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Seasonal Eating For Sustainability

Seasonal Eating for Sustainability

Seasonal Eating for Sustainability

Seasonal eating… making better choices

A common way of bettering your carbon footprint is to consider a more sustainable way of eating. Usually, the idea of a ‘climatarian’ diet is simply ditching meat, however by doing so in favour of greenhouse-grown vegetables flown thousands of miles before reaching you, may have the opposite effect.

Seasonal eating involves consuming produce that is naturally ready to be harvested, however because of our rapidly globalised food system, defining seasonality brings more complexity than first meets the eye. For example, is a food that is naturally and locally grown, still seasonal if it’s then stored for 6 months? Do seasonal foods only relate to fruit and vegetables, or other produce too?

Definitions of seasonal eating

A recent study commissioned by the Department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) proposed two definitions of seasonal food, the first based on where the food is produced, and the second on where it is produced and consumed:

  1. Produced in season (global seasonality): Food that is outdoor grown or produced during the natural growing/production period for the country or region where it is produced. It need not necessarily be consumed locally to where it is produced.
  2. Produced and consumed in season (local seasonality): Food that is produced and consumed in the same climatic zone without high-energy use for climate modification or storage.

Whilst this may seem very complex for what appears to be a simple concept, the main aspect of both definitions is that the food is grown outdoors in its natural season, without the use of additional energy.

The biggest argument for eating seasonally is the environmental benefits. The growing, transporting and selling of produce, contributes to a sizeable number of global emissions. In fact, food production accounts for around 20-30% of total greenhouse gases in the UK. Whilst it’s positive that no additional energy is used in the growing of global seasonality, it is still detrimental to the environment if it is then shipped or flown thousands of miles before its eaten. However, it is worth considering, that studies have shown that this may not be as environmentally damaging as forcing produce to grow locally, through the use of huge commercial greenhouses. In essence, to better your carbon footprint through seasonality, would mean sticking to produce that is grown outside during its natural growing season and consumed in the same region.

Globalisation has allowed us the availability of a huge variety of different foods, all year round, which has been great in terms of its nutritional benefits. The saying ‘eat the rainbow’ stems from the importance of eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables, as each have their own set of vitamins and minerals that are important for a healthy body and mind. Even with the variety of choice that globalisation brings, in the UK, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey indicates that only 31% of adults and 9% of children meet their recommended 5-a-day intake for fruits and vegetables. Since the UK doesn’t have the best climate for growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables, limiting to seasonal produce only, may impact the low number of fruit and vegetable intake even further.

Like many aspects of sustainability, small efforts are always worthwhile and it’s not necessary to make drastic changes. Whilst it’s not practical to go from a globalized world to switch to an entirely seasonal diet, doing so where possible can have great environmental advantages.

How to eat more seasonally:

  • Shop at farmers markets and local food stalls. Ask where your food come from
  • Grow your own fruit and veg either in your garden or an allotment!
  • Educate yourself on what foods are seasonal and when. Websites such as Soil Association are a great resource for this

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