What is Sustainable Food?

Although ‘Sustainable Food’ is the focus of our work, the term is very difficult to define as it encompasses many different elements.

Sustain, a founding partner of the Sustainable Food Cities Network, offers this working definition:

Sustainable food should be produced, processed and traded in ways that:

  • Contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods – both in the UK and, in the case of imported products, in producer countries;
  • Protect the diversity of both plants and animals and the welfare of farmed and wild species,
  • Avoid damaging or wasting natural resources or contributing to climate change;
  • Provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products, and educational opportunities.


What is a Sustainable Diet?

Here are six principles that you should adopt when trying to shift towards a more sustainable diet. They were originally from the Guide to Good Food which was published by Sustain.

Sticking to all these principles may seem daunting, but they can actually be easily accommodated into your everyday life. Don’t try to do everything at once; be realistic with your aims and make it a personal experiment. Many people think that their diets alone will not make a significant difference to our practices or are planet, but in reality we are very powerful as consumers, and small changes can make a big difference in the long-term.

 1) Aim to be Waste-Free

Reducing food waste (and packaging) saves the energy, effort, and natural resources used to produce and dispose of it, as well as money.

2) Eat Less Meat and Dairy

Consuming more vegetables and fruit, grains and pulses, and smaller amounts of animal products is better for both your health and the environment.

3) Buy Local, Seasonal, and Environmentally Friendly Food

This reduces the carbon emissions associated with your diet, supports the local economy, and benefits animals and the countryside.

4) Choose Fairtrade Products

This ensures that producers around the world receive a fair salary and better working conditions.

5) Select Sustainable Fish

Future generations won’t be able to eat fish and seafood unless we maintain the stocks.

6) Avoid Processed Food

Unlike homemade food, processed food contains high amounts of sugar, salt and fat which is bad for our bodies when eaten in excess.


More information

For a clear and engaging presentation of the issues, watch Tara Garnett from the the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) speaking at a recent conference in Oxford (start watching the video at 16min20s).

The FCRN has also published the online booklet foodsource, which consists of 10 fully referenced, comprehensive chapters that describe why and how food has become a focal point for interconnected social, environmental and ethical concerns.