The food we eat could have travelled long distances and be produced in an unsustainable way. We need to be conscious of what we eat – how our food is grown and produced.
But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. – Michael Pollan, Farmer in Chief
Choose Locally Produced Food
In Singapore, we import most of our food from all over the world, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, US, and Brazil. According to a recent Straits Times article, only about 3% of the land area in Singapore is used for farming and local produce makes up 7% of leafy vegetables and 4% of fish consumed here (there’s no local production of meat). This means that we are contributing to more carbon emissions and fuel usage for shipping and transporting food from overseas.
You can choose to buy food that are grown locally such as vegetables and seafood from supermarkets and wet markets. Or you can buy directly from some of the farms at the Kranji Countryside. By buying local, you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint and support the livelihood of local farmers.
Grow Your Own Vegetables
Growing your own vegetables is fun and helps to reduce resources and energy for food import, transportation and packaging. Seeds for growing vegetables are easily available from horticultural shops and supermarkets. You can choose to grow them in soil or using hydroponics. Visit the Green Culture Singapore gardening website and forum for tips and resources on growing your own vegetables.
You can also join the Community In Bloom programme, which encourages community gardening in housing estates and allows residents to create gardens for flowers, herbs, spices, or vegetables.
Choose Healthier Food
Go vegetarian once a week or more, and eat less meat especially beef. Animal farming, meat processing and shipping waste a large amount of resources. Eating more vegetables and vegetarian food is generally good for your health and helps you reduce your carbon footprint. Visit the Vegetarian Society (Singapore) website for more tips and locations of vegetarian food outlets.
Choose natural and organic food products that do not use chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It is good for your health, prevents less chemicals from entering the environment and reduces the resources used in fertiliser production. You can check out this article on “A guide to organic shopping” for more details on organic products and local shops that sell them.