Ethically Eating Whilst Travelling...
NOTE: This piece is about ETHICAL eating whilst travelling. Not solely environmental, or emotive eating but a holistic view of sustainability, cultural and healthy eating habits whilst over seas.
Environmental eating can be a minefield. Adding in traveling and removing everything you might be used to, with a specific diet can be tricky. Heres some advice from an ethical eater, on how to stay eco, healthy and ethical whilst living from a backpack.
Three main themes of ethical and what you might like to think about:
Economical; Supports local community; Supports your wallet
Environmental; Doesn't support environmentally degrading processes, minimal impact.
Social; Healthy, Tasty, Respectful and Sensitive to Hosts
A diet that is tasty, practical, nourishing ecofriendly and culturally sensitive.
"Freeganism whilst traveling gives me the freedom to eat in a way that is ethical. It prevents food waste, improves my cultural immersion and makes life comfortable."
a practical guide to eating an eco-friendly and ethical diet overseas
1. Eat what the locals are eating and in local restaurants.
In developing regions, this is the most likely to be locally grown (win) and is the option that will immerse you in the local culture. Using common sense is also important, avoiding obviously damaging delicacies such as shark fin soup. This also helps to support local communities, who grow and cook up delicious local dishes. Buying at local prices is also beneficial and prevents inflation. Street food safety tip- always heat hot, freshly cooked goods.
2. Local Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables.
You'd be mad to miss out on local fruits when travelling. Usually an entirely different range to what you know, an incredible way to explore a region. Best of all, buying those planty snacks at local markets supports farmers. Make sure you buy plastic free!
I'll discuss veganism and travel below.
3. Package Free.
You'll do yourself a favour and the planet by avoiding wrapped goods. Sanitation and proper waste management is certainly something we take for granted in developed nations. Don't forget, your host countries may not have waste disposal- so your crisps packet will linger long after you. Try and avoid plastic and utilise that waste free toolkit!
4. Mostly Plant Based Flexitrianism.
This is a complex issue. Veganism, is often touted as THE be all and end all argument for ethical and environmental eating. I don’t think that is necessarily true (find out more here) and especially so when talking about the ethics of culture and ecotourism. Plus veganism can be tricky in a new country, as you find you feet. It is an ideal often propped up by supplements available within plentiful Western shops, for those dedicated to eating meat and dairy free.
Many populations of the planet eat fish, meat and dairy. Some are just not lucky enough to have a choice in their diet- and can't afford, or don't have rich sources of plant based foods (Island communities may be particularly vulnerable to this, if the soil is too salty to grow produce).
Also, if you are eating for the environment, it's worth remembering that many regions of the planet are not tied to mass agriculture. Many regions have back yard chickens, eating their scraps. The environmental and ethical problems associated with large scale agriculture, are not such an issue in many rural communities. Imported specialist, heavily packaged foods may be more environmentally degrading than local meat.
When faced with a choice, I always always choose vegan or vegetarian options on the menu if available. When we already know the environmental benefits of plant based, as well as huge health and economic benefits. It's good marketing to show businesses the demand for plant based. It's also important to prevent increasing the price of fish and thus encouraging fishing. Keeping the most economic source of money for fish from ecotourism attractions, is ideal.
HOWEVER Whilst it’s important to try and reduce the impact of meat and dairy, it is also important to be compassionate and understanding when travelling. Communities in developing regions are often dependant on animal sources for survival. If the only source of food is animal based, I deal with it. There may be a literal lack of plant based alternatives, there may be a social situation or faced with food waste are all reasons to eat animal products.
When staying in homestay situations, if I am presented with animal based foods, I am excited to try something local. Animal products have health benefits. Eating locally produced animal products has a much lower food mile, compared to specialised imported food items. I like to think holistically.
4. DO NOT SEND IT BACK OR LET IT BE WASTED!
Why are you vegetarian or vegan? Environmental reasons? Perfect! If so, the worst thing you can do in this situation is send it back.That equals food wasted, and if its animal products wasted, even worse. Same goes for homestay or event dinners. If there is a big plate of chicken going spare, and won't be eaten, eat!
Raising awareness for vegan diets, is a sensitive issue for many developing regions with lack of food security. While it is of course an important development tool for local businesses, to cater for specialist diets, let a fluent speaker explain it. You risk stressing and or offending a host by "teaching" them about veganism. Let somebody who is local and can explain it properly do the job.