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Our Attitude to Sustainable Food

April 11, 2011
Strawberry Pickers

Photograph: Chris de Rham

Last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released their latest research on British attitudes to sustainable food (full report). They found in their survey that people want to buy healthy and local food. What you can’t tell from the research is whether they’re lying or not.

Although the full report goes into plenty of detail and covers a lot of areas, I just want to look at a few of the results.

65% strongly agree or tend to agree that the earth has limited resources

This means 35% think the earth has limitless resources. That’s an exceptionally bad statistic, particularly after some of the most recent campaigns such as, Hugh’s Fish Fight and The Peoples Supermarket (although data was collected before either of these was within the public eye). It’s quite hard to believe that this statistic is actually true, I wonder what answers they’d have got if they had asked about the world being round.

61% strongly disagree or tend to disagree that it’s only worth doing environmentally friendly things if it saves you money

This statistic is probably linked to the other one above – the other big reason to do something environmentally friendly would be to help the environment. However, 82% strongly agree or tend to agree that people have a duty to recycle. So there’s a mismatch of figures here. People either think that recycling isn’t environmentally friendly, or there is a law of some sort, which enforces recycling. I think that this mismatch of figures shows some promise, if you can convince people that recycling is a duty, why not make it a ‘duty’ to buy British produce or buy sustainably produced food?

57% strongly disagree or tend to disagree that car uses should pay higher taxes for the sake of the environment

53% are happy with what they currently do for the environment

I’ve listed these two together as they match up perfectly (although I doubt they would in reality). What can we decipher? 53% think about the impact of their actions on the environment, 57% don’t and won’t even make a guilt payment in taxes? Probably not, but I think there may have been a few cyclists in this survey.

75% report that they waste either hardly any, a small amount or no food waste

Something to make The Peoples Supermarket followers happy. Three out of four people waste very little, again doing some statistic matching – three out of four people are obese.


In season, British produce - not cheap enough?

The largest barrier for buying British in season produce is ‘wanting a wide choice’, 38% of those not actively seeking cited this as a barrier. 31% claimed it was too expensive while 25% cited habit as a barrier.

Wanting a wide choice is a suitable barrier for buying British in season produce, but surely it shouldn’t be too expensive. Nearly a third of people think British in season produce is too expensive, so either these people are wrong or the system is wrong. It should surely be cheaper to produce, for example a strawberry, in the height of it’s season in the same county, or at worst country, than it would be to produce it in Spain and ship it over.

How would you have answered this survey? Tell us some of your answers below

All statistics from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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