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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

What is SOLE food?

Heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes at the Slow Food Nation event.

Credit: Flickr.com/mercedesfromtheeighties

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A lot of our G Challenges are focused on food - which makes sense, since it's not an optional activity for any of us! But it's also because the food we buy is a large part of our environmental impact.

According to the Australian Conservation Foundation's Consumption Atlas, food is responsible for 26 per cent of our greenhouse gas production, 47 per cent of our water use, and almost 60 per cent of our eco-footprint overall. The animals we keep to eat, irrigation for our crops, plastic wrappings, transport to get it all delivered across our continent - it really adds up.

One way of reducing that impact is to try SOLE eating. SOLE stands for Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical, and SOLE eaters try to make sure that their food covers as many of those bases as possible.

Sustainable simply means that the food is produced in a way that can be maintained for hundreds of years, and therefore is based on sensible agricultural practices and minimises wasted resources. That's like our challenges to reduce food waste and food packaging.

Organic isn't something we've tackled in a challenge, but I know that a lot of G Magazine readers try to buy organic when possible. Organic means that the food was grown without the pesticides or herbicides which pollute our water and reduce the fertility of our soil.

Local eating is a challenge we did recently - choosing food from within 100 miles, or within our state or country, in preference to food transported in by air or ship or trucks or by rail. It was one of my favourite challenges, because I got to meet such nice people at the grower's market!

Ethical eating is when we pay attention to who is making our food, not just how it's done. Did workers get a fair wage for their time, and have they got safe working conditions? It's also about the animals we eat - are they treated humanely? Our vegetarian challenge helped us with one aspect of that.

SOLE eating is like a mnemonic, a way of remembering what our priorities are when we're making our food choices. In the same way you might use the made-up name "Roy G. Biv" to remember the colours of the rainbow, why not use SOLE next time you're shopping to keep track of how your environmental footprint is going?