Local Food or Less Meat?

A while back I did a Live Local Challenge, attempting to consume only food produced within 100 kilometres of my home for a week. You can check out the results and learnings from the process in a series of blog posts from 2009.

Since that time I’ve been much more conscious of what I consume and where it comes from. Last week we screened Food Inc. at Social Innovation Sydney and that kick started me thinking about the issue again.

Then this article popped up in my RSS feed: Local Food or Less Meat? Data Tells The Real Story.

Andrew Winston summarises the research in a US context:

“Thankfully, a couple scientists took a harder look at the data and published an analysis in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology. The abstract for this article is a prime example of clear writing and good lifecycle analysis — which don’t usually go together — so check it out. But here’s the essence:

  • Food is transported a long way, going about 1,000 miles in delivery and over 4,000 miles across the supply chain.
  • But 83% of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food comes from growing and producing it. Transportation is only 11%.
  • Different foods have vastly different greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity, with meat requiring far more energy to produce, and red meat being particularly egregious, requiring 150% more energy than even chicken.

So the journal article adds this up to an obvious conclusion: if you want to reduce your food’s carbon footprint, eat less meat. In short, “Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.”

As a numbers geek, I love this kind of analysis. Now for the caveats: none of this data should dissuade anyone from eating locally also. The footprint benefits are real, even if dwarfed by food choice. And the benefits to local economies and smaller farms are very important.

But let me repeat: just moving away from meat for one day a week is more effective than buying everything you eat locally. This number will be surprising to most people, but it’s partly why the global call for “Meatless Mondays” is gaining steam, with school systems and universities adopting the approach in cities around the world, from Baltimore to Tel Aviv.

Source: Andrew Winston, Local Food or Less Meat? Data Tells The Real Story

I suspect that the distances mentioned in the research hold for Australia too due to our large land mass and lack of local farming close to most cities. Thus it becomes clear that if you can’t decide to become vegetarian full time then there are substantial benefits to replacing a number of meals each week with vegetarian choices. That’s what we’re doing at my place.

People are still the best thing about LeWeb

Each year LeWeb conference evolves and improves on the last one, but one thing remains – the amazing diversity of people that you meet. And this is one of the reasons that, in spite of many criticisms that others level at this conference, I like to attend.

Last night this was proven on a number of levels. I joined a diverse, smart and interesting group of people for dinner. The conversation ranged far and wide and it was a privilege to participate. I will not report the substance of the conversations as we were all very frank and it would not be fair.

The restaurant we dined at was wonderful, great traditional French food and wine, and the staff looked after our boisterous group very well. I had the venison and it was delicious. The desserts were amazing as well. I will share the food pr0n pics once I get around to uploading them.

L’Aiguière 37 bis, rue Montreuil 75011 Paris

Closest metro is: FAIDHERBE CHALIGNY – Line 8 (pink) towards the direction of Cretel Prefecture.

I can recommend this as a good place for a convivial meal in Paris.

A taste for travel: dinner at Universal

Had dinner at Universal restaurant the other night at the instigation of the lovely @frombecca & joined by the ebullient @CarmR and some other friends. 

Dinner was cooked by four of Australia’s most renowned chefs – Christine Manfield (Universal), Frank Camorra (Movida, Melbourne), Kylie Kwong (billy kwong, Sydney), and London-based David Thompson (Nahm).  The food was excellent – fresh produce prepared with style and extreme yumminess.

The wines to accompany the meal were from Cape Mentelle – my favourites were the sauvignon blanc & the zinfandel.

Apart from cooking the chefs shared some stories that had inspired their cooking; while Travel + Leisure’s deputy editor, Sally Webb hosted the evening, proving her skills as a barrel girl.

Will share some pictures soon.  But there will be even more photos of the food over at Becca’s blog Inside Cuisine.

Posted via web from thoughtstream

More tasty #livelocal fun

It has been a few weeks since we did the Live Local Challenge and Rebecca and I decided to catch up for breakfast. We decided that our reunion had to incorporate local and sustainable foods.

Luckily the night before I’d stayed in Camperdown after Stilgherrian’s Project TOTO farewell gathering, so the Danks Street Depot was an ideal spot for breakfast.

It was lovely to have a chance to catch up with Rebecca again, and to enjoy our food while talking about life, the universe and everything. We’re both still trying to keep sustainability and living local in mind for our daily lives. It’s great to have someone to share ideas with too.

