The Eco-Hero initiative was launched in April 2022. As we observed an increasing segment of today’s consumers looking for alternatives to act responsibly and make sustainable choices on one side, and, on the other, we witnessed that many of our hosts were either already engaged with creating sustainable experiences or eager to begin greening their experiences through initiatives and good practices; we worked on the creation of a sustainability label called “Eco-Hero” founded on research and good practices to help each one of our hosts self-evaluate their green actions and practices when conceiving and organizing their experiences.
We have now an “Eco-Hero” and “Eco-Warrior” community. As the actions to help the planet must continue, we gathered some key information, references, and tips to always Eatwith a purpose.
Why is it important?
Climate change is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Even though major changes need to be made by governments, there are many things that we can do as individuals.
More specifically the link between food and sustainability is very strong, as food is the direct link between the Earth and our bodies. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brought together 37 world-leading scientists from across the globe to create the first full review of the key elements for a healthy diet built upon sustainable food systems, and which actions can support those changes. You can watch a summary video here.
Sustainability is made up of three pillars: the economy, society, and the environment. Applied to food and culinary experiences these principles are also referred to as “products”, “planet” and “people”. The 3 levels are, and should always be, interconnected when talking about sustainability.
Products should be recognizable raw materials, directly connected to the territory, as a preserved and shared common heritage. They tell the story of the place they come from, the geography, the producers, and the suppliers. The elaboration and preservation techniques are also important, so there is added value in all the uses of the product.
Overall, products should be fresh and seasonal and preferably locally sourced as they activate surrounding economies. Aside from this, they are beautiful, taste better and they have better prices! Variety is also key as it promotes biodiversity and diverse diets.
As a first assessment of your experiences’ sustainability, you can calculate the carbon footprint of the ingredients you use in your experiences here.
Locally grown food is more sustainable due to the shorter distance it travels from farm to plate (reduction of CO2 emissions by reducing the impact of transportation), and local food systems as a whole are more sustainable, both ecologically and socially.
A higher pro-vegetarian score is associated with lower environmental impacts. This simple shift in our eating habits can significantly reduce our contribution to climate change, save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and reduce the amount of land required to support our consumption.
Switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change, UN experts have said. A major report on land use and climate change says the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy produce is fuelling global warming. They said that more people could be fed using less land if individuals cut down on eating meat.
Meat, Fish and Dairy
The livestock sector is a major player in climate change, responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (measured in CO2). This is a higher proportion than transport. The overall global emissions attributed to the dairy herd are estimated to contribute to 4% of total CO2 emissions. Both meat and dairy production will double by 2050; as a result water consumption, land use, and impact on natural systems resulting from intensive dairy cattle grazing will increase. Here are some key facts and findings from the UN FAO.
Regarding fish, previous research indicated that seafood has a smaller carbon footprint compared to other animal proteins because fishing doesn’t require farmland or the care of livestock. But a new study claims that industrial fisheries emit about the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) globally as the aviation industry. Therefore choosing seasonal and local fish is also a way to be more sustainable.
The general objective is to work within the circular economy: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Revalue. Implying the reduction of plastic and chemicals in the whole food chain.
- Opting for organically grown food is a way to avoid toxicity and pesticides that will continue to endanger the Earth.
- Choose local processes where products are bought, transformed, and consumed in the same place.
- Save energy and try shifting to greener sources of energy.
- Avoid plastic in any form as much as you can!
One single-use plastic bag is estimated to have a lifespan of 12 minutes, according to Environment Massachusetts. Plastic is one of the main contributors to the pollution of the oceans: “one rubbish truck of plastic enters the ocean every minute. By 2050, there could be more plastic by weight in the seas than fish”, Will McCallum: On How To Give Up Plastic. The author explains in detail the reasons and gives tips to do so in everyday life. Watch a video of him explaining here.
According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86% of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. The entire life cycle of bottled water uses fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, and causes pollution. Therefore all single-use plastic packages should always be avoided. Packages can be replaced by metal, glass, or tissue reusable containers to buy bulk products.
Waste Avoidance and Management
Food waste is a major global problem, the UNEP estimated that roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted. At the same time, we know that undernourishment and malnutrition are prevalent mainly in developing but also developed countries. Besides being an enormous waste of money, it also represents a huge production impact on natural resources.
Different actions can be taken from our own kitchens:
- Change your menu to reduce leftovers/food waste
- Use everything that you can from what you buy
- Reduce food spoilage by reviewing your stock
A socially sustainable food endeavour should be inclusive, diverse, and respectful of differences. It should generate spaces for creativity and freedom for people to be able to create meaningful relationships with others. It also means transparent and fair exchanges and collaborations where recognition for their work and wages is done properly. Without people, there is no sustainability.
The values supporting this pillar are
- Building local communities
- Respect of traditions
- Local supply: It is based on bonds of trust and transparency with nearby suppliers
- Fairtrade: Many farmers do not receive a fair price for what they produce and workers do not always receive a fair wage and are denied labor, economic, social, civil, and political rights. That is why we need to look for Fairtrade products
For more information on becoming an Eatwith host, click here. Our community team would be very happy to welcome you to the Eatwith family!