We’re becoming increasingly aware of the ethical, social and environmental impact of what we eat, how we eat it, and how we get rid of it. Often, the procurement of a meal relies on underpaid farmers, long food miles, a brutal system of meat production and an inefficient and destructive attitude toward the earth that so kindly nurtures what eventually lands on our plates. Food ethics is a tangled mess of uncomfortable questions, and there are no straightforward answers.
There’s no shortage of books, documentaries and public campaigns that call attention to the problems of the current food system. Richard Cornish’s My Year Without Meat considers whether the total elimination of meat is the answer. The ABC’s War on Waste includes food waste in its battle. Recent headlines about the live export trade brought home how potentially horrific such a large-scale food system can be.
However, it’s important to recognise that choice is also a privilege. When the examples of doing better include a total overhaul of your diet, or expensive specialty products (made organic, GMO-free, or in small batches), it’s easy to feel discouraged and even powerless. The takeaway message often seems to be that to do better, you must be a saint – and most of us aren’t. No matter how hard we try, we’re operating in a broken system, and a world full of realities outside our control: things like families, budgets, time constraints, and access issues. Here are three things you can do anyway as part of your messy, everyday life.