Why food?
Food is undeniably an important part of human life. 

We all need it, in one form or another, and it forms the basis of our most special traditions and important cultural practices. Food also unsurprisingly plays a large part in the human impact on our environments, and is often portrayed to be a big part of the solution to global issues.

In order to figure out what parts of the solution you would like to be a part of, it is necessary to understand the issues. 

Agriculture in Australia

Do you know where your food comes from?

Did you know that more than 90% of produce consumed in Australia was grown/produced here? On top of being able to produce nearly all of our own fresh food, Australia is also a major exporter, and we export over 70% of the food grown here. 

In 2020, these exports were valued at an estimated $48.23 billion, including livestock and produce. 

Agricultural land use in Australia also makes up 55% of our total land use, and the industry was also responsible for 25% of water extraction from 2018-19.

With all this in mind, it becomes pretty clear that agriculture plays a significant role in Australia, and has the potential for sizable environmental impacts.

Industrial Agriculture

Industrial agriculture, or the use of modern technology and systems in farming plays a large role in our high food production. The industrialisation of agriculture has allowed food production to increase, leading in some cases to increase access to food for countries as they grow. 

However, the industrialisation of agriculture, and the scale at which we produce food can lead to greater impacts on our planet, and lead to poor environmental outcomes, for example climate change. 

In 2016 Queensland had the highest source of agricultural GHG emissions in Australia, 80% of which was related to animal agriculture

In Australia, direct livestock emissions account for about 70% of greenhouse gas emissions by the agricultural sector and 11% of total national greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, livestock is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the energy and transport sectors. 

Methane is a common gas  by-product of animal agriculture, and it has 80x the global warming potential for CO2 in its first 20 years in our atmosphere.  

Sustainable consumption options  

While the industrialisation of food production has given us many benefits, it may be time to re-evaluate how and what we consume, for the sake of our planet. 

There are so many options for what we can do to reduce our environment impact through food, which all address various aspects of the challenge. 

The Climatarian Diet is one that aims to cover all the bases.  It advocates for considering the carbon footprint of our food choices, and ensuring that they are compatible with a safe and stable climate for both current and future generations. 

The take away is that there are so many things we can do to be more mindful in our consumption, it's better to start where we are and do what we can than it is to be perfect...
1. Eating less meat and more plants

Likely because we have such easy access to it, Australian's are the biggest consumers of meat in the world! If you don't want to cut out red meat completely, consider treating it like a delicacy, and aiming for 1 standard serve (65g cooked = 5 AAA batteries) a week. 

2. Waste less food and dispose mindfully

Composting, while a great way to deal with the trickier food scraps, should be thought of as the solution to food waste. We need to stop it at the source by doing what we can to not waste the food we buy. 

  • Food waste accounts for more than 5% of our GHG emissions 
  • Each year, Australian's put 1 in 5 shopping bags of food in the bin
  • 25% of water used in agriculture is used to grow food that is ultimately wasted – throwing away one burger wastes the same amount of water as a 90 minute shower.
3. Reduce packaging

Opting for food without, or with minimal packaging  has many benefits:

  • reducing the resources required in extracting, processing, and disposing of the  materials required to make packaging
  • encourages more fresh food choices, which generally requires lower energy inputs than food that must be processed to reach its final form
4. Support local

Although a lot of what we eat in Australia is grown here, we can do more to support our local farmers, by buying right from them through farmers markets etc., and buying from smaller distributors

5. DIY Food: start your own garden

Whether its some shallots on your windowsill, or a crop from your backyard garden, growing your own food is a great way to feel connected to the process, and to put the resources required to grow such a wide variety of food into perspective.
Bonus, there's nothing more local than your own backyard! 

Image by markus-spiske from Unsplash




    About UQ Sustainability Week 2021

    Sustainability Week is an opportunity for the UQ community to celebrate and promote sustainability across UQ's campuses and sites. From August 16-20, a range of activities and events are hosted across all areas of the University, including markets, workshops, crafts and DIY, film screenings, specialist presentations, tree plantings, bird watching and garden tours, solar tours, forums and panel discussions, competitions and challenges to inspire sustainable behaviours.

    Join us for the fun, check out the full program! Stay up to date by liking UQ Sustainability on Facebook or following us on Instagram

    Important update: Based on the recent Covid restrictions, this year's Sustainability Week will be entirely online. Those events that cannot be transitioned to an online format will be postponed. Keep an eye on our social media channels, and our website for updates! (last updated Wednesday 25 August).