The City of Melbourne has an overarching vision to improve our food system. Our aim is to promote sustainable choices within a system that is secure, healthy and socially inclusive. By supporting sustainable food production and consumption within the city and nearby regions we can reduce the negative environmental impacts of Melbourne’s food system and enhance our future food security.
This guide, We Need to Talk About Food – how we can all build a better food system, builds on the City of Melbourne’s Food Policy, and will help our community understand the impacts of food and enable them to make more sustainable choices.
To find out more visit www.melbourne.vic.gov.au
Sustainable Table is a young and innovative not-for-profit organisation that empowers people to use their shopping dollar to vote for a food system that is fair, humane, healthy and good for the environment.
Sustainable Table delivers challenging and creative events, taps into social media networks, provides consulting services and shares information through a website and selection of books – empowering people to overcome today’s environmental challenges, one meal at a time.
Sustainable Table also supports projects around the world that help to restore the natural environment to ensure the safe and ongoing provision of food.
To find out more visit www.sustainabletable.org.au
Sustainability Spring Clean
10 Steps to Sustainability - Businesses
10 Steps to Sustainability - Individuals
A City Dweller’s Guide to Sustainable Food
Sustainable Food Checklist
Sustainable Shopping Close to You
Sustainable Seafood Guide
Victorian Seasonal Produce Guide
Start today and help to shape a sustainable food system for us and future generations.
Sustainability Spring Clean – Your personal food audit
Choose the answer that is closest to your weekly behaviour. No one is judging your answers and by recognising where your impact is you will be able to make quick and simple improvements, so be honest!
The number you select in your answer equals the points scored i.e. 10 coffees a week equates to 10 points.
How many takeaway coffees do you drink a week?
>10 5 2 none, or when I do I use a keep cup (0)
One takeaway coffee every day equals 365 cups and lids every year that must be recycled or taken to landfill.
Take your own cup and save 1kg of plastic lids and 5kgs of landfill each year1.
How many canned drinks and how much canned food do you use weekly i.e. tomatoes, corn, beans?
>10 5 2 occasionally (1) never (0)
Cans are made of steel, tin or aluminium and are lined with plastic. Each year Australians generate about 6.4 kg of steel scrap that can be recycled.2 Although it’s best to reduce our use of canned foods in the first place, recycling cans saves energy and water and reduces carbon emissions – recycling 1 tonne of packaging steel saves 400kg of carbon emissions.
Reduce or eliminate canned food and drink from your shopping basket. Buy food fresh and unpackaged from local producers and reduce the environmental impact of your food choices.
How many cans of fish do you eat each week?
5 3 2 occasionally (1) never (0)
250 million cans of tuna are sold in Australia each year.i Most tuna species are listed as threatened and all populations of Bluefin Tuna species are susceptible to collapse due to overfishing.3
Buy sustainably sourced fish fresh, free from packaging. Use our Sustainable Seafood Guide to help you choose when you’re next at the fish monger or market.
If you just can’t cut canned tuna out of your life completely right now, then take a look at the Greenpeace Canned Tuna Ranking (greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/Take-action/canned-tuna-guide/).
How often do you purchase your lunch or dinner from a takeaway outlet?
>10 5 2 occasionally (1) never (0)
Australia consumes over 3.4 million tonnes of packaging every year - that's roughly 165kg per person, of which only 48 per cent is recycled.4 The rest is taken to landfill or enters the environment, taking hundreds of years to break down.
Take your own lunch to work – this can save you lots of money and is likely to be healthier for you in the long run. If you have to buy your lunch or dinner, use your own plate or reusable container and cutlery. You’ll be surprised by the number of takeaway shop owners that will be happy to oblige.
How many imported food items do you have in your fridge or pantry i.e. tomatoes, sauces,fresh fruit and vegetables?
Many products in the average Australian grocery trolley are imported long distances from overseas. As a result the average shopping basket has travelled over 70,000 km—that’s nearly two times the distance around the Earth.
