The current global food system is responsible for the emission of 20 to 35% of the total greenhouse gases, occupying about 40% of the available land. With the world population estimated to exceed 9 billion in 2050, food production will have to increase by 60%. On the other hand, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually, which corresponds to about 1/3 of all production. (1)
In the national case, according to a study (2) published in 2020, food is responsible for 29% of the Portuguese ecological footprint. In fact, we are the Mediterranean country with the largest per capita food footprint. Now, the way we eat and how we choose and buy food is a powerful tool to reduce our ecological footprint, to fight food waste and, at the same time, to contribute to a fairer society and a livable and sustainable planet for all.
How to buy food in a (more) conscious way?
- Make a shopping list, after rigorously checking the pantry and fridge (RETHINK), and set a budget.
- Plan meals and portions to prepare and buy according to the exact quantities to be used in these meals (REDUCE).
- Design a meal plan that allows you to reduce the purchase of animal products, trying new recipes (with legumes, vegetables, cereals and tubers, seeds, fatty fruits, fruit,...) (REDUCE).
- Opt for reusable containers and bags for bulk refueling (REUSE).
Buy less, buy better
- Avoid going shopping at mealtimes or when hungry, so as not to buy food items on impulse and not necessary.
- Privigate the purchase of food from non-intensive agriculture and that values (and regenerates) ecosystems.
- Encourage a food production and marketing system based on short agri-food circuits, supporting local and national producers, respecting seasonality. Direct or short distribution channels, where there are a limited number of operators, are more sustainable, as they guarantee greater proximity between the consumer and the producer, an increase in the consumption of fresher foods, the practice of a fairer value for the products. and a reduction in CO2 emissions and the use of packaging.
- Refuse over-packing or unnecessary, single-use packaging.
- Whenever possible, buy in bulk, reusing containers and replenishing exact quantities that correspond to actual needs, later confirmed in the meal preparation phase.
Advantages of Buying in Bulk
Positive impact of these stores for the communities in which they are inserted from a social, environmental and economic point of view:
- Access to more nutritious and healthy (unprocessed) foods.
- Control of the quantities purchased (more power for the consumer) and the possibility to try new flavors.
- In many cases, in addition to organic production certification, there is also fair trade certification.
- As a planned consumption gesture (exact amounts), it contributes to the reduction of food waste.
- When associated with the reuse of bags and/or containers, it also contributes to the prevention and reduction of waste generation, through the refusal of single-use packaging.
- Proximity service (creation of bonds and affection with the community).
- Convenience factor (neighborhood stores).
- Innovation and collaboration with universities in the development of disruptive design and packaging.
- Growing support for national producers and suppliers.
- Collaboration with universities (case studies; internships;...).
- Absence of refrigeration (dry groceries) and long shelf life with a very significant impact on reducing energy consumption, water and emissions.
- Increased transparency in the chain.
- Strong control of HACCP principles, supervised and certified by an external entity.
- Strong sense of community: events, workshops, conferences.
- Choose foods outside the imposed aesthetic standards or usual caliber, also investing in their full use (stems, branches, seeds,... for example, the leek branch is delicious roasted or sautéed).
- Support projects and download applications to combat food waste.
- Take into account the validity of the product - the indication “preferably consume by...” means that it can still be consumed after this period, as long as it is in good condition.
As consumers, we can and should (actively) demand transparency, traceability and widespread access to information validated by competent and independent organizations, making it possible (and easy) to make an informed comparison between products, taking into account: product life cycle , environmental, social and economic impact.
To consume more consciously is to co-create the future we want to live in.
START TO CONSUME SUSTAINABLY, BUY AT SHOP 14ºC
Written by Eunice Maia | Maria Granel BIO – Founder of Maria Granel, the first 100% organic grocery store in bulk and “zero waste store” in Portugal (2015); creator of the Z(h)ero Program, an environmental educational project to reduce waste for companies and schools; Terre de Femmes Award 2019 and author of the book Desafio Zero – a practical guide to waste reduction, inside and outside the home.
Bibliographic references (1) Morawicki RO, Díaz González DJ. Food sustainability in the context of human behavior. Yale J Biol Med. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6020726/pdf/yjbm_91_2_191.pdf (2) Galli A, Moreno Pires S, Iha K, Alves AA, Lin D, Mancini MS, et al. al. Sustainable food transition in Portugal: Assessing the Footprint of dietary choices and gaps in national and local food policies.Sci Total Environ. 2020.