I was initially considering trying to do the 100 mile diet or ‘locavore’ diet for my personal change challenge. I asked a few people in my class about this with the general consensus that yes you could do it, but you’d end up eating a lot of potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables together with whatever local meats you could find. There are other benefits apart from the lower food miles of course. You can really cut back a lot on the inordinate amounts of food packaging that occurs in the UK by shopping in markets and farmers shopfronts and develop a better understanding of what food you’re eating and where it comes from. The problems with the diet, especially towards the end of the growing season currently are that much of what you can eat is not particularly appealing as many of the leafy green vegetables are getting to the dormant stage of their production. I do however know some PhD students who work with vegetables in greenhouses… they are mostly experimenting with GMO though.
Anyhow, so suffice to say that I decided transport was going to be my principle focus instead because I do still like to eat things that have green leaves or a bit of colour to them. Also it does make life incredibly difficult when it comes to processed food (sauces, cereals, tinned food in particular).
I today went with my girlfriend to the Daily Bread Co-Operative and the Cambridge markets to buy some things and came back with a bunch of organic and local produce. But lots of it came from abroad or didn’t say where it was from too. We (probably just me really) decided that maybe the best way to understand where things were from was to lay them out in groups by country of origin. The end result is below, hopefully with sufficient resolution to read:
So not much to explain to this but it does show some very interesting results! Worth noting in this image is that I already make a half-concerted effort (and have for some years now) not to buy produce from very far away parts of the world where avoidable. This has most recently meant cutting down on my South American bananas and yet I’ve still got a bunch of stuff from all over the place.
In Australia this was not such a difficult thing to do. Agricultural tariffs and restrictions are quite severe in Australia (don’t ever try smuggling in fresh produce or else you’ll end up on the tv show ‘Border Security: Australia’s Front Line’). However in the processed food market there are still plenty of things from other parts of the world. 90% of Australia’s tinned tomatoes are Italian for instance.
The image speaks for itself and so I’ve kept my labels and with even more concerted efforts over the course of this term, I’ll try and make the UK pile a bigger percentage of the total whilst cutting down on my Mauritian brown sugar and Tanzanian green beans.
Next time I look back at the food topic I’ll delve deeper into some of the details behind the eco-labels or organic stickers that adorn them, and where some of the regular foods I eat come from. And in particular, there’s a big pile of food that I didn’t show in this post which was indeterminate in it’s origins and some of these items are quite interesting to look at in more detail.