AFTER sitting down to a lovely dinner of beef stew and rice with a glass of red wine the other night, I was doing some research on the internet.
I was astounded to discover that approximately 4300 litres of water was used for the production of just that one meal and glass of wine! Furthermore, 3.41 kilograms of CO2 was also released into the atmosphere. This started me thinking about the hidden environmental costs for all products.
Fred Pearce, in When the Rivers Run Dry, highlights that while annually we drink approximately one tonne of water and use between 50 and 100 tonnes around the home, 1500 to 2000 tonnes of water is used to produce the food and clothing that we use.
It made me realise that to be responsible citizens of the earth we need to do more than just think about how we deal with the produce when it reaches our hands. We need to extend our thought process to the whole cycle of production through to waste management.
Achieving this, though, is an increasingly difficult task as we are often so far removed from the production system. It can become completely mind-boggling when deciding which produce has a smaller ecological footprint. Further to considering the embodied water and carbon dioxide there are questions like: How far has the produce travelled? Is it organic? Is it free range? How much packaging is there? What are the social conditions for the producers? The list goes on…
I can’t pretend I have any answers - if anything I have more questions. But please don’t throw the paper down in despair (and if you do make sure it’s in the compost or recycling bin).
Instead, where possible, try and grow your own fruit and vegetables in an ecologically sustainable manner. Also try and find local sources of produce and develop a relationship with the producer. Ask questions about the production cycle so you know what you are buying.
It is time for us to think about how the goods we consume directly affect the environment where they are produced. It’s time for us as consumers to ask questions and make responsible choices.
Green tip: Realise the power of the consumer- when you go out to dinner, when you’re buying your food or in a clothing store ask about the product. Let the producer know that you demand products that are ecologically sustainable.
Coming environmental event:
Wetlands and watercourses: a community information evening about Orange’s constructed wetlands and water harvesting program, presented by ECCO and Orange City Council, 7.30pm at the Environmental Learning Centre, Orange Showground on Wednesday, July 25. Admission free. Enquiries Nick King 636 62 6827 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.