Any Suggestions For Reducing Our Larder’s Ecological Footprint?

We’re looking for simple suggestions as to how we could further reduce our larder’s ecological footprint, reducing food miles and making our place more sustainable.

The cost of food is intimately linked to the cost of oil, prices are fast rising and we have a tight budget. So last month I listed all the products in our larder from agar agar to veggie sausages. I recorded them by name and, if possible, where the manufacturer said they were made.

At primary school we did a similar exercise thirty odd years ago in Britain. Each pupil used a map of the world where coloured threads connected London to the various places where their families’ food originated.

Jeff created the muffin-shaped graphic above. It works clockwise, starting with 100% Australian grown/ manufactured goods with the fewest food miles. Next come products containing both Australian and imported goods, and so on. The last muffin segment, where origins were declared ‘imported’, we assumed travelled the most food miles.

The ‘imported’ 10% are mostly herbs and spices. Some we grow here. Others, like sage, we can’t successfully grow. And you can go too far. Indonesia is the world centre of clove production. I’d rather do without than plant one of these tropical forest trees at home in an attempt to shave one minor item off my larder’s footprint.

What we’ve already done:

  • The biggest footprint reduction comes from growing your own food. We grow 70% of our fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. We still buy rice, bread, pasta, etc, and spend $90 per person per week on shopping.
  • A lot of petrol is wasted on convenience – short, one-off shopping trips. Like buying a six-pack of beer. So we shop less often. Jeff bought a recycled bike for quick trips to the bakery and bottle shop.
  • More petrol is wasted by importing fresh food that’s already produced in Australia. So we buy locally grown and organic locally grown where possible. Organic food production uses far less petrol than industrial food. Organic farming sequesters carbon too.
  • Curiously enough San Remo pasta spirals and fettucine are Australian grown, but its lasagne sheets come from Sri Lanka. Checking labels is worthwhile. Tinned, dried or bottled food, shipped by sea, has long been known to be economical in its use of space and petrol. Assessing food miles started in Britain during the food and oil shortages of World War II.
  • Buying refrigerated fresh foreign food wastes the most petrol. Rising oil prices will soon correct this economic and ecological absurdity. If we buy strawberries we buy Queensland grown, not those Coles and Woolworths fly here business class from South America.

Meanwhile I’m working on that yellow 10% – buying a herb drier and a mortar and pestle for producing more and better home grown herbs.

Suggestions for improving our larders’ ecological footprint are welcome.

Have a rummage through our larder here –larder footprint

Jerry Coleby-Williams
9th June 2008