Buy food that is locally produced, either direct from the farm gate or at a farmers’ market, through co-ops or community food swaps - see the City Dweller’s Guide to Sustainable Shopping to help you out. Better yet, grow some of your own... that’s as local as it gets!
What proportion of your fresh food is organic and grown locally?
None or don’t know (8) 10% (7) 30%-50% (5) 51%-70% (3) 71%-99% (1) all (0)
Organic food is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals that can destroy soil heath and negatively impact the environment. Locally grown food can save carbon emissions because less transport is involved in getting the food from the farm to your plate.
Use localharvest.org.au to find good food close to you. Simply enter your postcode to see local organic produce shops, farmers’ markets, box systems and farm gates.
How many times a week do you eat meat or fish?
14 or more (at least every lunch and dinner) 7 5 2 never (0)
The meat and livestock industry is a large contributor to emissions and water use. Reducing meat consumption to the levels recommended by the Australian National Dietary Guidelines can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,354 kg CO2 and water use by 70,145 litres per household.5
The Australian National Dietary Guidelines recommend a 65-100g serve of meat, fish or meat-alternative each day. In total that’s 54.75kg of meat, fish, and poultry or meat alternatives in a year. However, the average Australian consumes 123.8kg meat, fish, and poultry per year – that’s more than double the recommended amount!
Instigate a meat-free day* and when you do eat meat, choose ethically and sustainably farmed meat and fish. Use Sustainable Table’s online Ethical Meat Suppliers Directory at www.sustainabletable.org.au to help find good suppliers.
*If making dramatic changes to your current diet then please seek medical advice before doing so.
How many times a week do you eat or drink dairy milk, cheese and yoghurt?
>20 (every meal) 15 10 5 3 1 never (0)
The dairy industry generates 10 per cent of emissions from the agricultural sector in Australia.6 Dairy cows also consume grain which amplifies the environmental impacts.
Have some dairy free days during the week and help reduce carbon emissions in Australia.
When you do consume dairy, choose ethical and sustainable milk and cheese products from local farmers. Use localharvest.org.au to find local dairy farmers near you.
How often do you visit the supermarket to buy food?
daily (7) 4 3 2 occasionally (1) never (0)
When people get busy, they tend to cut corners when it comes to food. Popping into the shop every day instead of doing one weekly shop at a sustainable food outlet makes it harder to make ethical and sustainable food choices and can increase the amount of packaging your food comes in.
Write a shopping list and do one big weekly shop at a sustainable food outlet (such as a farmers’ market or box system) instead of many last-minute shops. Alternatively shop at a local organic co-op, where you can shop more regularly and still ensure you are buying into a better food system. Use the City Dwellers Guide to help you find the shopping mode that suits you best and make is easier to choose sustainable food.
What do you do with your food scraps?
throw it in the bin (10) compost/worm farm/feed to chooks most of the time (4)
always compost or something similar (0)
On average, 40 per cent of household waste is made up of food scraps7. When sent to landfill, food scraps rot and produce methane a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Start a compost bin or worm farm. Composting can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill by up to 50 per cent and helps cut greenhouse gas emissions by preventing methane emissions that occur when organic waste breaks down in the oxygen-starved environment of landfill. The City of Melbourne offers discounted compost bins for residents. You can find out more here - melbourne.vic.gov.au/ForResidents/WasteRecyclingandNoise/householdgarbage/Pages/composting.aspx
What % of vegetables, fruit or herbs do you grow yourself annually?
Growing your own food is a great way to reduce the environmental impacts of your food supply.
The City of Melbourne has produced a booklet called Sustainable Gardening in the City of Melbourne. It provides advice on how to garden in the city, whether in a courtyard, balcony, or window sill. Growing your own food can help save you money and it will taste better and is more convenient than heading to the shops.
Do you use plastic shopping bags?
yes, all the time (10) when I forget my green bags (4) never (0)
It takes the average family just four trips to the supermarket to accumulate 60 shopping bags. Australians used 3.92 billion plastic bags in 2007.8 The amount of petroleum used to make that many bags would drive a car around the world 1,076 times!
Bring your own shopping bags to reduce the number of plastic bags you consume.
