glass bottles.
  15. When buying fish, check whether it is sustainably sourced and/or farmed. Refer to the Marine Conservation Society’s guide as to which fish are not endangered.
  16. Plan your meals and your shopping to avoid throwing food away –
  17. Keep a habit of saying Grace at meals. Appreciation and gratitude go together.