I’ve always loved food and by default growing up in South Africa I’ve always learned to eat fresh food and cook meals from scratch but Ive never been a true “ethical eater” or food activist. I wont buy something from a company that treats animals badly, I believe in supporting the local community and promoting the Scottish food industry, I support the slow food movement and I buy fair trade goods now and then. But besides meat and eggs, I dont actively check the origins of every item I purchase and I still shop in supermarkets a lot out of laziness. I have always left the truly ethical lifestyle to the hardcore hippies – admiring them, feelling vaguely guilty but not really feeling guilty or motivated enough to join the ranks.
Well, things have changed. I have to say I think Im going hippy.
This is by no means an epiphany, rather its a creeping feeling that has been slowly entering my mind for a while now but there are a few specific things that have finally crystalised these thoughts into action. One was an extract from the new book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by the journalist and acitvist Michael Pollan. In his book he points out that the downside of specialisation in all aspects of our lives, from the production of technology and clothing to food and cooking, is that it breeds dependence and helplessness in us and removes us from all the effort (and indeed potential cruelty, pollution or destruction) involved in creating the products we buy. It becomes easy to forget the value of things, where they came from, and easy to demand cheaper and cheaper prices. Think about it, would you accept £2 as payment for a shirt if you had to sew it yourself? Or £1 for your efforts if you had bought all the ingredients for a lasagne and made the sauce and the pasta from scratch? I dont believe things have to be expensive to be ethical and indeed making them yourself is often cheaper, but equally their value should be recognised and the best way to do this is to keep doing some things in your life for yourself. Im not saying go out and buy a soldering iron and build your own laptop, but thinking about what we buy and cooking our own food shouldnt be be something we always let someone else do for us.
The second catalyst for my sudden resolution was this TED talk by Simon Sinek about how great leaders inspire action via trust, which has nothing to do with food but got me thinking about authenticity in general and doing and saying what we believe (watch it – it will make you think and make you laugh). If I really want to be authentic and true to my beliefs, why do I leave the action to the hippies? Why is it that hard to do? Why dont I put my money where my mouth is and make sure everything I consume has as much positive impact on the planet as possible? Money? Others have already tried it and proved it can acutally save you money so I should be able to as well. Time? What am I so busy doing and what about shopping closer to home takes up so much more time
So there it is… I still have loads of research to do, lists to make and questions to answer (e.g. local vs social shopping but that’s another post) before my plan is fully formulated but I intend to banish the supermarkets, understand what Im buying and see if I can prove that being ethical is not just for the hippies…