How did I score?
82-124 - Wow, you have lots of opportunities to improve the sustainability of our food supply through some simple changes.
45-81 – You’re doing a few things really well, with some more information you’ll be able to reduce your impact even more.
17-44 – You’re well on the road to sustainability, keep going and see what other changes you can to drive even more improvements in our food system.
0-17 - Great work! You regularly choose more sustainable food practices. Why not share your story with friends and neighbours and help inspire them to change
1 KeepCup, Calculate my impact, http://www.keepcup.com.au/sustainability/calculate-my-impact, viewed 15/06/2013
2 Department of Environment and Conservation Waste Authority, The Waste Wise Schools Program, Factsheet – Steel, http://education.dec.wa.gov.au/downloads/cat_view/6-waste-wise/37-resources/58-factsheets.html, viewed 15/01/2013
7 Foodwise, Fast Facts on Food Waste, http://foodwise.com.au/food-waste/food-waste-fast-facts/, viewed 28/02/2013
8 Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Plastic Bags, http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/waste/plastic-bags/index.html, viewed 17/01/2013
iWhat’s food got to do with it? – how we can create a more sustainable food system
Food has a huge impact on the environment. Every step of the food supply chain, from production, to transport, processing, packaging and distribution has potential environmental consequences. The impacts include the use of scarce resources, biodiversity loss, waste generation, land degradation, pollution of waterways, and greenhouse gas emissions.In fact, 41.4% of the average Melbournian’s eco-footprint is embodied in the food we buy.
The City of Melbourne has a vision of a food system that is secure, healthy, sustainable, thriving and socially inclusive. A key theme in our Food Policy is to ensure that the food we produce and consume improves our environment, regenerates our natural resource base and promotes sustainable and fair food practices. We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable and secure food system, and while there isn’t a ‘silver-bullet’ that will solve all the environmental issues of our food system at once, there are a number of actions our community can take to drive change in specific areas. We have created this guide to provide you with an introduction to some of the impacts and the knowledge to prioritise the actions most important to you.
Working together, business, organisations, government and individuals, we can create a better food system for Melbourne.
What are the environmental impacts of our food system?
Issue 1 - Food is transported great distances
In Australia, food in the average shopping basket has travelled over 70,000 kms—that’s nearly two times the distance around the Earth. In fact, four imported items alone can account for nearly 50,000 kms. Even if a product is labelled as Australian-made it can still have ingredients from all over the world, adding to its transport footprint.
Transporting food long distances, either across Australia or from overseas, generally uses up more non-renewable resources than producing and eating food locally. Energy, fuel, gas and water are consumed during transportation and storage - adding to foods’ environmental impact. Transportation from farm, to processing plant, to consumer, can account for up to 11 per cent of food’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
You can reduce emissions by buying food produced locally. Want to find locally produced food? Local Harvest is an online database helping you to find good food close to you. Simply enter your postcode to see a map of local food producers and outlets. Visit localharvest.org.au.
Also see the guide Sustainable Shopping Close to You for more suggestions.
Issue 2 - Food is grown out of season
The modern food system often gives us the convenience of being able to buy out-of-season food at any time of the year, for example buying tomatoes and garlic in winter. Unfortunately out-of-season food has a much larger environmental footprint than seasonal produce. Extra energy is used in production (for example heating hot houses in the winter), transportation (if it is shipped or flown from faraway locations), and storage (due to energy needs of facilities like refrigerated warehouses).
Selecting seasonal produce is an easy way for individuals and businesses alike to reduce these impacts. Check out the Seasonal Produce – Cut and Keep Guide to find out what’s in season this month.
Issue 3 - Resources are used unsustainably
Agriculture for domestic consumption accounts for 30 per cent of Australia’s water use while globally about 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals are for irrigated agriculture. Historically, water use in agriculture has not been managed sustainably. Over-allocation can deplete environmental flows and impact downstream food production and biodiversity, while excessive irrigation can result in salinity issues and the destruction of productive agricultural land.
Water shortages, particularly in Australia, can be exacerbated by the production of water-intensive crops.
