From Amy Briden on Vorovoro:
Recently on an overcast afternoon, some of the tribe gathered together in the Grand Bure to have a delicious ‘green’ discussion. There are four main principles to Sustainability and it is often broken up into Water, Food, Energy and Waste.
As it’s been a large tribe over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of focus in helping out in the kitchen, getting involved in the preparation of meals and learning about the food we buy as well as what we find and grow around the island. It’s also an exciting time of year where a lot of the plants have had plenty of water from the rainy season, have nestled their roots in firmly and are starting to shoot out of the soils. At the moment, the pawpaw trees are heavily laden with ripening fruit and the Chinese cabbages Leavi has nurtured and transplanted, are steadily sprouting. The gardens are a haven of growth…so it’s a great time to discuss FOOD.
So what are we doing on the island in regards to Sustainability and Food?
The tribe came up with the answers and we went through each one and discussed them.
COMPOST: Reusing our food waste to put on the land…this makes the trees happy and add important nutrients into the soil!
FOOD LOGGING: The tribe have been fantastic this week and have done a great job in going through all our bags (eco bags!) and rice sacks of shopping once they come off the boat. The idea is that we are monitoring what comes on to the island, what we buy locally and what type of products we have bought which have been imported. We weigh each individual product and write down exactly where it’s from.
Not only do we want to find out the percentages of all of these, the main aim is to reduce everything that we buy from overseas, support the local farmers and Labasa market as well as cut out or use alternatives that are from far away places.
USING THE LAND: Growing our own vegetables, planting fruit trees, picking fresh herbs, foraging…
USING THE SEA: Spear fishing. Bringing back adult fish and just enough to feed the tribe.
Currently our statistics show that we are using about 25% from the land and sea.
We discussed what else we can do on the island, how we can improve/alter as well as how we can increase the percentage of being sustainable here with the growing tribe numbers….
WORK FORCE: The gardens need continual loving and although Leavi is doing a great job and looking after his family, lots of hands are needed to weed, nurture, transplant and tend to all the plants. If you love gardening with guitars playing in the background, Fruitopia needs your help!
WATER: In the rainy season, the earth has too much and the ground is sodden washing away all the plants and encouraging weeds. In the past we haven’t had enough water for the gardens in the dry season…but now the Dam has been finished! Woop! This will provide much needed water in the gardens during the dry season so hopefully we will be producing a lot more fruit and veg for the tribe in the future!
The chat went on…
What do people do back home?
TRIBE: Jon grows his own veg on his roof in containers, Adam’s girlfriend’s family lives very organically and grows as much as they can on their land, Fiona has recently spent time on a dairy farm in New Zealand where the family were living a ‘green’ existence and living the good life. Mairead comes from Ireland and understands about farming and gardening, Aussie couple Katherine and James are into sustainable living and buy all their vegetables and fruit from the local market as well as buying only organic produce. I have been studying lots of green books from our library recently (love it!) and our Wavu is getting involved with the Green Club at Mali School and writing a fact a day up in the toilets.
So everyone is aware of being more ‘food’ sustainable, has thought about growing their own veg, questioned where food comes from, has ideas in which we can improve healthier, tastier living…
We then went onto what’s happening in the world today.
What are the global issues regarding food?
This is what we discussed…
Did you know that the average item of food you see in a supermarket has travelled more than 1,600 km?
The tribe all agreed that more and more supermarkets are taking over and pushing out smaller businesses and local farmers. Fiona mentioned that where she lives in England, there used to be farming all around Greater Manchester, but now this has all been taken over by building development and there are only pockets of fields left. Katherine also mentioned that the suicide rate of potato farmers have increased dramatically in Australia as they aren’t able to earn enough. Adam mentioned that in Kent there is a large area of land which has been purposely used for farming but they spray the crops and this area supplies a large supermarket near him.
Fiona brought up ‘Kill it, cook it, eat it.’
