Welcome to November! This month’s challenge takes place in your garden…
November goal: Grow something!
The environmental impacts associated with food production are often difficult to reconcile for people who want to both make environmentally friendly choices and eat delicious, nutritious and well-balanced meals year round. In an ideal world, all our food needs would be met locally, but for most of us that is not the reality. Our food is instead trucked, shipped or flown in from near and far, accumulating greenhouse gas emissions with every kilometer traveled. Fruits and veggies are some of the biggest contributors, needing to travel around the globe quickly in order to arrive while still fresh. A browse around your local supermarket’s produce section reveals the round-the-world nature of our food system – bananas from Ecuador, grapes from Mexico, spinach from China. And it doesn’t help that our food laws don’t require companies to reveal a product’s country of origin, though there are plans afoot to change this via the introduction of the Consumer’s Right to Know Bill currently in parliament.
While ‘food miles’ (the distance your food travels from farm to plate) shouldn’t be the only concern when purchasing produce, it should be a factor for consideration. And what better way to understand precisely where your food comes from (and what went into growing it) than to grow it yourself?
Not everyone can be a farmer, and not everyone has a garden big enough to grow their family’s fruit and vegetable needs (nor the time, energy or resources to do so). But everyone can do something. At the bare minimum, make an effort to purchase locally grown produce. But if you can grow your own, do. Growing one’s own food has benefits beyond food miles, which makes the effort even more worthwhile. Gardening can lower stress levels, provide exercise and improve mental health. Gardening with kids can be especially fun and beneficial, teaching science skills, connecting children to nature and encouraging healthy eating habits.
Spring is a great time to get started in the garden. Whether it’s a pot of your favourite herbs in an apartment windowsill, a handful of strawberry plants tucked among the roses, or a raised garden bed with five varieties of gourmet greens, every little bit helps. So this month, plant a seed and see where it takes you.
How to participate:
Choose the level below that works for you, and don’t forget to upload a picture of yourself getting your gardening on. Include the hashtag #OSOFSustainableMe and you’ll be in to win a copy of the book Love Our Oceans by Steve & Riley Hathaway. We would also love to hear how this month’s challenge did or didn’t work for you. Find us on Facebook or Instagram and let us know how it’s going. You can also join in the discussion on the Plastic Free New Zealand Facebook group – a great place to discuss each month’s challenge with like-minded people, and find inspiration and encouragement. Please share your experiences with the community so we can all learn from each other. Entries for the month of November are due by 12:01am on December 1 2017 to be eligible for the prizegiving. Check out our official rules here.
Here’s what to do:
Beginner: Buy local. Look for NZ grown produce in your grocery store or better yet, visit your local farmer’s market.
Step it up: Plant something. Anything! If it’s your first time growing produce, start small. Strawberries, lettuce, spinach or herbs are a great place to begin.
Want more? Grow more! Challenge yourself to grow something new or grow everything needed for an entire meal.
Already a keen gardener? Help someone else learn to garden or share your garden’s bounty with others.
How does it help?
Homegrown or locally grown fruits and veggies simply use fewer resources. The energy needed to transport food around the globe contributes greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere – the farther your food travels, the bigger its impact. Commercially grown produce also often requires other inputs such as fertiliser and pesticides. Homegrown produce typically uses fewer chemicals than large-scale growing operations do. Store-bought produce also requires packaging to get it from the farm to your store.
Resources: (Please note, this is not an endorsement of these organisations, stores or products from OSOF, just a suggestion of how to get started)
What to plant now – can subscribe to monthly planting notifications
Contributor: Andrea Greene-Liberatore