Sustainability

Posts that are related to food sustainability

The danger of monocultures

The Sustainability of Bananas

Like much of the UK population, bananas are my favourite fruit. They’re packed with potassium, Vitamin B6 and many other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They make a perfect snack to sustain energy levels thanks to a combination of ‘quick’ and ‘slow’ releasing sugars. To meet our desire for this fabulous fruit we import around 5 billion bananas into the UK every year!

Environmental credentials

In terms of sustainability, bananas have a fairly low environmental impact. This is due to their low carbon footprint which is estimated at 0.48 kg CO2e per kilo. If we compare this to UK tomatoes (grown in greenhouses) which are 2.5 kg CO2e per kilo, this seems quite small. Bananas are energy efficient as they use natural sunlight to grow. They also come with their own tough skin which acts as natural packaging. This is favourable compared to soft berries that need plastic packaging to keep them in perfect condition.

The drama

Global plantations are now under serious threat from Panama disease. Major companies such as Fyfes and Del Monte, have become over-reliant on growing just one species known as the Cavendish. This variety is popular because it was (at first) disease resistant, easy to grow, easy to transport and sweet. Global production methods which rely growing only one species (monoculture) can be problematic. Bananas have become a monoculture crop. Planting the same crop in the same place each year drains nutrients from the soil. This is because nutrients are not naturally replenished as with polyculture and crop rotation techniques. As monoculture soils need more fertilisers it keeps the artificial cycle of nutrient depletion and repletion going. Furthermore, when disease strikes all the plants are susceptible and killed off in one go as there is no natural variety to limit the damage.  All that’s left is infertile waste land.

Panama disease is now spreading rapidly throughout plantations and threatening the survival of this Cavendish variety. So far it’s spread through Sout- East Asia, China, Australia and Africa. It seems like a ‘no brainer’ but if banana plantations diversified species then one disease wouldn’t have such a disastrous effect.


So what can we do?

It’s tricky as we are at the mercy of what industry provides us! However, if consumers are willing to try new varieties it may encourage producers and suppliers to invest in these crops meaning we will have a more secure supply in the long term.

There are some alternative varieties to the Cavendish such as the ‘Latundan‘ banana (also known as Tundan/Apple Bananas) and these can already be found in some supermarkets.

If you’re working for a food company or retail chain, find ways to identify, sample and try new varieties of banana. Whether this be for new product formulation or simply to be marketed straight to the consumer. This will help our banana supply be more sustainable in the long term.

I offer consultation services to the food industry including: Product Development, Menu Design, Supply Chain Analysis and Sustainability Cooordination. If you would like best-in-class guidance on this or any foods, please get in touch.

Citations

  • How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything (Mike Berners-Lee, 2010)
  • Coop life cycle analysis (2009)

Harriets of Hove store

Harriet’s of Hove – reducing waste in Brighton and Hove

Meet the owner and find out why reducing waste could never be easier

There has been an explosion of ‘zero waste’ shops in the past 5 years thanks to an increasing consumer awareness of environmental issues and the ‘war on plastic’. Harriets of Hove is one such shop and is a real gem in the heart of BN3.

I was particularly interested in talking Harriet as I’d heard on the grapevine she was an NHS nurse. Having worked in the NHS myself I was keen to explore her thoughts on the medical profession and the environmental sciences which, historically, have been worlds apart. Similar to me, Harriet witnessed first hand the environmental impact of the NHS. Our chat reminded me of why I moved into the area of sustainability. I was horrified at the amount hospital food that was wasted and the use of cheap, factory farmed meats.

Harriets Of Hove
Louise and Harriet

For Harriet, seeing the sheer amount of disposed plastic lead to the epiphany that ultimately resulted in her pantry. Despite taking up a role as a NHS sustainability ambassador she was frustrated how slow it was to change. On top of this, Harriet struggled to fit in ‘zero-waste’ shopping with nursing shifts as it was time consuming. Going it alone and setting up her own business seemed like the ideal solution.