Starting your own vegetable garden, especially if you use tank-water, is a way for individuals and business to reduce the water intensity of their food.
Modern agriculture is powered by fertilisers which provide macro-nutrients, such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus that are essential for plant growth. Sources of macro-nutrients, however, are finite and are becoming increasingly scarce, meaning they are unsustainable in the long-term. Synthetic fertilisers also exist but are often produced using other non-renewable resources like gas.
Fertilisers made from essential nutrients have powered productivity of the farming sector for the past half-century, but like oil, nutrients are finite resources.
The application of fertiliser presents additional environmental concerns. Over-application can result in fertilisers entering waterways and polluting or sometimes killing bodies of water and dependent fisheries; they accelerate global warming; and can acidify farm soil reducing its health and productivity.
Farming techniques which plant legumes like peas and beans (these are nitrogen-fixing) between regular crops reduce fertiliser requirements by up to a third. Support farmers who use cover crops to reduce fertiliser use in agriculture.
Modern agriculture is dependent on the use of fossil fuels to fertilise, cultivate, harvest and transport produce. These energy inputs emit greenhouse gases which directly contribute to climate change. Global reserves of fossil fuels are also declining, placing the future sustainability of these methods at risk (IEA, 2010). The organic sector is one area reducing its energy usage and typically requires 30-50 per cent less energy than standard farms.
Food is increasingly being used as an energy resource too. Demand for biofuels in the Americas and Europe is driving grain prices up and will reduce food output by 10-20 per cent. The world is likely to burn around 400 million tonnes of grain as biofuels by 2020 – the equivalent of the entire global rice harvest.
Depleting oil reserves, scarcity of nutrients, threats to water supply, limited land, and climate challenges present serious risks to the long-term viability of the food system in its current form.
Finding and supporting new low-input ways to grow food will help the transition. Individuals and business can reduce the resource intensity of the food system by choosing food produced on local organic or biodynamic farms and growing what they can at home.
Issue 4 - Food is wasted
Australians waste $8 billion worth of food every year. That’s over $1,000 per household, or equivalent to one in every five bags of groceries bought being sent to landfill!
When food is sent to landfill and rots, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust. What’s more, nutrients that could be used for more production are instead contaminated with other waste and lost from the food cycle.
Throwing away food not only wastes money but also wastes the water, fuel, nutrients, farmer labour and other resources that went into producing it. Using all the food you buy is one of the smartest steps you can take to reduce the environmental impact of food production.
Food waste and businesses:
Most food businesses create a lot of food waste. On average 21.5 per cent of business waste is food. This waste comes at a cost though to both the bottom line and the environment. Furthermore, reducing food waste is important to consumers with 81 per cent of Australians supporting the sustainable disposal of food.
Efficient ordering and usage can reduce food waste and boost business profitability, improve customer relations and limit overall environmental impacts.
A charity called SecondBite is redirecting surplus food to community food programs for the homeless instead of going to landfill.
Donating surplus food to organisations such as SecondBite means that food can be redistributed to people who need it rather than it going to waste. Find out how you can donate or become involved at secondbite.org.
Issue 5 - Food is packaged
The plastic and cardboard used to package food has a large environmental impact.
On average, every Australian throws away around 200kg of packaging every year. Put together that’s enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground nine times over, equivalent to 1.9 million tonnes of packaging sent to landfill every year!
Disposal is also an issue – if the packaging can’t be recycled, it is sent to landfill. Significant amounts escape from the waste system each year and end up in the environment. Recycling is part of the solution but avoiding packaging where possible is the best option. To avoid packaging altogether individuals and business can take actions like starting a kitchen garden, shopping at a farmers’ market or signing up to a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) or food box system.
Silo Café on Melbourne’s Hardware Street has introduced a pioneering system in which suppliers are not using any packaging for goods delivered.
