The low-carbon diet: eating well for yourself and the planet

G Magazine

Reduce the carbon footprint of your pantry by following these 10 simple tips

Shopping basket full of fruit

Eat well for yourself and for our Earth.

Credit: iStockphoto

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Ever considered how much energy is needed to fill your fruit bowl?

Even the most humble of produce is conventionally farmed with artificial fertilisers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from oil) and machines (run on petrol), before being flown or shipped thousands of kilometres (using petrol), trucked to a supermarket (also using petrol) and then sold in a plastic bag (made with oil).

We all need to eat, but fortunately it's easy to cut down on food carbon emissions. Here's how:

1. Buy seasonally

Produce grown in its natural season requires much less human interference than when it's grown out of season, so requires less much energy and water use.

Crops grown in their natural season are also more likely to work with the local ecosystem to minimise the need for pesticides and energy-chewing hothouses - so enjoy vitamin-packed mandarins in winter, and save the thirst-quenching watermelon for summertime.

2. Buy locally

Fresh and frozen produce bought locally not only saves on food miles, but reduces the need for refrigerated storage - which makes up 14.9 per cent of the entire food industry's energy use each year.

Even if you can't make it to the farmer's markets, buying products made in Australia with Australian ingredients will go a long way (no pun intended).

Currently, the average Australian shopping basket has travelled over 70,000 kilometres from its producer to reach you, so every purchase counts.

3. Research importing methods

Recent research reveals that how your food has travelled is just as important as how far your food has travelled.

"Shipping food in from overseas can even be more energy efficient than locally grown produce, if it's out of season or hothouse-grown," states Caroline Saunders, professor of trade and environmental economics at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand.

And she should know, having co-authored a study that found shipping kiwi fruit to the UK from New Zealand actually uses less energy than trucking the same amount in from Italy does.

So follow her example, and look into the importing methods of your supermarket.

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