For foods to be considered sustainable foods, it must meet certain standards to be a sustainable food. These foods are those whose production can be assured over a long term, or sustained, in other words. If a food is grown or produced in a manner that is destructive to the environment or human and animal health, it is not considered to be maintainable.
For example, crops that are heavily sprayed with weed killer, fungicide, and pesticide are not only less healthy for human consumption; the chemicals used in agriculture “kill” the soil eventually, and plants have to be forced to grow by the use of more and more synthetic fertilizers. The dead soil then erodes, creating hazardous, toxic run-off when it’s wet and toxic dust when it’s dry. Ultimately, this type of farming practice cannot be sustained.
Another aspect of sustainability is fossil fuel use. Fruits and vegetables that are shipped long distances require a great deal of fossil fuel as they go from farm to table. Because fossil fuels are a non-renewable energy source, the produce that requires a lot of these fuels are not considered sustainable foods either.
So how can you make choices for sustainable food? Here are some tips to help.
1. Local Food
Generally speaking, local food that is grown on small, individual farms or in gardens is more maintainable than mass-produced fruits and vegetables from big agribusiness. For one thing, the fruits and vegetables are simply closer in proximity and don’t have to be shipped long distances, and require less food miles. For another, local foods tend to require less chemical intervention when they are in the field or in transport. Produce that are shipped long distances tend to be sprayed with more fungicides and preservatives. This is much less likely with local produce.
2. Organic Foods
Organically grown foods are, as a rule, more maintainable than conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables. Because they are grown without synthetic chemicals, organic fruits and vegetables do not contribute to the toxic load on the environment. In some cases, organic foods actually enhance their surrounding ecosystems. Organic apple farmers, for example, provide a pesticide-free sanctuary for honeybees and other pollinating insects.
Note, though, that mass-produced organic foods may in fact contribute to pollution if they are shipped long distances. So the closer the source of your organic foods, the more maintainable it is.
3. Sustainable Seafood
This is one of those dicey areas in the world of maintainability. Some contend that there is no such thing as sustainable seafood in our modern era. Others suggest sticking with wild-caught seafood that is at the bottom of the food chain, such as sardines.
To complicate matters, populations of seafood can go from maintainable (when thriving) to endangered (when numbers are low). To help the concerned consumer, the Audubon Society offers a printable, wallet-sized card on their website. A good rule of thumb to address seafood is to buy only seafood that is abundant and that has been harvested responsibly.
4. Cut Back on Meat
Ingesting less meat – particularly red meat – is the first step to making your dinner table a maintainable one. Mass production of meat involves feed lots, slaughterhouses, and all sorts of messy business that pollutes the environment with animal waste.
If you do eat meat, consider raising your own or find a local farmer who will sell you some of his or her meat when it’s butchering time. You also might know a hunter who can provide you with some of the freshest free-range meat available. Also, many health food stores and conventional groceries sell grass-fed, free-range beef and poultry.
With these sustainable foods tips, we hope your sustainable food plans are met!