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What does “eating sustainably” mean? To put it simply, it means to eat food that gives us adequate nutrition and energy, with the least amount of negative impact, or footprint, on our earth. This includes being mindful of the safety and quality of our air, soil, water, and people. From the moment a seed is planted and grown to the time it is harvested, delivered, and purchased, creating a meal involves more than what you see on your plate. Your food does more than satiate you; it impacts the health of farmers and workers, local and global agricultural land, the food industry, and the climate. It is important to be be aware of the story of our food since it is the thing that nourishes us and connects us to the earth.
When selecting food to purchase and eat, there are several factors to consider:
- Sustainable Farming & Welfare. How was it naturally grown in season or out-of-season with excessive pesticides? How was the animal raised? In a cage or roaming free? Humanely with proper feed?
- Transportation. How did the food travel to you--by truck, train, plan? Is it local (located within a 150-mile radius) or from another continent?
- Workers' Rights. Do the farmworkers receive a fair, living wage? Do these people have safe, working conditions?
- Habitat and Environment Protection. What does the environment (from which your food originated) look like now? Is the land still arable? Were trees chopped down? Was that part of the ocean degraded or overfished?
- Waste and Packaging Reduction. How was your food packaged? Minimal plastic and reusable packaging? What will become of your leftover food? Will you save, donate, or compost it?
It may be difficult to always know the answers to these questions or to make sure you have a completely sustainable meal that is fresh, low-carbon, and fair trade, but the important fact is that you are striving to make knowledgeable and mindful decisions about your food. To learn more about sustainable food, you can read The Kindling Trust definition or this SF Gate Home Guide that lists multiple definitions.
Eating on or near campus already lessens your footprint: Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) provides SCU’s Dining Services and is a pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies. You can also start eating more sustainably by purchasing produce from Santa Clara’s Franklin Square Farmers’ Market or through the Center for Sustainability’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) produce delivery with Catalán Farms in Hollister, CA. These two latter options can guarantee that the food is in season and local (as it brings together farmers in the area), and it can give you a better chance of minimal pesticides or chemicals in your fruits and vegetables.
Fresh from the Forge Garden
Have you considered making a switch to buying organic? It’s true, organic goods are usually more expensive, but the price is well-worth the benefits! Consumption of organic foods and products has huge impacts--both immediate and long-term--on your personal health, and that of the environment and the agricultural communities involved in organic production. So, next time you have to make a choice, vote with your fork, and choose Organic!
Here are 10 more reasons to go Organic (from the Organic Trade Association):
1. Organic products meet stringent standards
Organic certification is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent toxic chemical inputs.
2. Organic food tastes great!
It’s common sense – well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.
3. Organic production reduces health risks
Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is one way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, earth and water that sustain us.
4. Organic farms respect our water resources
The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen-leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.
5. Organic farmers build healthy soil
Soil is the foundation of the food chain. The primary focus of organic farming is to use practices that build healthy soils.
6. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature
Organic agricultural respects the balance demanded of a healthy ecosystem: wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.
7. Organic producers are leaders in innovative research
Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the natural environment.
8. Organic producers strive to preserve diversity
The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual and unique varieties for decades.
9. Organic farming helps keep rural communities healthy
USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can command fair prices for crops.
10. Organic abundance – Foods and non-foods alike!
Nowadays, practically every food category has an organic alternative. And, non-food agricultural products are being grown organically – even cotton, which most experts thought it could not be grown this way.