A few years ago there was a useful slogan for eco-friendly food shopping. It was Use your Loaf! It would be a pity if it were to be forgotten, for it is helpful. When shopping for food, think Local, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fair trade.


When I was young (during the reign of George VI) it was taken for granted that the items in the greengrocers would be seasonal. Now we can buy most veg all the year round. But if your lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, pears or whatever come from far away they have, inevitably, a much higher carbon footprint. Meat, thanks to refrigeration, was already international; but the same point about carbon footprint holds true. Those of us who are not vegetarian are no doubt eating less meat in our diet, knowing how grazing herds of cattle can have devastating effects on the environment. But when we do eat meat, we could bear in mind those food miles. There is a good Farmers Market in Edinburgh on Castle Terrace every Saturday from 9.00 – 12.00. This is the link to its web-site. Welcome to Edinburgh Farmers’ Market – Edinburgh Farmers Market


Some aspects of “green” living can be expensive. There is a cost-of-living crisis, and it would not be responsible to recommend that all our readers spend an even higher proportion of their income on food. But there are a couple of thoughts that all food shoppers should bear in mind – and gardeners should bear even more strongly in mind. One is that peat is an essential part of our ecology, both as a habitat and as a carbon sink, holding carbon out of the atmosphere. There is no need to use it in compost. Always buy peat-free. In Edinburgh our garden rubbish is all composted, and available to buy. Here’s a useful link: Peat Free Green Goodness Compost 40L | Caledonian Horticulture . Just as important – even more, maybe – is DON’T USE PESTICIDES. A recent report from Butterfly Conservation showed that soon in the UK 24 out of 58 species may disappear from our island altogether. But the role insects play is more vital than merely aesthetic. The irreplaceable part pollinators play in food production is well documented. Small insects about which we know nothing (me, anyhow) are essential parts of the food chain for other species; imagine a world without insect-eating birds. The collapse of insect populations world-wide is very serious indeed. We should certainly bear it in mind in our gardening, but also in our shopping.


Some readers, no doubt, are vegetarian. Those of us who are not should always think about the conditions in which food animals are kept and slaughtered. Some of this has to be a matter of government policy and of regulations. Keep in mind, when voting, that food production must be strictly regulated by law. As for shopping – well read the labels and be alert for weasel words that conceal bad practice. “Free range” is a good start. And why not ask questions when you are at the Farmers Market? One area of especial importance is the oceans. Many commercial fishing methods destroy habitats on the sea bed. Others catch-and-destroy species apart from the ones intended – even seal and dolphins, as well as other fish. Fish farms need as much tough regulation as do livestock on land.


On a visit to South Uist twenty years ago a friend pointed out that in one remote place a two-storey stone house towered over the simple black houses. “That was where the merchant lived. He bought from the peasants and sold on the mainland.” Of course, traders and retailers are necessary unless we are going to buy from the roadside. But history is partly about the strong and rich exploiting the weak and poor if they can get away with it,and when it comes to international trade in food and drink this phenomenon can reach shocking, horrendous proportions. Fair trade organisations exist to see that a fair share of the price reaches the primary producers.  Coffee, wine, chocolate – these are all examples of goods where fairly traded alternatives are readily available. Do seek them out.

Those of you who have ever been with me round a food shop will know that I do not observe these rules at all rigorously. But I do bear them in mind. I could do better. I expect some of you do, and if you do not, why not think about it. There was a time when this sort of thing might have been seen as “virtue signalling” by those who could afford it. But now we face the fact that climate change and species loss affect everyone in the world. So Use your LOAF.

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