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Unsustainable Eating

Posted on 15th November 2010 in Sustainability
Written by: Jen Dugdale

On top of all the general fuss about scarce resources and running out of the world’s supplies, a leading academic has now come forward to say that the amount of food we’re eating isn’t helping matters.

City University’s Dr David Barling, one of the leading academic bright sparks when it comes to food sustainability, said that the energy, process and amount of travel involved in producing food is unsustainable with how much we eat.

To put it simply, if we carry on scoffing like we do now, then we’re going to run out of grub! And it’s not just food levels that are under threat…

It’s staggering the amount of green house gases emitted during food growing, rearing and producing, not to mention packaging and transportation, which presents the UK (and the rest of the world) with a dangerous issue.

So what are the stats? Food consumption accounts for 31% of all the EU’s consumption-related green house gas emissions; in 2001 agriculture accounted for 14% of ALL global green house gas emissions; agriculture and food was responsible for around 18% in 2008; 25% of all freight miles in the UK are transporting food with HALF of these journeys being undertaken by empty HGVs returning home.

The list goes on…

So what can we actually take from this? Are we supposed to stop eating? It’s unclear what action is required from a strong and severe message like this. I suppose if we followed supply and demand rules, we could all spend less money on food so less would be made, reducing the carbon footprint for food production.

There is however a major flaw in this plan; with the economic climate in the state it’s in currently, we’d cripple the UK economy if we significantly reduced the volume of cash we pump into food retail and hospitality.

Possibly one of the biggest contributors to this consumption dilemma is the frightening amount of food wasted in the UK alone. Barling claims that 6.7 million tonnes of food waste are generated by UK homes every year. So the problem isn’t the food we eat…it’s the food we don’t eat!

There’s a constant battle between the ever-diminishing state of the planet and the equally bleak economic climate. We just need to make sure we’re sensitive to both of these issues and don’t take them for granted…