During the Fight for Planet A series, we’ve discovered Australians are the highest emitters per capita of carbon in the world, and how our fossil-fuelled energy mix and transport choices have contributed to our oversized footprint. This week’s episode narrowed in on the impact of food.
Food waste in particular is a subject we are passionate about at Planet Ark. Food doesn’t belong in sealed landfills as they are anaerobic environments, meaning there is no oxygen available. In this environment organics rot and produce methane, a greenhouse gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Food scraps and liquid also don’t belong in recycling as it can ruin your good efforts and prevent recyclables from being recycled.
So here are our top tips for reducing your environmental footprint through what you put in your mouth.
Cut down on food waste
Whilst the first thing many people think of changing when it comes to food is their diet, simple actions taken to cut down on food waste is the easiest way to reduce the carbon footprint of your food. According to the 2019 National Food Waste Baseline, Australians send approximately 3.2 million tonnes of edible food to landfill each year. That’s close to 17,000 Boeing 747 jumbo jets worth of food!
Luckily, there are simple steps we can take to cut down on food waste and its environmental impact. The OzHarvest guide to “Look, Buy, Store, Cook” is a great way to start paying closer attention to your food habits and work out where the waste is being generated.
The importance of keeping food waste out of landfill and the recycling bin can’t be overstated, but that doesn’t mean you’re expected to immediately cut out all organic waste completely. That’s where composting comes in.
While many councils in Australia provide a kerbside collection service for garden cuttings, few currently offer food scrap collections – check RecyclingNearYou for information on what services your local council provides. If you don’t have access to a food scraps collection service, owning your own compost bin, compost heap, worm farm or Bokashi bucket is a cheap, easy and rewarding way to recycle your food scraps and garden cuttings. Worm farms can be kept in courtyards, balconies or even inside if space is limited. Many councils and community gardens run composting and worm farming workshops to help you get started. You could also try neighbourhood composting with ShareWaste.
Cut down on foods with a large carbon footprint
Admittedly, this one can take a bit of research in some circumstances. As shown in Fight for Planet A, expectation is not always reality when it comes to the carbon emissions generated by particular types of food. There are some basic rules though:
Eat seasonal produce. Fruit and vegetables are easier to source locally
Try to eat locally where possible to cut down on transport emissions
Reduce your meat intake where possible, especially red meats. Animal agriculture is emissions intensive and results in increased demand for agricultural land
If you want to look into the carbon footprint of your food, check out the BBC’s Climate Change Food Calculator.