By Lindsay Hopkins, SA Harvest Sustainability Manager
In the month in which we celebrate World Environment Day, the spotlight turns onto a familiar terrain where the rhythms of life are marked by the sowing and reaping of crops – our food system. Just as the health of our environment is a measure of our collective actions, so is the state of our food system a reflection of our everyday choices.
The global food system is responsible for up to 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions, a staggering figure that underlines our food choices’ direct impact on the environment. A shift in our food habits and consumption patterns, therefore, can have a profound effect on our ecological footprint. This narrative ties into the thread of introspection that our Sustainability Manager, Lindsay Hopkins, eloquently highlights: how can we, as individuals, make a difference?
The equation seems simple at first glance. Food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, with roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption lost or wasted annually. In South Africa, this waste is estimated at around 10,3 million tonnes per year, equivalent to R67 billion in input costs alone. Imagine, amidst this excess, nearly 26% of our population, or about 20 million people, suffer from hunger daily.
As consumers, we can do better. If we peel back the layers of our food choices, we realise that we control more than we think. Online shopping, for instance, may seem convenient, but have we considered its environmental cost? From the excess packaging to the emissions from delivery vehicles, the convenience of a few clicks comes at a high environmental price. Furthermore, often these platforms sell products that make no business sense unless created under questionable working conditions and environmental disregard.
We don’t just consume food; we consume the resources used to produce, process, and transport that food. Thus, every decision we make, from the type of food we buy to where we buy it from, has an environmental consequence. By opting for local produce, we not only support our local economy but also reduce the carbon footprint associated with long-distance food transport. It’s a win-win situation.
On commemoration of World Environment Day, we challenge you to reevaluate your role in our shared food system. Reflect on the life cycle of everything you consume. Think about the disposable cutlery that comes with your takeaway food – can you reject it next time? Remember, those extra items come with an environmental cost, one that we are paying for even if we don’t realize it.
The journey towards a sustainable food system starts with understanding our role and our power in shaping it. As Lindsay points out, responsible choices eventually become a way of life. By making sustainability a personal commitment, we not only lighten our environmental footprint but also influence those around us to do the same.
Let’s use our forks as tools for change. Let’s commit to transforming our food system one meal at a time. As we begin with ourselves, we inspire those around us to join this essential journey towards a sustainable future. After all, the change begins at home, and home is where the kitchen is.