Airbnb has partnered with Slow Food to provide our community with resources to preserve local food culture and promote food sustainability. Slow Food was founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, and counteract the rise of fast food culture. Since its founding, it has grown into a global movement working to ensure that everyone has access to good, clean and fair food. Its members and communities across the globe involve some of the world’s best connoisseurs of culinary and cultural treasures.
Michele Rumiz, Slow Food’s Travel Director, shares his thoughts on how to make your cooking experience more sustainable for the community and your guests.
The food we decide to buy and eat can make a big impact on our environment and communities.
For instance, the global food system is responsible for about 25% of the greenhouse gases we generate. If you eat food, you are part of this system, and as a host, you can make a difference.
So how do we contribute to sustainable food systems? This is a complex problem and there are no straightforward solutions, but there are some key choices we all can make to build a better future for our community and for our guests.
Source locally and seasonally
Try to source your ingredients locally, ideally from farmer’s markets or community supported agriculture. When you buy ingredients that don’t have to travel as far to reach you, you also help to strengthen local food networks. A short supply chain makes it easier to achieve a price that is fair for both producers and consumers. As a consumer, you’ll understand more about agriculture and how food production works.
Prioritize seasonal food—it tastes better and it is often healthier, as seasonal vegetables and fruit retain more nutrients than their non-seasonal counterparts. If you eat local and seasonal, it means you’re supporting local farmers who choose to farm sustainably.
For the same reasons, try to avoid over-processed. As the author Michael Pollan says, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” and if you eat something full of ingredients with names you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, “What are those things doing there?” Over-packaged food raises many sustainability concerns, too—food packaging plays a major role in plastic waste, and in most cases the plastic is thrown away after a single use. At the current consumption rate, by 2050 there will be, by weight, more plastic in the sea than fish. Our everyday decisions have the power to change that.
Choose small-scale artisanal production over conventional products
Every corner of the world has its own unique food culture which is preserved by small-scale artisans, not the food industry. Since people travel in part to experience what they can’t find at home, it is worthwhile to pay a little bit more and purchase artisanal, traditional food products. You’ll add a unique touch to your experiences and make them more authentic while protecting traditional knowledge.
In addition, small-scale producers often create and protect domesticated biodiversity, such as local breeds and varieties, ecosystems, and traditional knowledge, three key ingredients in the resilience of local communities and food systems.
Choose food biodiversity
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations acknowledges that biodiversity is a vital element of sustainable agriculture. Yet the number of food varieties that we eat is a small fraction of the total agricultural biodiversity available. Close to 7,000 species of plants have been cultivated as food crops worldwide, and 200 or so species of animals have been raised on farms. However, just a few of these feed the world today, providing the majority of calories and protein consumed in the globalized economy.
Choose local breeds and varieties, if possible. By doing so, you will support biodiversity on farms, allowing these plants and animals to provide ecosystem services, which stabilize yields and reduce the need for external inputs. On top of this, eating multiple varieties of the same food provides us with a greater diversity of nutrients, probiotics, textures, and flavors to keep us healthy and protected from disease.
Avoid food waste
Food sustainability also requires avoiding food waste, and not just because 821 million people suffer from hunger. Global food loss and waste generates about 8% of humankind’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. So try to be imaginative and use the abundance of blogs, websites, and videos that show smart ways to use leftovers through innovative or traditional recipes.
In the US, 20% of food is eaten in the car. Yet food is about much more than just nutrition and fuel for the body. We need to make our tables a feast again, where we gather to share food with family and friends, old and new. This is a key step in getting guests curious about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how our food choices affect our communities and the world around us.
Courtesy of the Slow Food. ©2019 Slow Food. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.