The German Council for Sustainable Development published the last version of its Sustainable Shopping Basket in 2003. It aims to encourage consumers to consider every aspect and lifestyle, including their everyday food choices.
The updated edition, published in September and now available in English to reach a wider user base, takes into account new sources of information, services available, and debates.
It adds to the swell of opinion that a healthy diet and a sustainable one is often one and the same thing. Such discussions have been gathering pace in the last year, as Sweden has released draft dietary guidelines that take health and the environment as two sides of the same sustainable coin.
Overall, the new guide says a shopping basket should contain healthy food products, organic products, seasonal fruit and vegetables grown locally, fairtrade products, and beverages in recyclable packaging units.
Whilst noting that organic purchasing decisions are often driven by desire for healthy nutrition and environmentally friendly choices, it points out that organic food systems do not use chemical or synthetic fertilisers, and livestock are raised in conditions appropriate to their species. Moreover, organic farming creates more jobs than conventional.
The guide also acknowledges the thorny issue of organic produce flow in from overseas, thereby using much energy. Its rule of thumb is: “The best choice is always a food product that features three specific characteristics: organic, regional, and seasonal. It is not always easy to find such products, of course. You should ensure that a product meets at least one of these criteria”.
The guide says that healthy diets should consist of mostly vegetables and relatively little meat. Since meat production generates more greenhouse gases than vegetable production, this has environmental benefits too.
The call is in turn with the Swedish guidelines, as well as recent calls from NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund to reduce consumption to three meat occasions a week.
The new German guide places emphasis on developing new routines. “Many consumers appreciate the fact that nutritional data, such as fat and sugar content, for instance, are printed on product packaging,” it says. “But they don’t read the labels on every product every time they go shopping. Shopping with a routine makes life easier. But it also means we may routinely buy products that are too fat, too sweet, too expensive and insufficiently sustainable altogether”.
The new edition of The Sustainable Shopping Basket can be found here.