Being on the island, you really appreciate where food comes from. i.e. the fish are caught, de-scaled and gutted, cooked and prepared ready to eat all in the same day. Food this way is fresh and you can see the process from start to finish. We concluded that a lot of us are loosing our contact and connection with nature and people aren’t always aware of where food comes from/what it looks like to begin with.
We also chatted about the desire to have anything we want when going to supermarkets and everything is so readily available. People’s lifestyles and marketing campaigns have pushed society into living conveniently and ‘having everything on a plate’…it’s more an ‘I want’ view rather than ‘I need’.
Food miles means the journey in which food takes from the farmer to the processor, from the processor to the packager, from the packager to the shop and from the shop to the consumer. Food travels even further nowadays as people prefer to do all their shopping at a super market rather than at lots of different shops. The range of products in a supermarket is so great now due to public demand that you can buy anything from anywhere…
So why is it important to reduce the number of miles that food travels?
Preservatives are put into food which travels a long way and some produce is often stored in controlled refrigerators for days and even months at a time. Apparently, we learnt that Big Cruise ships can keep apples up to 3 months in a vat but as soon as they are taken out, they ripen up.
The further food travels, the less fresh it is and it looses vitamins and its nutritional value.
Food travelling around the world is also bad for the environment due to all the fossil fuels being used.
The well being of live animals that are being transported, sometimes for days from one country to another, also needs to be considered.
WE ARE WHAT WE EAT
We discussed about the welfare of animals and hormones which are given to animals to make them even bigger as there is now more demand. Apparently a lot of cows are given antibiotics as their udders become increasingly sore and scabby as they are forced to produce more milk. It really made us think and want to buy only organic milk.
The tribe also brought up Macdonalds and why it appeals to people, what is actually in the ingredients and who would eat a Big Mac? There was some very interesting burger chat! Interestingly, Jon told us that although certain fast food chains claim that there is 100% beef in every burger, this doesn’t mean that it is actually edible bits or meat just that 100% comes from a cow. Scary stuff!
So this led us onto discussing about…
What’s in our food?
We also discussed not only about a certain product coming from miles away but also products which include various ingredients…so although the milk in Cadbury’s chocolate comes from the UK, cocoa travels all the way from South America. Aussie James brought up an interesting point that he learnt from a documentary where they interviewed workers who farmed cocoa beans in Cote D’Ivoire but they hadn’t ever tasted chocolate or didn’t know what it was.
So what can we do once we are back home?
Here are a few suggestions that the tribe came up with…
Buy certified organic products…this is produce that is based on natural processes such as crop rotation and natural predators rather than using nasty chemicals, pesticides, animal drugs or food additives that are potentially harmful to us. Crops are grown to work sustainably with the environment.
Buy fairtrade: this ensures that people are paid for their produce fairly as well as considering the environment. Rainforest clearance is not practised and many pesticides are banned.
Buy seasonal goods from your own country and reduce how much you buy from other countries.
Did you know that 95% of fruit and 50% of vegetables eaten in the UK are imported? Crazy statistics!
Pick your own fruit and veg so you know that your food is fresh…
Support local farmers by buying produce from Farmers Markets.
…and even better, grow your own food in your back garden!
Make your own lunch…this can be a scrummy sandwich, a fresh salad or use the left overs in the fridge. At least you know what’s in it, saves on food miles as well as all the packaging that goes with it.
So most importantly, we learnt to really think about what we purchase and what we put in our mouths everyday…
A good start is to research into products so you know what’s in them, if they are good for you and if they support fairtrade and are organic. There are numerous websites, books and articles out there which will really help and there are some really informative ones below:
The Good Shopping Guide ‘Your Guide to a Clear Conscience’ Published by the Ethical Marketing Group
The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnaun (don’t be put off by the title, it’s a really inspiring read!)
And a great one for children…
You can save the planet: A day in the life of your carbon footprint by Rich Hough
So, everyone learnt a lot and the discussion could have gone on for a lot longer…but ironically we heard the food bell! It definitely makes you question where your food comes from, what we put inside our bodies and how we can do something to decrease food miles and be on the sustainable path to happy and healthy living!
Please share with the tribe your thoughts, ideas, any other useful websites etc.