This year, the 22nd of April marks the 45th Anniversary of the worldwide celebration Earth Day. The objective of this day is to inspire awareness for the natural environment, to activate the worldwide environmental movement and to educate everyone around the world to take these matters into their own hands. Over 1 billion people participate in Earth Day – so what are you doing this year?
There are many ways that we can work toward protecting the environment – by lowering our dependence on cars, using renewable energy, eating locally sourced food and even just saving water around the house. In some countries participants will plant trees, sign petitions, organise conservation programmes and pick up rubbish from the street.
But even if you don’t want to get that involved, you can do your small bit at home by eating in an environmentally friendly way – that’s also good for you, of course.
In Australia, 20-30% of our greenhouse gases are directly from food production and transport, waste disposal and storage. That’s a really significant amount, and with renewed pressures on the planet in terms of over-population we need to ensure that the food being produced is done so responsibly. 3.3 million tonnes of food ends up in landfills each year, wasting the energy used for production and transport, but it also releases methane when decomposing, a chemical compound even more damaging than carbon monoxide.
You can reduce food waste by only buying what you need, planning a menu for the week beforehand, eating your leftovers and composting any leftover fruit, vegetables and grains.
But you can also do a lot of good by understanding where your food comes from, and making an effort to eat more locally-produced food. When food travels it loses nutritional value as well as causing damage to the environment, so the closer your food is sourced the better it is. Processed foods, which are unhealthy anyway, use a huge amount of water and energy to produce. And food imported by air releases 177 times the amount of greenhouse gases than shipping!
Buying food from farmers markets, growing your own or participating in community gardens are all excellent ways of reducing the carbon footprint of your meals as well as ensuring they are nutritional. It’s also helpful in a number of other ways, including supporting small business and charities.
Taking the step to eating organic food can also be very helpful – although it isn’t nutritionally any better it is a better option for the environment, and many would agree that organic fruit and vegetables taste better. Organic food uses bio-fertilisers instead of chemical pesticides, which is better for the planet and for the farmers who deal with it on a daily basis.
One of the best things about Australian cuisine is that it’s so diverse, with many different cultural influences – the problem with this, is that a lot of non-native food has to be shipped or flown into the country.
Do some research into what native foods you like – macadamia nuts for example are delicious and versatile, and are indigenous to Australia, while bunya nuts can be eaten as they are or cooked into bread, pancakes, biscuits and houmous. There are also indigenous yams, gooseberries, apples and plums, and many other delicious fruits, vegetables and nuts. If you choose to eat meat, opt for kangaroo or ostrich, which is not only cheaper but has travelled much less.
Here’s just one delicious meal that can be made with locally-sourced meat – see how many of the ingredients you can get from within the country. Kangaroo meat is excellent, not just because it doesn’t need to be imported but because it’s high in protein and low in fat.
- 500g kangaroo mince
- 1 small diced onion
- 2 minced cloves of garlic
- Died chilli flakes
- 1 can tomatoes
- 1 can kidney beans
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a thick pan and then fry the garlic and onion until they’re soft
Add the mince and fry for a few minutes
Add in the chilli and spices, stirring while frying for another few minutes
Stir in the remaining ingredients and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes
Season to taste and serve with rice or couscous
And remember – a dirty oven wastes much more energy than a clean one, so don’t leave it too long to have your oven cleaned!