Food Tips - Sustainability - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Sustainable Food Tips

Food initiatives on campus

Food is essential to all, yet here in New Zealand it is so often taken for granted. Wherever or whenever we work, study or play, food will be found. Even a university context provides important opportunities to learn about, mindfully prepare or purchase, and ultimately enjoy eating food that is produced using sustainable practices. On-campus food initiatives include;

  • The UC community gardens is a flagship food initiative which demonstrates a number of key principles of growing sustainable food and provides an opportunity to belong to a community of people who care about eating local, organic food and learning how to grow it.
  • Research by Mario Fichtner into the University of Canterbury food system, (2012) which identifies flows of cafe food and highlights food security issues. Green space which could be used to enhance aesthetics and increase food grown on campus is also mapped.
  • Working towards achieving Fair Trade University status.
  • A trial plot of edible landscaping by Cafe 1894, consisting of lemons, limes, feijoas, pears and Chilean guava. The purpose of this pilot is to guage student response to edible landscaping, which has so far been positive. Check out our edible campus map for the location of other delicacies!
  • Organic waste is collected across the whole of campus and sent to a local composting facility, which in turn sells the compost to local gardeners.

What you can do

Below are some key tips for fine tuning your diet into one that is easier on the planet, supports food growers outside the big supermarket food chain industry, and is probably healthier for you!

  1. Grow your own. Gardening is the ultimate in sustainable food and has ‘food miles’ of less than 20m! There are heaps of things that you can grow easily and support to do this. Look out for books, workshops and friends who are willing to help you learn. Alternatively, go to the garden shop, ask what is easy and go from there! Check out the community gardens on campus and head along to the volunteer days!
  2. Eat in season. Seasonal food tends to be cheaper and more nutrient dense. Seasonal food, especially if you buy it locally, has travelled less and used less intensive methods to grow, which is better for you and the environment. Food starts to lose nutrients as soon as it’s picked, so the quicker you eat it, the better it is for you.
  3. Eat less meat and dairy. A lot of resources are used to create meat and dairy, and in Canterbury, a lot of pollution in the rivers is from the dairy industry. You don’t need to go full vegetarian or vegan, just cut back on animal based consumption. Introducing a meat-free meal once a week is a great place to start. ‘Meatless Mondays’ is the global campaign promoting a meat free day each week.
  4. Eat only sustainably managed fish. The ocean’s eco-system needs protecting and is fast being over-fished. Check out the Forest and Bird’s fish guide for what fish is good to eat!
  5. Eat unprocessed plant-based food. It’s healthier, better for the environment, has less packaging, uses less chemicals and tastes better. 
  6. Buy local. Go to your local farmers markets, keep an eye out for road side stalls, ask your neighbours and friends for any leftover produce they have or swap with your leftovers. Near the university, there is the Christchurch Farmers Market at Riccarton Bush on Saturday 9-12pm (all year) and Wednesday 4-7pm (part of the year), the Riccarton Market (this is not strictly a farmers market, but it has a lot of food stalls) at Riccarton Raceway (just off Yaldhurst Road) on Sunday 9-2pm.
  7. Buy fair trade. Fair trade is a system that works with the world’s most disadvantaged to provide, amongst other things, guaranteed minimum price for products.
  8. Buy organic. Non-organic food is exposed to a number of harmful pesticides and fertilisers. Organic food is better for the environment, better for the farm workers, better for biodiversity and better for your health! If you can’t afford to buy all organic, why not grow your own and prioritise what products are the best to buy organic.
  9. Be mindful of waste associated with food. Bring 'naked lunches' to campus, minimise packaging and recycle it if possible, plus buy a reusable takeaway cup or water bottle.
  • Sustainability Office
    University of Canterbury
    Private Bag 4800
    Christchurch 8140 
    New Zealand
  • sustainability@canterbury.ac.nz
    Phone: +64 3 369 5503 or +64 3 369 5575
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