Issue 6 - Biodiversity impacts of agriculture
Monocrops, over-use of pesticide and farming practices which remove native habitat all impact on biodiversity. Monocrops, where a single crop species is planted extensively and to the exclusion of all other species, do not occur naturally and require greater use of chemical and technological inputs than mixed cropping that includes a diversity of plants and animals. Monocrops also reduce the resilience of farms by limiting genetic diversity– if a small number of plants are struck by disease, the entire crop can be destroyed. They also reduce the variety of foods available to us - for instance, there are over 7,500 varieties of apples, yet we tend to eat just 5.
Growing food in the city is one way for individuals and business to reverse the biodiversity impacts of food. Urban agriculture can actually increase local biodiversity and opens the option of growing less common varieties of fruits and vegetables. To help increase food production within the municipality we have produced a guide called Sustainable Gardening in the City of Melbourne to help our community get started. You can find the guide here - melbourne.vic.gov.au/Sustainability/WhatCanIDo/Pages/Sustainablegardening.
Food production also has an impact on marine biodiversity. Overfishing has already led to the collapse of up to half the world’s fisheries. Excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers also contributes to pollution run-off which threatens fish farms and wild fish stocks. Coral reef systems - whose fish help to feed 500 million people - are under threat due to ocean acidification and climate change.
By-catch is another concern. Almost a quarter of all the fish caught – 25 million tonnes per year – are thrown away. These fish represent protein and potential food that is wasted every year. .
Issue 7 - Impacts of livestock production
Animal farming impacts the environment both directly by producing greenhouse gas emissions, primarily methane, and indirectly through demand for other agricultural resources. Intensive factory farming has additional impacts through consumption of electricity inputs for indoor climate control, demand for grains, and generation of large quantities of waste.
For example, a typical indoor 20,000 meat chicken farm uses approximately 16 tonnes of manufactured feed per week, and produces 30 tonnes of litter over the seven week production cycle.
In low-density, sustainably managed free-range and organic farms, direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and able to be managed more effectively and efficiently through a number of ecological practices: appropriate stocking densities are maintained, grazing animals are rotated over the farm land to allow for soil and pasture restoration, nutrients are recycled back into the soil through composting and by fertilising soil with animal waste, and no or comparatively little supplementary grain or manufactured feed is given to the animals.
The environmental impacts of meat production can be reduced by buying meat produced by sustainably-managed free range or organic farms. Individuals can further reduce their impact by reducing the quantities of meat eaten each week while businesses can provide additional vegetarian options on menus and at work events. To find sustainable meat producers near you, use localharvest.org.au or browse through the online directory at sustainabletable.org.au.
Issue 8 - Land is being swallowed by urban sprawl
The world is running out of good farmland. A combination of degradation, urban sprawl, mining, industrial pollution, recreation and sea level rises eliminates around 1 per cent of the world’s farmland every year. This is on top of the quarter of land that is now degraded to the extent that it is scarcely capable of yielding food.
As our cities sprawl, they smother what is often the most fertile soil and farmland, replacing it with unproductive concrete and asphalt. This in turn drives agriculture out into ever more distant areas, where food must be transported further, farmers are more isolated and city dwellers even more disconnected from how their food is grown. All the while, the internal food growing capacity of cities remains limited.
A Sustainable Food System
The environmental impacts of our food system are varied and with many different causes. By understanding what the impacts are and prioritising those you care most about you can start taking actions that will improve the sustainability and resilience of our food system.
Choosing what you eat, where you shop and what you spend your money on is a powerful way to influence change and drive sustainable change in our food system.
A few simple, but effective, actions include:
Eat food that is in season - its fresher and generally has a lower carbon footprint. Look for good places to shop using ‘A City Dwellers Guide to Sustainable Shopping’.
Source food locally – The environmental impacts from transport and storage will be lower and local production will increase your community’s food security.
Grow your own – Producing food yourself gives you control over environmental impacts. It’s also a convenient and secure source of food for you or your business.
All City of Melbourne residents have the power to support a more sustainable food system. For more information and actions that you can take, check out the action checklists and other resources in this guide.
Paths to sustainability - Business
1. start a workplace kitchen garden
Growing your own food reduces your food miles and CO2 emissions. It also helps to create green space and provides access to seasonal produce.
