Sustainable food takes into account environmental, health, social & economic concerns and consists of the following eight inter-related principles:
1. Local & seasonal.
Food now travels further than ever before with money leaking from local economies. Local & seasonal food offers a way to: minimize energy use in transportation & storage; increase freshness & quality; strengthen local distinctiveness & build more resilient communities, whilst supporting local food outlets and farmers alike.
2. Organic & sustainable farming.
Organic, low-carbon food production, which avoids artificial fertilizers & genetically modified organisms, is more beneficial to bio-diversity & the environment, and offers a long-term investment in soil fertility for future food production. It also has a crucial role to play in countering climate change - potentially offsetting 23% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture through soil carbon sequestration alone.
3. Reduce foods of animal origin & maximize welfare standards.
Meat and dairy products are among the most energy & greenhouse-gas intensive food products of all. The meat industry contributes 40% more than all forms of transport combined On top of this livestock uses 70% of agricultural land world wide (30% of the Earth’s land surface) yet creates a fraction of the calories (per unit of land) compared to cereals or vegetables, contributing to malnutrition & food in-security.
4. Excludes fish species identified as at risk.
Overfishing is the greatest single threat to marine wildlife and habitats, with nearly 80% of world fish stocks fully or overexploited. Many once common North Sea species are now overfished – with cod stocks on the verge of commercial collapse & common skate virtually extinct.
5. Fair-trade-certified products.
Fair-trade ensures producers are paid fairly for their work, offering a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. It creates social & economic opportunities for producers and workers who have been exploited, disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system.
6. Promote health and well being.
Only 18% of adult Mancunians eat the recommended minimum of five portions of fruit & vegetables a day, and childhood obesity & other food related illnesses are on the increase. At the same time 15% globally go hungry while in the UK we waste approximately one third of all food. Sustainable food system is about health & wellbeing for all – individually, locally and globally.
7. Food democracy.
The mainstream food system and supply chain is unfair & unsustainable. Decisions & profits are taken by a handful of large companies driving down prices & maximizing profits at the expense of farmers, local communities & the environment. Our current unsustainable food system has turned us into a nation of passive consumers in a top down system from which we expect unlimited 'choice' but over which we have little control. Food democracy is about reconnecting people to food & taking responsibility for it, ensuring control by and fairness among local producers, suppliers and consumers, and working to reduce inequality in the food supply chain.
8. Reduction of waste and packaging.
Approximately 70% of primary packaging is used for food and drink which is often discarded contaminated by residues of the original contents, making it difficult to recycle. Buying local and seasonal food reduces the need for unnecessary packaging, minimizing the negative impact on the environment from the current large scale disposal of inorganic waste. Generally, food should come with the minimum of packaging and wherever possible the use of reusable packaging should be used/promoted.