Food and shopping

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Reducing your emissions from food and shopping is a complex matter, partly because it can be hard to get the facts we need to make informed choices. We generally don’t have these facts about food production and transport at our fingertips.

For example, we are told that food miles count, but transport accounts for only a small proportion of the greenhouse emissions that the food system generates, and the mode of transport is as important as the distance travelled (for example, a kilogram of food transported in a commercial van generates about a hundred times the emissions that would have been produced if it had been carried the same distance in a coastal ship). 

Basic guidelines

There are guidelines we can follow that in most cases will reduce emissions from food and other forms of consumption, such as the following:

  • Don’t waste food or buy other items unnecessarily. Think about what you need and do a shopping list to guide you (this is not to say you can’t buy things just for pleasure, but do it thoughtfully).
  • Try shopping without a car, or if shopping by car buy enough for a week or more. The emissions from shopping by car are likely to be greater than all the other transport emissions for the items you buy, even if they have travelled thousands of kilometres.
  • Don’t buy highly packaged or processed food, as the extra processes and materials add to emissions.
  • Buy food in season, as out-of-season food generates extra emissions from storage and refrigeration.
  • Reduce meat, especially beef and lamb, and reduce dairy, as cattle and sheep are major producers of methane.
  • Buy local unless, for the reasons described above, you believe that other factors outweigh this.
  • Grow your own food, and share it if you have too much (and others might do the same).
  • Compost waste food and food scraps.
  • With regard to non-food items, buy durable products so that you don’t have to replace them so soon.
  • Support the re-use of products, by buying second-hand, or giving away unwanted items to family, friends or op-shops.
  • Consider participating in a sharing scheme (for example, for toys, tools or cars).
  • Greenhouse gas emissions are of course only one of many factors that you may choose to consider when buying food or other items. Others factors may include freshness, quality, supporting local producers, a fair price or wage and good conditions for producers, the absence of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, health, non-cruelty to animals, and ensuring survival of species (such as fish). But emissions are important too.

More information

Sustainable consumption (including food)

Consumer sharing schemes

Giving stuff away

  • Google 'websites for giving stuff away australia'

Avoiding food waste

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