Buy organic, eat seasonal, think local - easily said, but often price, convenience and, sadly, the feeling that we're powerless to make any real difference can get in the way of our good intentions. But Victoria-based, not-for-profit organisation Sustainable Table is tackling these excuses head-on. This month, it launches the second year of Give A Fork!, a national campaign encouraging Australians to think hard about responsible food consumption.
"I always thought I needed to ride my bike everywhere and make sure my lights were turned off at home, but I'd never really thought about the environmental impact of my food choices," says Sustainable Table co-founder and general manager, Cassie Duncan.
"When I read that 60 per cent of our eco-footprint is embodied in the food we buy, it was really empowering to understand that, actually, we can make a difference."
Held across Australia throughout October, Give a Fork! is designed to encourage people to host low-waste meals at home to start conversations among friends about sustainability. After a successful 2013 campaign focused on sustainable seafood, this year the dinner-table discussion turns to food waste, with our single-use culture and over-consumption habits at the top of the agenda.
"Until you're asked to stop and look at the waste you've generated from hosting a dinner party, you don't even think about it. One in five shopping bags is food that gets wasted, and above and beyond that, up to 40 per cent of what we throw out every week is food waste," says Duncan.
Hosts, however, won't be alone in driving the dinner table discussion. Give A Fork! has designed a free e-book to kick things off, featuring advice on how to get the conversation moving in a more constructive direction, as well as tips on how to use the foods you might usually throw out. "Fish bones and meat offcuts can be frozen and turned into next week's stock, carrot greens and beet leaves are great sautéed or tossed through salads, and pumpkin and potato skins make for delicious, spicy paprika chips."
Guests attending Give A Fork! events will be asked to buy tickets from their hosts, the funds raised going directly towards future campaigns and more accessible resources. "That cultural element of coming together and sharing a meal, we do it less and less," says Duncan. "Why not stay up chatting to your friends until one [in the morning] with a glass of wine in hand, and make it a thoughtful, useful conversation, as well as an enjoyable one?" Restaurants such as Sydney's Vini and Sagra and Melbourne's Union Dining are doing their bit too, and offering minimal waste or 100 per cent locally sourced menu items during the month of October.
"The take-home message here is to become more mindful about our consumption habits - what we're buying, the embedded effort of the farmers who grew that food, and exactly what happens once we've disposed of it."
To register your Give A Fork! event visit the Give a Fork! website.