What is it anyway? To be honest, I didn’t really know what sustainability truly meant, or how I could contribute to it as a non-grower (of anything other than too many houseplants).
I’m still figuring it out, but from what I gather, it’s the principle of producing what we need in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the ability of future generations to produce what they will need. Sustainability means protecting the environment (and consequently, the human race) as much as possible.
Now, let’s focus in on sustainable agriculture. According to National Geographic, “sustainable agriculture takes many forms, but at its core is a rejection of the industrial approach to food production developed during the 20th century.” Up until recently, Canadian farmers relied heavily on monoculture (cultivation of a single crop), mechanization, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, biotechnology, and government subsidies when it came to farming These practices have made food abundant and affordable, but at what cost?
Because of the potential social and ecological impacts, many farmers have turned away from these industrial practices, in favour of agriculture that is beneficial for both the environment and humankind. As a result, organic, free-range, low-input, holistic, and biodynamic agriculture is being embraced throughout Canada.
If you compare sustainable agriculture with industrial food production, the differences are readily apparent.
1. Promotes organic and low carbon food production
2. Avoids the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides
3. Avoids the use of genetically modified organisms
4. Is beneficial to biodiversity and the environment
5. Provides soil fertility for future food production
Whereas Industrial Food Production:
1. Leads to erosion
2. Can result in depleted and contaminated soil and water resources
3. Can cause the loss of biodiversity
4. Contributes to deforestation
5. Can lead to labour abuses
6. Contributes to the decline of the family farm
If things are still a little unclear, feel free to download this infographic on Sustainable Agriculture for future reference, and begin brainstorming what YOU can do to promote environmental sustainability through your food practices.
Here are a few ideas to get the juices flowing:
- Shop local and buy what’s in season! Farmers’ Markets and fruit stands are also great places for community engagement (and the free food samples never hurt, either). If you are a one-stop shopping kind of person, you’re still in luck! Many grocery stores nowadays proudly offer local produce and value-added food products – thank you Pealow’s Independent Grocer and Save-On-Foods!
- Compost, compost, COMPOST! And recycle, too. This should go without saying – don’t let (approved) organic products or recyclable waste end up in the landfill. Educate yourself – the environment will thank you. This is a wonderful resource for learning more about backyard composting in the Kootenay Region.
- Eliminate your use of disposable utensils and food containers as much as possible. Carry a reusable water bottle and travel mug with you when you’re on the run, refilling as needed. Stainless steel bottles keep water colder longer and don’t have that gross plastic taste, either. And many coffee shops even give discounts to customers who bring their own mugs! It’s a win-win situation 🙂
Remember, every bit helps and it’s up to US to protect the environment for future generations.