2. avoid packaging, buy in bulk or reusable containers
Plastic takes up to 1,000 years to break down, so encourage staff or patrons to use reusable containers and coffee cups where possible.
Buy produce in bulk to minimise packaging, or request that produce be delivered in reusable or returnable containers.
3. donate leftover food
Help reduce sending waste to landfill by donating food leftovers from business catering and functions to a food donation program near you. See the Food Donation Toolkit for more information.
4. choose free range pork, chicken & eggs
Sustainably managed free range or organic farms are able to reduce or better manage the environmental impacts of farming by following a number of ecological practices such as appropriate animal stocking densities and integrated farming. Choose free range or organic and help support environmentally-sound farming systems.
5. reduce waste & start composting
Australian businesses throw away more than 1 million tonnes of food every year. If you’re a food service operator, the Wise Up on Waste toolkit can help prevent food waste while reducing costs and improving sustainability. Secondly, you can separate organic waste and arrange a collection service so that you divert it from landfill (see What’s Food Got To Do With It? for more information)
Encourage staff to compost their food scraps using a bench-top composting kit or bin. Use the compost to feed your kitchen garden, distribute it to local gardeners or take it home.
6. buy chemical free, organic or biodynamic
Organic and biodynamic farming methods improve soil health and reduce reliance on fossil fuels as no synthetic chemicals or pesticides are used. Purchase organic or biodynamic milk for the staff kitchen and ask any caterers you engage with if they can use sustainable produce when catering for your business.
7. buy local & seasonal
Does your business order a staff fruit box? Use the Sustainable Shopping Guide to find a box system that uses local, organic and seasonal fruit.
If you are a food outlet, work with your suppliers to source local produce and promote this to your customers.
8. increase vegetarian and dairy-free options on the menu
In Australia, methane emissions from cattle and sheep account for 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions. More meat and dairy free options on the menu can help reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and provide customers with more choice. Promoting meat-free Mondays is another initiative which can reduce emissions.
Sustainable meat and dairy farms employ good environmental practices such as animal rotation, water recycling and management, composting, tree planting and soil health practices, and use fewer non-renewable resources. Ask questions of your supplier or check Local Harvest (localharvest.org.au) to find sustainably farmed meat and dairy close to you.
Three quarters of the world’s oceans are officially over-exploited or fished right to their limit. Use the Sustainable Seafood Guide to select sustainable species in order to preserve fish populations for future generations.
10. develop relationships & ask questions
Asking questions of your produce suppliers, caterers and decision makers is an important step in promoting positive change. Your requests as a supplier and a customer demonstrate demand for sustainable food and encourage changes in the supply chain.
Paths to sustainability - individuals
1. grow your own food
Growing your own food reduces your food miles and CO2 emissions. Plus it’s seasonal and saves money.
2. avoid packaging & use re-useable shopping bags
In Australia alone, 3.92 billion plastic bags were used in 2011.1
The amount of petroleum used to make these bags could drive a car around the world 1076 times.2 Fifty million plastic bags enter the environment as litter every year and can take hundreds of years to break down in the environment.
3. choose sustainable seafood
Three quarters of the world’s oceans are officially over-exploited or fished right to their limit. Use the pocket Sustainable Seafood Guide or Switch Your Fish Guide to select sustainable species in order to preserve fish populations for future generations. You can also download the AMCS Sustainable Seafood Guide iphone app via their website (sustainableseafood.org.au) or visit GoodFishBadFish for more information (GoodFishBadFish.com.au).
4. choose free range or organic chicken, pork and egg products
Sustainably-managed farms are better able to reduce the environmental impacts of farming. Alternatively raise your own chooks to produce daily eggs and reduce your food waste. Search Local Harvest (localharvest.org.au) sustainable producers and outlets near you.
5. reduce, reuse, recycle & compost
Australians send $8 billion worth of food to landfill each year.4 Using a compost bin can cut the garbage you send to landfill by 50%. The City of Melbourne provides discounted compost bins for residents - call 9658 9658 for more information.
