What sustainability experts eat when they're out & about

Image by Christine

We all have those moments. You know, when you're stuck in an airport or a bad shopping centre and you're starving hungry. Before you know it, you're half way through a chicken pie before you realise it's probably not free-range... possibly not even chicken. I call them Caveman Moments (I've capitalised so you know it's a legitimate Moment). When the call for protein wins and any sense of social or environmental responsibility quickly gets booted out the window. I get these a lot.

When I'm at home or have time to plan ahead, I can control what I buy and consume. Out and about, at an airport or dining with friends, you have to work with what's in front of you.

I approached a couple of green experts on what they do to beat back the caveman.

Cassie Duncan is Managing Director of Sustainable Table, an environmental not-for-profit that uses food as an entrée to explore sustainability issues:

  • When I'm in a situation where I'm desperate and stuck somewhere like an airport, or when the only option is a food court or a take-away shop, if only you could hear my internal dialogue! I look for vegetarian options like sushi with tofu, a salad sandwich or a vegetable stir-fry and I request vegetarian meals if I'm ever taking a long-haul flight.
  • At restaurants I order vegetarian options, unless the restaurant has a strong philosophy around sustainably caught seafood or free-range and organic meat. I always ask if the eggs are free-range and where the meat has come from and whether it's free-range or organic. I also try to order wine from local wineries. And I avoid imported cheeses, as well as things that are out of season.
  • Grass-fed over grain-fed.
  • Ordering an unusual cut of meat so that you're supporting the use of the whole animal is also good.

Tim Cotter is a sustainability psychologist and director of Awake:
If I haven't taken my own food with me, I go for sushi and always jump in quick and ask for it in a paper bag, as most sushi shop people seem determined to put it in a plastic tray. I also try to use the soy sauce from a bottle on the counter rather than accept the little plastic sushi fish.

If all else fails, be kind to yourself. We can't all be perfect, and I'm sure guilt and self-flagellation is just as bad for society as a few bad meal choices! So if you're really hungry, just do the best you can, eat, enjoy, and remember all the other good things you are doing.

Me? I've struggled in the past (doing circles of the food court analysing all the offerings, getting hungrier and crankier by the minute), but I'm finding it gets easier every time as it slowly becomes habit:
  • If there's a sandwhich shop, I order a wrap with vegetables (freshly made).
  • Vegetarian rice paper rolls are a good option.
  • Indian takeaways will often have a veg curry on offer.
  • Baked potato with salad is another goody.
  • If all that fails, or literally the only substantial option is meat, I order beef over chicken or pork. Unless they're free-range, chickens and pigs get a much tougher deal than cattle.
  • If I'm eating out at a restaurant, I go through this process: I check out the vegetarian options. If they don't strike my fancy, if there's an unusual meat on the menu, like venison or rabbit, I order that. If not and the chicken is free-range or the beef is grass-fed, I order either one of those. Failing those, or if I want fish, I check if it's a sustainable catch using the AMCS iphone app. If that's a no no, I go for the vegetarian option. I never take the pork option (even some free-range pig farms can have some questionable practices, like circumcision without aneasthetic).

How about you? Feel free to share your ideas below!


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