Rebecca had the polenta with rhubarb and Meredith sheep’s milk yoghurt – I had a taste of this & it was scrumptious.

I had the poached eggs with bacon hash, roasted tomato & sourdough toast. This was made with Cornucopia Farms Bio-dynamic Eggs from Lonstock in the upper Hunter Valley. Since I can never poach eggs properly at home, it was a delight to have such perfectly cooked ones.

All in all this was a very pleasant was to start a Sunday 🙂

By the way, my new vegetable patch is going fine – although with all this rain I’ve been worried it might drown.

Live local challenge – what I learned #livelocal

My approach was that of an ordinary outer suburban Sydney dweller. I wanted to see how easy it would be to live locally using the local shopping sources – malls, supermarkets, farmer’s markets – without travelling long distances to specialist sources. I also broadened my thinking to include other things I consume, such as power, cleaning supplies and cosmetics.

The other thing I wanted to test was how possible it was to use public transport in preference to a car for as many things as possible.

I wanted to find out how sustainable a live local life style would be in the long term and what challenges would arise.

The biggest challenge was food labeling – it was often really hard to find out where foods actually came from. So many products simply say “made in Australia from local and imported ingredients”. Other foods say a location but you can’t see where the ingredients come from.  An example of this was the sourdough rye bread, which was baked in Fairfield, but for which the provenance of the ingredients could not be ascertained.

Another was how little I actually know about things I use everyday – electricity for example, where does it come from? And where other consumables, like cleaning products (mostly made in Australia from local & imported ingredients) and cosmetics (mostly not local) come from?

My addictions to products that are not produced locally were a big challenge: coffee (which I did not give up for the sake of housemates), chocolate (which I only had once but craved the entire time), olive oil, butter, and rice.

What I learned
Being conscious of small decisions I make everyday was my biggest lesson. The most important question to ask while out shopping is:

Do I really need to buy something from very far away if there is a locally produced option available?

I also had the opportunity to speak with neighbours and local shopkeepers to discuss where their produce came from. Some nice surprises, like that my local Chinese restaurant actually hand-make their spring rolls and use locally purchased cabbage.  There is a huge amount of interesting activity around sustainability and the environment going on in my own neighbourhood.  Many people are composting or keeping worm farms.  Several people keep chickens and many are growing vegetables.  We have lots of water tanks around the area as well.

There is actually a farmer’s market nearby, but is held on Thursdays during business hours, which is not much help to those of us who don’t work nearby.

My biggest lessons were:

Being conscious of decisions that I make, rather than just doing things blindly & without thinking.  Getting off autopilot and getting back  in touch with nature, the seasons and living consciously.

Issues to consider
Living local is an important thing to keep in mind.  But we really are part of a global community and we need to acknowledge this fact.  Some of us work on global projects and collaborate internationally.  Australia is a great distance away from many other places.  To participate in many activities, and for work, overseas travel is required.  Even with the best technology,  personal meetings are still often the best way to work with other people.  For example, I collaborate with people in Europe and north America – we do a lot online, but from time to time we need to meet in person.   One of the ways I manage this is to try to coordinate all the meetings/conferences into one trip per year.


My blog posts for each of the 7 days:
#livelocal day 1
#livelocal day 2
#livelocal day 3
#livelocal day 4
Where does soap come from? #livelocal
Neighbourhood vegetable garden #livelocal
#livelocal day 5
#livelocal day 6
#livelocal day 7
#livelocal wrap-up

More info about the Live Local Challenge or via the Twitter stream, & dont forget to check out Rebecca’s challenge blog too.

Here is a series of pictures that I took during the challenge:

Live local challenge day 7 #livelocal

Vivian from the Plant Bug Garden Centre

Had long distances to travel today – starting with a meeting with some of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) folks at the Garvan Institute in Darlinghurst. We were discussing Smart Technology for Healthy Longevity.  It was nice to catch up with Craig Mudge & Gordon Bell there too.

But it’s a long way from my place – about an 80 km round trip. Again the public transport options are a challenge with three train changes and a couple of long walks.  And I wanted to combine the trip so as to accomplish more that just attending a meeting.  Thus, on the way home I stopped in at the Plant Bug Garden Centre and met the very helpful Vivian (picture to the right).

