Your choice of food and drink is an area where small changes can make a big difference to you, farmers, the countryside, and biodiversity in general. Buying locally produced or organic food needn’t be as expensive as the supermarkets would have you believe! Think about…
How was it produced? Choose organic!
Organic farming uses less-intensive practices which seek to minimise environmental impact. The use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides is restricted as these can damage ecosystems and pollute rivers. Organic foods do not contain genetically modified organisms “GMOs” (no one quite knows what these will do). This means the food you eat is not full of added chemicals and neither is the land it is grown on.
One of the cheapest ways to buy organic fruit and veg is from a vegbox scheme. Join the one in the Green Action Food Co-op or Oblong, or get together with your housemates for a delivery anywhere in Leeds. See: www.goosemoor.info or
If you choose to eat meat and eggs, try to buy organic and free-range. Meanwood Valley Urban Farm (LS7 2QG) sells eggs at £2.00 dozen from their hens. Soil Association organic rules try to ensure animal welfare.
Where did it come from? Try to minimise “Food Miles”
Buying local produce that is in season means that you get fresher, tastier and often cheaper food. It also helps cut pollution as it doesn’t have to be transported so far. Check out Leeds City Markets (by the bus station) during the week or the Farmer’s Market (same place) every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month for some bargains! Better still – why not grow your own?
Grow your own!
It’s cheaper and tastier to grow your own food! You know exactly how it was grown, where it’s come from and its fun! Windowsills are great for tomato plants or fresh herbs like mint or coriander. Chillies are really easy to grow in your window, look good and can impress your mates. Or, for those special moments, strawberries are surprisingly easy too.
Once you have a taste for home-grown vegetables, you could even get your own allotment. For around £30 a year, you can rent one from the council or local allotment association see www.leeds.gov.uk/allotments for more info. The Green Action Society has an allotment where you can get involved with whether it is ‘stewarding’ a patch or helping out on a workday.
Preserving and brewing
Dismayed at the frequent sight of moulding fruit and vegetables? If you’ve got some time and too many fruit and veggies think about preserving them through making jam, chutneys, or wine!
For some foods there isn’t even any need for us to work hard or spend money as nature does it for us! Look out for blackberries and raspberries in late summer, and various edible mushrooms throughout the year. Richard Mabey has written an excellent book called ‘Food for Free’. You’ll be surprised what can be found in the urban landscape. But don’t get too excited, it ain’t gonna provide dinner every day, and leave some for the birds… don’t pick it all.
Vegetarianism and veganism
A vegetarian is someone who does not eat any products derived directly or indirectly from the slaughter of animals. A vegan takes this a stage further by not eating or wearing any produce of animals. This means no dairy products, eggs, honey, silk and other items. People have different reasons for deciding to follow a veggie or vegan diet; these might be concern for animal welfare, human health, the environment. If you look at energy usage 25 kcal of fossil energy per 1 kcal of meat protein (25:1) compared to (2:1) of grain protein, so meat is 11x less energy efficient [[http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/78/3/660S|American Journal of Clinical Nutrition]].
There is too little space here to discuss the meat and dairy industries in terms of animal welfare, but you might want to look at some of links.