Walking into the pantry you are faced with a wonderful display of plastic-free/eco goodies. The refillable products range from floor cleaner to shampoo. Harriet tries to source local, environmentally friendly brands such as the Green Goddess. There’s also an enticing range of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Despite  90’s dance music playing in the background the shop had had a tranquil feel! Customers took their time to browse, chatting about the products and environmental issues. As I spent more time there I couldn’t help but feel that shopping in this way is a much more socially enriched experience than going to other, larger retail outlets.

facts about Harriet and her plastic free pantry

It was great to meet Harriet and we had so much to chat about. Understandably she is really enthusiastic about her shop, products and team. I’ve chosen some great facts from our interview:

  • It only took 3 months to take her dream of having her own ‘zero waste’ shop to a reality. She describes the whole process as ‘really fun and exhilarating’.
  • Her refills are very affordable. I witnessed myself the nervousness of a new shopper re-filling their plastic container and the pleasant surprise when it came back “much less than I imagined!” As Harriet quite rightly pointed out “if it was expensive it wouldn’t be good for business”.
  • Every product has a story. Many brands have started with people who have wanted to make real change for the good.
  • Harriet stocks a wide range of goods from soap to olive oil. I particularly liked the toothclean tablets (tubes are impossible to recycle!)
  • If you can’t get into her shop you’ll soon be able to buy online. Keep an eye out: harrietsofhove.com
  • Harriet’s favourite product is the sustainable glitter (made by a lady ‘just round the corner’) and the Apple Cider Vinegar (the company come and collect the empty vat as a new one is delivered as part of the service).
  • HOH isn’t just stopping at being a retail outlet. Future plans include hosting workshops, arts + crafts activities, talks and discussions when the shop isn’t in use.

Harriet’s ‘zero waste’ top-tips

  • Save shampoo and conditioner bottles as they are the most durable bottle for refilling
  • Try Beeswax wraps instead of cling film (sold in store)
  • Make a container out of anything; plastic bag for rubbish, empty tins for pen pots etc

My top-tip

Try and get into a habit of re-using containers in a way that works for you. I find having one full bottle in use and another spare, empty version in a box near the door. This is so that when you’re about to leave you can see your refill pile totting up. The number of times I’ve failed to fill up a my bottle  and then had to buy a whole new product because I not got out in time to refill it!

If you are in the Brighton and Hove area, I highly recommend popping in! You can find Harriets of Hove here:

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streetcube logo

I’m a trusted advocate of streetcube

Streetcube is a new project which transforms shipping containers into street kitchens which serve sustainable gastronomy food.

Streetcube’s innovative sustainable kitchens

They’re launching all over the UK, with the first one being opened in Wandsworth last week.

As a Dietitian with expertise in food sustainability, I am closely aligned with their core values. I’m really pleased to have been chosen as one of their Trusted Advocates. Other Advocates include Raymond Blanc, Dr Clare Pettinger and Professor Philip Sloan.

This project has recently been launched and I’m looking forward to working with the founder and his team on food sourcing, recipe development and creative content for the web platform. Watch this space…

Grow and play pster

Grow and Play – Nature and food growing for children

I’m really fortunate to have a fantastic, practical role as a Project Lead for Grow and Play at community allotment called Plot 22 in Hove.

Grow and Play provides outdoor learning opportunities for young children and families living in high population areas of the city who may not have access to a garden. We teach the group about conservation, wildlife, nature, food-growing and cooking. The idea is that the group apply the skills they have learnt to their home environment and wider community.

Participants will prepare the harvested food and cook nutritious meals using healthy, inexpensive ingredients – these are important skills which the families can use at home. I believe that eating in a healthy and sustainable way should be something everyone understands and has access to.

My role as project lead began in 2016 and I have learnt lots including how to write funding applications for charities in the food and sustainability sector.

Plot 22 also runs many projects, events and workshops.

Louise and Hazel on the food medic podcast

My interview on the Food Medic Podcast

I was delighted to be interviewed on the Food Medic Podcast with the lovely Hazel Wallace.

This was my first podcast experience and despite a bit of newbie-nerves I think it went really well!

It was recorded at Global Studios, London in February 2019.

For those who don’t know Hazel’s work, she is a Doctor specialising in nutritional medicine (and an awesome podcast host too!)

In this episode we discussed some really interesting topics including:

  • What do we mean by a sustainable diet?
  • Why is it important to think about the cost of human health as well as the health of the planet?
  • Is a Vegan diet the most sustainable way of eating for the planet?
  • The EAT-Lancet report; what it is it and what does it actually mean with respect to UK public health message?
  • The social and economical factors which can influence and inhibit sustainable dietary recommendations?
  • The sustainability of plant based milks.
  • Sourcing of sustainable and healthy meat.

You can find the podcast here (Season 2 Episode 9)….don’t forget to subscribe: https://thefoodmedic.co.uk/the-podcast/season-2/

Or on the Apple podcast app here