Everything we do has an impact of one sort or another on the environment – and the choice of food we buy is no exception. Everything we eat will have required valuable water and nutrients to produce in the first place and – unless we grew it ourselves – will then have needed fossil fuel energy to transport it from producer to shop, and more again to take it home. Add the associated pollution, packaging and waste to all that carbon and it’s pretty clear why food is an important environmental issue.
Although a growing number of families are getting very selective in what they buy as a result, to others, all the talk of food miles, embedded carbon and fair trade can seem all too confusing.
So where do you stand? Are you eco-friendly eaters, doing your bit with every bite, or does the whole thing have you left wondering just what you should be dropping into your shopping trolley? Try our quick quiz to find out how green your eating habits really are – it’s only a bit of fun, so there are no “right” or “wrong” answers – but it might make you see food in a slightly different light.
It’s for both kids and parents to try and the results are at the bottom.
1. How would you best describe food miles?
- a) An attempt to measure the carbon cost of the transport element of food distribution, but it misses out some of the key factors.
- b) An easily understood way to think about how far food travels to your plate.
- c) A customer loyalty scheme from local producers.
2. What is your family’s attitude to Fair Trade foods ?
- a) We always buy them whenever we can, in preference to anything else.
- b) We try them and if we like them, we’ll buy them again.
- c) We not really that big on the idea.
3. Is it organic for you ?
- a) Always
- b) Sometimes
- c) Rarely
4. What would you say is your MAIN reason for buying locally?
- a) Good for the environment.
- b) Supports the local economy.
- c) Knowing where food comes from.
5. Does where a food comes from affect your decision to buy it?
- a) Yes, absolutely. It’s probably the most important thing we consider.
- b) Yes, but it’s one of a number of factors we think about.
- c) No, not really.
6. Could your children/your parents find the countries their food comes from on a map?
- a) They’d probably get them all.
- b) Perhaps not all, but they’d get most of them.
- c) They’d find a few at least.
7. Have you/your parents ever deliberately made food shopping into an educational experience?
- a) Oh yes, we often do; if we don’t tell them, how else will they ever learn?
- b) Yes, from time to time – especially if the kids seem interested in something particular.
- c) Sometimes, but it’s not something we do a lot; I’d rather get the food shopping over with!
8. Do you grow-your-own?
- a) Yes, we try to grow as much as we can ourselves.
- b) Yes, we have a lot of fun doing it – but we’re a long way from self-sufficient!
- c) A bit of cress and some salad leaves perhaps, but not what you’d really call grow-your-own.
9. What makes “Eating in Season” such a good idea?
- a) It slashes the pollution, packaging and carbon associated with food.
- b) It gets you back in touch with the natural cycle of the seasons.
- c) Seasonal vegetables tend to be cheaper.
10. Are you likely to be put off a food simply because of the way it’s produced?
- a) Yes – most definitely.
- b) Possibly.
- c) No not really, unless it involves animal cruelty.
Are you an eco-friendly eater? I should say so! You really know what’s on your plate, where it came from, how it was produced and probably even who grew it! There’s no doubting your commitment when it comes to eco-eating, but there’s perhaps a bit of a danger that you might be missing out on a few things along the way. Some of life’s little indulgences won’t hurt, now and again – even if they are out of season or flown in from Australia! You’re more than doing your bit for the planet, so you can afford to give yourself a little treat every once in a while – and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it.
You seem to have got the balance about right – a good wholesome diet with a definite eco-friendly slant, but with a few “naughties” thrown in. You know that a good sound awareness of where our food comes from and what impact that has on the rest of the world is important, but that it’s just as vital enjoy what you eat, rather than worrying about it all the time. Meals at your house must be fun!
It sounds as if the whole “eco” thing probably doesn’t feature in the food you eat quite as much as it does into other aspects of your life, but that’s OK – you’re doubtless concentrating on other useful green activities like recycling, saving energy or planting trees. If you do want to take the next step and help your family have an even more low-carbon-lifestyle than you do at the moment, the good news is that becoming an eco-friendly eater isn’t that hard and there‘s plenty of really useful information in the food section of this site to help you.
Enjoy eco-eating, however you do it!