Editor’s Note: FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth for July 2021 is Sustainability. We invite submissions on the diverse aspects of sustainability throughout the month. If you’d like to contribute, kindly email your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org
Every ingredient we consume undergoes a tedious journey from the farm to our tables. A sustainable system of food production and consumption is required to provide healthy food and create a balanced environmental, economic and social surrounding.
In the context of sustainable food, regenerative farming is a concept that is relevant. It is a process of rehabilitating soil and keeping it productive for as long as possible. Over the years, Indian farmers have been using pesticides and chemicals to speed up the growth of produce and generate stable income. The use of pesticides and chemicals leads to the degradation of soil quality and also affects the nutritional value of the food.
Sustainable farming is far from mainstream in India. Less than 4% farmers have adapted to organic farming. However, with an increasing demand for organic products, there will hopefully be a growth of sustainable agriculture in India. That said, organic farming alone cannot be answer to battling hunger and food insecurity.
Urban agriculture, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas. After the harvest, the products are either sold to a wholesaler who further sells it to his fellow retailers and ships them, or used for local markets.
Food miles add up to an individual’s carbon foot print as carbon dioxide emissions are released during the transport of the products through inter and intra State markets, as well as for exporting. Think about home-grown herbs or local farmers’ market veggies. They won’t clock up many food miles.
But if you can’t resist out-of-season strawberries on your morning yogurt, that will mean a much longer trip. Shopping locally, preferring seasonal products, cooking from scratch, buying from farmers’ markets and urban farming are a few tips to reduce food miles.
A food carbon tax has the potential to improve the whole system. The logic is simple: large producers should pay for the damage they cause to the environment and health, and should be incentivised to move towards products and production methods that leave lesser carbon emissions.
Emerging online grocery stores, Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies and food suppliers do not always provide fresh and quality products, as well as add up to the food miles and packaging waste. The large amounts of packaging waste produced today cannot be recycled in the existing recycling systems. This is especially true for multi-material packaging, which poses a significant and unresolved challenge in recycling.
Focus should be given on shopping locally, and also employing sustainable packaging ideas, a few of which include using materials like recycled paper, cardboards, fabric and glass jars. Consumer activism and the clamor for fast, on-demand delivery are on the rise, especially after the onset of the pandemic. Sustainable logistics solutions like recycling and reusing delivery packaging are affordable ways for online businesses to make same-day deliveries eco-friendly and also satisfy their customers.
Finally the food is on our table, what is next? Food waste. India produces 40% food waste annually. The waste ends up in landfills and makes it’s way to our oceans and soil. The way we deal with food waste impacts our lifestyle. At the comfort of our homes, we can compost food waste and use it as manure for our indoor and balcony plants, nearby flowerbeds, trees, and also gift it to the plant parents we know!
Food loss and waste also represents the lost labour, capital, water, energy, and other resources that went into producing the food. The ultimate goal must be to not waste food and to also make sure that we treat our food waste well.
Sustainability can be implemented only when one understands the importance of health and simplicity. Sustainable food should not be confined to only a particular class of people, food is what we all must be able to share in common as citizens without divide. What we consume should have a positive impact on our environment and also society.
About 15 percent of the people in India are undernourished and 194 million people are hungry and the overall global hunger is on the rise. Nutritious and sustainable food can improve the health sector, contribute to tackling the unemployment crisis, climate change, malnutrition and environmental restoration.
Finaz Ali is an enthusiastic and eccentric teenager. A keen health and wellness learner, yogi, an amateur cook, and a person who prefers learning and exploring economic and environmental sustainability and its applications. She has her own little blog where she writes about sustainable practices. She loves watching sitcoms and enjoys dancing for fun. You may find her here.
Featured Image: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India