Veg box trials

My first veg box contents

My first veg box contents

I was lucky enough to get a voucher code from a friend for a free Able & Cole veg box. It’s something I had wanted to get but I didn’t think we had somewhere sensible for them to leave it if we weren’t in when they delivered. As it was free I put a bit more effort into it. Chatting to one of the Able & Cole staff online they suggested a recycling box was a solution to having an open front garden.

It worked perfectly and the med size veg box was there waiting for me when I arrived home last Friday. The med veg box (£14.99) is estimated to feed 2-3 adults in a week. It is a sizable portion. My husband and I are vegetarian and we still have potatoes and carrots left. We did supplement a few items from our local shop though. I enjoyed the first one so much that I have continued with the service and the second one arrived today.

The boxes come with guidance on how to store the veg, a seasonal recipe guide and online support. Each week they list out online what is going to be in the box and you can choose to remove any veg you dislike. They also do an exotic box for the more adventurous.

This week we got
Carrots
Potatoes
Onions
Broccoli
Asparagus
Celeriac
Lettuce
Butternut squash

It helps to plan the meals for the week knowing what you have and has meant that I am taking more home made packed lunches. I’ll do a separate post on that.

So, here’s the important bit, apart from being convenient and enjoyable, is getting an organic veg box better for the environment?

Able and Cole say………
“Organic farming is a holistic system that:
-Encourages biodiversity
-Protects the countryside and the little critters that rely on it
-Insists on the best animal welfare
-Supports local communities
-Promotes wellbeing

They never air freight items, not all their food is uk sourced but it isn’t flown about the world and they try and source as close as possible. Packaging is used minimally and when it is required they use the most sustainable option.  (source: http://www.abelandcole.co.uk/hello-welcome)

In my fact finding I came across the food carbon research network which has a huge selection of information. http://www.fcrn.org.uk/
One publication from 2008 Titled Cooking up a storm: Food, greenhouse gas emissions and our changing climate looks at the contribution of food consumption to green house gasses (GHG) emissions for the UK. In this paper they show that food related emissions account for 19% of UK GHG emissions with agriculture accounting for around half of all food-related GHG emissions. The primary GHG emissions from agriculture are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20). These gasses have a higher GHG potential than CO2. The CH4 emissions originate from livestock rearing and some from manure. N20 emissions originate from soil chemical processes taking place both in arable and grazed soils as well as from manure and urine deposits.

Other significant emissions from food consumption highlighted in the paper arise through transport. Different fright modes have different emissions so distance is not always the deciding factor. In setting up global supply chain the movement of the food is not the only emission, infrastructure development to enable the food to get to markets produces its own GHG emissions. Local consumption doesn’t only reduce food miles it has an impact on the local economy too by supporting local businesses. however vegetables grown far away in more appropriate climates could have a significantly lower agricultural footprint to off set the additional transport emissions.

As trends in food consumption progress fruit and vegetable consumption choices are becoming more GHG intensive. Berries and beans are typically air freighted, there is increased consumption of heated greenhouse grown vegetables and fragile stock requiring refrigeration and robust packaging. (source http://www.fcrn.org.uk/)

Looking into this topic shows that it is very complicated and in order to understand the full impacts the food life cycle as a whole needs to be reviewed and not just about carbon impacts. Undertaking that for every product would not be feasible so a few key principles can work even if they are not right all of the time.

For day to day decisions on food shopping I have selected a few guiding principles.
Seasonal
Local
No air freight
Only buy what I need (reduce wastage)
Packaging free where possible.

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