Following is an article from Hannah Openshaw, a Sydney researcher and resident, on how she embarked on her own sustainability journey, starting with a farmers’ market. We hope to hear more from Hannah. But we would also like to hear similar personal views from our readers on the changes they are making to their lives and how hard or easy these are. It might be a focus on one small thing (a few hundred words or even a paragraph might cover it). Or it might be a view about their experiences at work or a view about the public realm. The key is “personal”. And don’t forget, we would love to hear from all over Australia, and New Zealand too.
Environmentalism and sustainability have become mainstream, no longer the domain of people considered to be activists or “hippies”. And so they should be. With the population growing and no signs of it stopping, the pressures that humans as a species are putting on the planet and its resources are immense. The internet and media is full of alarming stories of what we are doing to the planet.
At the local, national and international level we are discussing issues like climate change, fossil fuels, loss of habitats and diversity, and moves are (slowly) being made to ensure that our impact on the planet is reduced. Many of these changes involve new government policies and changing practices of investments and big businesses.
As an individual I want to be involved and ensure that I reduce my environmental impact and try to live a more sustainable life. I have been searching for ways to do this, and in the process became rather overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information about what I could and should be doing, and what I was doing wrong. This research exercise made me feel as though I needed to change everything about my lifestyle, a thought that is a little daunting and really not ideal or practical in the short term. At the thought of having to change everything, I instead found myself doing nothing.
After further reflection, I decided that doing nothing was not an option, and that I should instead work to gradually make small changes, which over time will add up. Something small is better than nothing!
The first change I have made is to shop at my local farmers’ market. I made a fantastic discovery in the form of the Orange Grove markets in Lilyfield in Sydney. Every Saturday from 8am-1pm the grounds of Orange Grove Public School are transformed into a showcase for local, fresh produce.
It is a vibrant, bustling market, full of colour and life. Walking in you are greeted with rows of plants and herbs ready to grow, stalls piled high with colourful fruit and vegetables, and the smells of a diversity of food freshly cooked.
Each Saturday morning I go to the market and stock up on all my fruit and vegetables for the week. Doing my shopping in this way has allowed me to begin to live more sustainably in several ways.
First, most of the produce at the markets is not displayed in polystyrene trays, wrapped in gladwrap or individually packaged. You are free to choose if you want your purchases loose, in a bag, or, as I do, bring your own reusable ones.
Using less plastic and packaging is a great way to reduce your environmental impact. Not only does less of it have to be produced, through a process that uses finite and polluting resources, but it also reduces the amount of non-biodegradable items ending up in landfill.
Buying from local growers means that you are greatly reducing the food miles of what you eat. Carbon footprint is reduced through the use of less fuel and refrigeration. As an extra bonus, by buying in this way you are also supporting and encouraging the local community.
Fresh food sold at the markets is in most cases either organic or pesticide-free. This means that the food you are eating has been grown using farming methods that reduce the impact on the environment through not spraying chemicals that pollute the soil, water and therefore disrupt the natural ecosystem.
If you are a meat-eater you can also buy organic and free-range meat. Animals reared in this way are better for both the environment and your health as they have been fed on food free from added antibiotics, fertilisers and other chemicals.
Not only have I found that the food tastes much fresher than anything I buy in the supermarket, but it also lasts much longer. This allows for tastier food throughout the week and I now throw out so much less. I am both reducing my waste, and saving money.
Money. Not a sustainability issue, but it is one that I find often deters people from shopping at farmers markets. Markets are often perceived as being more expensive than shopping at the supermarket, however I have discovered that this is not always the case.
Not only do I throw away much less, and therefore do not waste money in this way, but by design, markets are made up of lots of stalls, meaning that you can shop around to see who has the best deals – growers with surplus of a certain item may have a reduced price. I have also found that once you go regularly, the stallholders will recognise you and may give you a free item or two to try.
If you do not have specific items in mind, you can also go along nearer the end of the market – later in the day growers often discount produce in order to sell it off. All of these things together mean that shopping at a local market does not have to be expensive, or just reserved for buying special treats, but can be a better way to shop for your health and your purse.
Not only does going to the market have a positive impact on the environment, but I find it a greatly enjoyable experience, one I enjoy making part of my weekend, rather than dreading the supermarket. At the market I am able to buy direct from the farmers themselves. I can find out where my food is coming from, so not only do I know what I am eating, but I also get to learn about new people and places, and the wider community outside of the city.
Sydney is a great city to live in if you want to shop at farmers markets. You can find a full list of markets at the Organic Foodmarkets website.
Hannah Openshaw is a Sydney resident.