6. buy chemical free organic or biodynamic
Organic and biodynamic farming methods improve soil health and reduce reliance on fossil fuels as no synthetic chemicals or pesticides are used.
7. buy local & seasonal
Support local farmers, reduce packaging and your carbon footprint by enjoying the freshness and variety of seasonal food.
8. instigate meat and dairy free days
In Australia, methane emissions from cattle and sheep account for 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing your meat and dairy consumption helps you reduce your contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
9. choose sustainably farmed meat & dairy
Sustainable meat and dairy farms employ good environmental practices such as animal rotation, water recycling and management, nutrient recycling such as composting, tree planting and soil health practices, and use fewer non-renewable resources.
10. ask questions
Asking questions at the shops, market and the restaurant is an important step in promoting positive change. It encourages business to provide more sustainable food options because they know their customers will buy it.
A city dweller’s guide to sustainable food
Choosing sustainable food doesn’t have to be a challenge, even if you live in the city. This guide will help you find sustainable food options that are close and convenient for you.
Farmers’ markets bring many food producers together and offer a wide variety of seasonal regional produce picked fresh, sometimes even on the day of the market. They’re an easy, convenient and fun way to find locally grown food and there are lots of them in and around inner Melbourne.
The direct relationship with customers means that farmers’ market stallholders are held accountable for the quality of their produce. They set and receive what they deem to be a fair price for their produce and can explain what is involved in production and what drives their pricing. This also allows shoppers to make more informed choices about organic versus conventional versus biodynamic goods and sample the differences.
Shopping at a farmers market is a great way to buy local, seasonal produce straight from the source. You can check out the markets listed below or search at vicfarmersmarkets.org.au for more near your community.
First Saturday of the month Veg Out St Kilda
Peanut Farm Oval,
Chaucer & Spenser St, St Kilda
Second Saturday of the month Collingwood Children’s
Farm Farmers’ Market
Collingwood Children’s Farm,
St Heliers St , Abbotsford
Third Saturday of the month Gasworks Farmers’ Market
21 Graham St, Albert Park
Fairfield Farmers’ Market
Fairfield Primary School, Wingrove St, Fairfield
Fourth Saturday of the month Slow Food Melbourne Farmers’ Market
St Heliers St , Abbotsford
Every Sunday Flemington Farmers’ Market
Mt Alexander Secondary College,
169-175 Mt Alexander Rd, Flemington
'I Shed', Queen Victoria Market
Organic and biodynamic produce hall near the corner of Therry and Queen Streets, Melbourne
Find out more about farmers markets by visiting vicfarmersmarkets.org.au
farm gates or fresh off the boat
Next time you get out of town or head down the coast, why not look into farms that operate a farmgate or seafood providers who sell at co-ops near a pier or fresh off the boat. ‘Pick-your-own’ farms, farmgates and cellar doors all offer the unique experience of visiting the source of your produce and meeting the people who grow and make it. This is not just shopping for food, it’s an opportunity to see the process up close in person and gain an insight into the growing environment. Some fishermen also sell direct from their boat or on a pier, such as Bay Sea Farms, Sea Bounty and Port Franklin Fresh Fish.
Farm gates and fresh off the boat
Choose your favourite daytrip location and start researching. Visit Local Harvest (localharvest.org.au) and type ‘farmgate’ in the map to discover farm gate sales around Victoria. Sustainable Table (sustainabletable.org.au) also lists producers around Victoria who host farm gate sales.
Sustainable Table’s also lists seafood suppliers, including fresh off the boat, and farm gate sales from around Victoria on their website sustainabletable.org.au. Alternatively, head down to your local pier and see if you can buy direct from local fishing boats.
Do you struggle to find the time to plan a weekly shop? Then why not take the effort out of it and sign up to a sustainable box system. Produce boxes help strike the right balance between convenience and healthy, ethical and environmentally sound food.
Finding the right service is key; both organic and conventional greengrocers may offer box delivery, as do online grocers. The environmental benefits and impacts of each may differ despite catchy marketing names, so be sure to enquire about this when deciding which box system is appropriate for you. Food co-ops and CSAs can also utilise box delivery schemes by making them available for collection from a central point.
