As social entrepreneurs we have a certain responsibility to the world. We need to lead the change and take charge of educating ourselves before we strive to make a social impact. This is why we all should look down and inspect the contents of our plates.
Everywhere I look these days it seems that there is a new documentary or a book on sustainable eating. Everyone is telling me that I can look good, feel good, and do good just by eating. Despite all this information, I still had no real idea how to eat sustainably. Is sustainable eating vegan? Organic? Local? Farm to table? Gardening? When confronted with the myriad of options in the grocery store how do you make the best choices? Do you buy organic avocados from Spain? What about tinned kaferbohnen from Styria? Does fresh pork loin from Radatz count as sustainable eating? Do you, as a thriving entrepreneur, take time to examine how a box of out of season strawberries impact the world around you?
What is eating sustainably?
At its very core, sustainable agriculture means production of food, fiber, or other plant or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare (Source: Sustainable Table). This means that everything that lands on your plate is healthier, environmentally friendlier and created without compromising our ability to produce food in the future. Sustainable eating is supporting conscious food production by buying products – meat, eggs, cheese, dairy, vegetables, etc. in a responsible fashion. Meaning less food waste, more locally grown organic food, less packaging and educating yourself constantly about your actual impact.
Dan Barber and Michael Pollan each present a working sustainable farm. For Dan Barber, a high-end New York chef and restaurateur, it is his family farm Blue Hills in upstate New York. Barber and his staff serve up creative and seasonal dishes from all the produce on the farm – and this includes the animals as well. Pollan, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, presents Polyface Farm where the everything operates in a nutrient loop; the cows graze in the field, returning valuable nutrients to the soil, chickens remove pests and insects that cause crop failure and spread cow manure, later when the field is planted the crops grow better in the nutrient rich soil. This also means planting crops that are not monocultures, that are indigenous or grow best in the conditions, and using fewer pesticides and chemical fertilisers.
Now, in both examples animals are part of the farm. This is because these organisms work together in nature. The most sustainable form of agriculture replicates the systems found in nature. If you think of a forest there are plants and animals and all of them work together to make a healthy ecosystem. That is what sustainable producers do on their farms.
How to eat sustainably?
So, sustainable eating means purchasing and making food that comes from these systems, farms, and producers. And this means educating yourself about what you find in the grocery store, markets, or anywhere else you shop for food. Obviously, the easiest way to do that is to speak with people. Strike up a conversation with the person selling your apples – find out what orchard they are from, who grew them, and how they farm.
Gardening is also a very sustainable way to eat. You know exactly what you put in your window boxes, your allotment plot, or your share of the community garden. And you can ask yourself all sorts of questions about the herbs, cherry tomatoes, and gem lettuces that you are growing. If you do not think that your three pots of an indoor garden are enough, try building a living wall or a wall farm. There is a cool European manufacturer of indoor gardens called Click and Grow. Check out their website to see if their smartphone connected planters and wall farms are right for you.
Eating more plants is good for you and good for the environment. In fact, prioritizing plants in your daily eating is a big part sustainable eating. Plants take less time and resources to grow than meat, eggs, and dairy.
Other options for eating more sustainably are to:
- choose food with less packaging
- prioritize local products
- choose imported foods only when you know the people and the network involved
- choose foods that would normally have been wasted
Will you be able to eat a perfectly sustainable meal each time you sit at your table? At first, no. It will take time to build the network and resources that are necessary to eat sustainably. Will it get easier over time? Yes, it will.
Why does sustainable eating matter to entrepreneurs?
That is a simple answer to a simple question. While you are out shopping and asking questions, you are helping entrepreneurs and local producers. You are helping local coffee importers bring in coffee from their family farms and local mushroom growers expand their market. So, let’s help each other out and use the ready-made network that we created here at Impact Hub Vienna to eat sustainably. You can learn how to prepare a sustainable meal by attending one of our weekly Tuesday events, Sexy Salad, which invites all Hubbers to bring their leftovers or fresh food and prepare a healthy meal together in the community kitchen. Check out our ‘Events’ section for more details.
Who works in sustainable food?
We found some businesses in Impact Hub that deal in sustainable food. Find out more about them and get inspired to make your journey towards sustainable eating easier!
- Iss Mich: makes delicious dishes from food that would have otherwise been wasted – like ugly carrots and misshapen apples. Check them out at Impact Hub Vienna.
- Hut & Stiel: grows mushrooms in coffee grounds from other local businesses. They are grown in the Vienna area and you would be surprised how many restaurants serve their tasty mushrooms.
- Lunzers: works with local suppliers and producers to sell food with reusable packaging. They have created a network of growers that you can tap into and start on your sustainable journey.