I told her about the Live Local project and before I knew it there was a nice selection of plants for the garden getting loaded into the car boot.

my new plants

Immediately upon arrival at home I started moving them into their pots.  I’m using pots because, for some unknown reason, the dogs only dig up plants that are in the ground.  I have no idea of what to do next & suspect I’ll be asking Vivian for some gardening tips soon.

All of this fits in with my other Live Local projects – saying g’day and helping native bees . It also fits in with the 7 day challenge since I made the car journey serve more than one purpose.

Dinner tonight is just leftovers from last night.  It is very exhausting to have to plan ahead so much.  At the meeting earlier today I realised my local snacks were still on the bench at home, so I succumbed to a cup of coffee, biscuit & a sandwich.  Have continued to resist desire for chocolate but do think it is time for a restorative glass of local wine. I have been very grateful that the Hunter wineries are located so close to home.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream & don’t forget to check out Rebecca’s challenge blog

Neighbourhood vegetable garden #livelocal

Finally braved the rain yesterday afternoon to visit a neighbour – who’s got a nice vegetable garden instead of lawn in her front yard (that’s a picture of it on the right).

She’s been away and it was our first chance to catch up in ages.

We chatted about the Live Local challenge and stuff over a cup of tea. Ok so the tea was Lapsang Souchong! But I was weak & a bit damp after my walk over 😉

This is a family who’ve really given sustainable living a lot of thought and effort. Amongst other things they:

  • keep chickens in the backyard
  • have a vegetable garden in the front yard
  • use water tanks
  • are installing a grey water system
  • have solar panels on their roof
  • drive a hybrid car

It has been raining so much here my water tank is full, and the rain looks like continuing for many days yet.  The rain did not stop most of Saturday so I didn’t go for a bike ride.  The weather does not look like clearing for several more days, so bike riding might be off the agenda until next week.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream

Live local challenge day 4 #livelocal

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is catch up with the neighbours about the challenge, but some are away on a long trip and everyone else is holed up inside waiting for the incessant rain to stop.

Normally this is a pretty social suburb and families get together to play soccer after school or to let the dogs run around off leash at the park.  Many others go for walks together or walk their dogs together.

But the rain means none of that is happening.  Sadly this has crimped my simple plan to pop over to the park and talk to everyone about the Live Local challenge.

If the rain stops today, the plan is to ride my bike to get some fresh bread from the local bakery.  Otherwise will need to take the car.  I will also check where the bakery gets their ingredients from.

On Monday I’m going to walk up to the local school (hopefully the rain will have passed) and see if they are interested in hearing about Live Local stuff.  Suspect they will be interested to hear about it as the school kids already have a vegie garden and make their own compost.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream

Live local challenge day 2 #livelocal

fresh produce live local challengeWell a lot more planning went into today after yesterday’s experiences. Due to my schedule there’s been some interesting decisions to make about transport too.


  • finally made it to the shops (a 30 km round trip) by car and combined the trip with taking a sick friend to the doctor
  • had conversations with people at the market stalls to find out where their produce came from
  • got zucchinis and carrots from Wallacia, free range eggs from Minchinbury, and mushrooms from somewhere out near Penrith (I can’t remember the place)
  • finally remembered to take my calico bag


  • could not find any tasty tomatoes from any closer than Hanwood (600 km from here, but they are really tasty) – suspect we’ll be growing our own tomatoes soon
  • nor could I find limes from any closer than “Australia” (who knows what that really means?)
  • discovered I need more reusable shopping bags than I currently own

Found out that quite a few people in shops don’t know where the stuff they sell comes from, it just appears from a wholesaler – so knowing the provenance of produce remains a challenge.

Still drinking my imported coffee (mainly because it was a 1 kg bag and there’s a lot left, it seems wasteful to buy more at this stage).

Due to business commitments I need to be in the city all afternoon and evening. This means that public transport is not an option for getting home.

The choice is between driving there & back or catching the train there and getting a (very expensive) taxi back. A combination of personal economics & the current rainy/cold weather led to a decision to take the car.

The entire Live Local process is causing me to be much more conscious about so many decisions that are typically made automatically. I’m definitely thinking more about journeys and how a single journey can be made to achieve more than one thing at a time.

The use of public transport in Sydney is really easy if you are on spoke and going straight into the city. But it is really hard and time consuming to go across town. I have regular business meetings in Parramatta, Ryde, North Ryde and the city – and this makes trying to bundle up meetings important but not always possible.

More info about the Live Local Challenge or follow the Twitter stream