There are a number of food box systems now operating across Melbourne. Some of the most well-known are...
CERES Fair Food - ceresfairfood.org.au
Organic Empire - organicempire.com.au
You can also research others by visiting localharvest.org.au and typing in your postcode with the keyword ‘box’.
community supported agriculture (csa)
Are you interested in developing a closer connection with your source of food? Then consider becoming involved in community supported agriculture (CSA). A CSA extends your participation into the production of the food you eat, such that you invest and share in the risks and benefits of growing food on a specific farm. CSAs help growers by guaranteeing sales when crops are successful and minimising losses when they are not. They offer city dwellers a rare opportunity to personally invest food production.
CSAs provide a great way to source direct from the farm and share the risks and benefits of production with the farmers
For CSA’s in your local area visit localharvest.org.au, type in your postcode and the key word ‘CSA’
If you love to grow your own food, but find yourself with too much of the one thing, then why not find your local food swap to supplement your local shop?
Neighbourhood food swaps may offer the perfect solution to a glut of garden produce. If your crops should falter, home-cooked meals, preserves, cordials and recipes can be used as trading commodities. An online search, talking to other gardeners or community noticeboards is a great way to get involved with a local swap, alternatively you can always start your own.
For local food swaps in your area visit localharvest.org.au, type in your postcode and the key words ‘food swap’
food cooperatives (co-op)
If you love the idea of meeting people in your local area, sharing food stories and buying in bulk together to avoid packaging then get on down to your local food co-op.
Food co-ops are owned by their members and usually sell organic, locally and ethically sourced groceries in bulk. Food co-ops can be stores or groups that, because of their collective buying power, can provide these items in a more economical way.
Producers who work with co-ops have the benefit of selling in bulk and can use less packaging.
For Food Cooperatives in your local area visit localharvest.org.au, type in your postcode and the key word ‘coop’
Find sustainable fruit, vegetable and meat suppliers around Victoria at sustainabletable.org.au, or visit localharvest.org.au to find good food close to you.
Adapted from Sarah Robin’s essay For the Love of Food in Seasonal Regional, published by Sustainable Table, 2012.
grow it at home
Whether you have a huge backyard garden, a tiny balcony, or even just a window sill, just about anyone can grow food in the city.
By producing your own food you can choose what types to grow in the way that you want. Best of all, what you grow will always be in season and will be as locally sourced as possible!
For advice on starting your own garden in the city visit http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/Sustainability/WhatCanIDo/Pages/Sustainablegardening.aspx .
Sustainable Food Checklist!
Pick three actions you can take to support a sustainable food system
Up to 60% of our ecological footprint is embodied in the food we buy
Grow your own food – I will try my hand at growing ..................... e.g., tomatoes, silverbeet and herbs
Avoid packaging and use reusable shopping bags – I will not buy packaged ................................... (e.g. plastic wrapped fruit and vegetables, bottled water, tinned food etc.)
Reduce, reuse, recycle and compost – I will reduce my food waste by .................................................... (e.g. writing a shopping list and sticking to it, starting a compost bin, reducing the packaged food I buy so less goes into the recycle bin.)
Buy chemical free, organic or biodynamic – I will commit to buying chemical free food for ...... % of the time where possible.
Eat local and seasonal – I will eat seasonal produce by finding my local.......................................... (i.e. a farmers’ market, community garden, organic box system etc)
Instigate meat free days – I will have ........ meat-free days per week for the next ................. months.
Choose sustainable seafood – I will buy sustainable species such as ........................................... and
will no longer buy overfished species such as ....................................... (e.g. flake and tuna)
Choose sustainably-farmed meat & eggs – I will look for the following free range egg certification logos:
Choose sustainably farmed meat & dairy – I will buy free range or organic meat and dairy sourced from farms that have good environmental practices by shopping at ....................................................
Ask questions to encourage change – I will ask my local cafe, restaurant, work or school to provide sustainable food options like ..........................................................