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Eating to save the planet

Article adapted from original story on Food With A Story - South Africa

What if we could eat fresh, local, great tasting food and save the environment while doing it? We hear so much in the news these days about the deteriorating state of the global environment and most of us would like to play our part in correcting this imbalance. What if, by being more conscious of the food we choose to put on our dinner plate we could make a difference to the world while also improving our own health and wellbeing?

It’s easy to search the supermarket isles for the cheapest products we can find, neglecting to think about how that particular item came into existence. These days we’re far removed from the system that produces that food and the damage that is caused along the way.

The fact is cheap, mass produced food is harmful to the environment. It entails the use of large quantities of pesticides and artificial fertilisers that over the long-term can ruin the soil and negatively affect our health. Generally, the mass produced foods come from monoculture crops that provide little in the way of biodiversity, and as a result our natural ecosystems suffer.

Palm oil is a prime example. It is used in many food products available here in New Zealand, and the world. In order to produce vast quantities of this oil, large tracts of tropical rainforests and peat lands in South East Asia are being destroyed. This is a disaster not only for biodiversity but also the local communities. Not all palm oil is bad but the problem is it’s presently impossible to know whether or not the palm oil you’re consuming is from a sustainable source.

How can we make a difference? For starters, we should all learn to read the ingredients list on the foods we buy. Get to know what the most environmentally ‘evil’ ingredients are, and avoid them completely; you could start by avoiding products containing palm oil.

Check where your food is produced and choose local products instead of imports. New Zealand has an amazing variety of foods and for the most part, the quality is better than the imported equivalents. Olive oil is a good example; New Zealand producers only natural cold pressing to extract the oil, whereas many cheap international oils use chemicals assistance to get every last bit of oil out of the fruit.

Many imported foods from such places as China are irradiated to keep them from spoiling. This process destroys many of the important enzymes and vitamins contained in the food - another reason to buy local.

Perhaps we could all spend a bit more time educating ourselves about what foods are ecologically sustainable. Changing our purchasing choices is a significant way to encourage more farmers to produce sustainable food while also improving our own health by eating food with fewer toxins. If it means spending a little extra cash each week to support local, organic, free range or boutique New Zealand farmers and producers, we could view as an investment towards keeping our slice of paradise in pristine condition.

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