Eco-friendly Food Challenge

Eco friendly food challenge

Karly Graham 204961
As an assessment task for one of my university units, I have been asked to undertake a 4-week Eco-friendly food challenge and blog about my experience. Since I already have a blog, I thought I would publish my blog posts to my personal blog site so that my readers can read it as well as my lecturer. The 4 challenges are as follows;
· Your challenge is to plan to reduce the amount of food packaging and waste that goes to landfill.

· Your challenge is to find out where your favourite fruits and vegetables are grown.  Are they locally grown and purchased in season?

· Your challenge is to undertake a pantry audit to find out what percentage of your total pantry items are imported.

· Your challenge is to make and try 2 new legume recipes during the week.

Pre-challenge thoughts

I am looking forward to participating in this challenge. For a long time, I have wanted to live an eco-friendlier life however I don't think I have been very successful in doing this so far. The way my attitudes, beliefs and behaviours have changed can be accurately demonstrated with the stages of change model we have learnt about in previous studies in our degree. Before I started my degree, I would have considered myself to be in the pre-contemplation stage in terms of my beliefs about being eco-friendly and chances of taking action on the matter (LaMorte 2018). I grew up in an anti-green family who wouldn't have been caught dead doing something that may be considered eco-friendly. I was taught that there was nothing I could do to make a difference and that I shouldn't listen to anything greenies had to say because they were wrong about everything.

Since being at university however I have been made aware of the importance of eco-friendly food and the difference I could be making if I was to take action i.e. my studies helped me to transition to the contemplation stage of the model (LaMorte 2018). Now that I have been told about the challenge and what I will be doing over the next few weeks, I feel as though I have been forced or pushed into the preparation stage of the stages of change model (LaMorte 2018). This is a welcomed push however as I don't know if or when I would have had the initiative required to take action on my own and change my behaviour without it. After the challenge is over, I hope that I continue practicing the eco-friendly behaviours that I will adopt over the next four weeks. I also hope to gain greater confidence in myself and my abilities to make a difference in the future.

Above: The stages of behaviour change model (Bolanos 2014)

Week 1: Reduce your landfill

I currently live in a home with my dad, elderly uncle, 15-year-old sister and 22-year-old brother and our recycling efforts are far from ideal, mainly due to living on a rural farm most of our lives where there was no recyclables collection service. Even though we live in a more urban area now where rubbish is collected once a week and recycling is collected fortnightly, everyone in the household are yet to make a habit of recycling properly which results in us having an over flowing rubbish bin every week prior to collection day and an almost empty recycling bin. At an attempt to get my family recycling better, I have been thinking about why my family are so reluctant to recycle in the first place and I have come up with a few conclusions.

1) Laziness. We live in a two-story house with our kitchen being upstairs and our council collection bins being outside downstairs. Whilst we have a smaller regular rubbish bin in the kitchen, the only recycling bin is downstairs and outside meaning it is much easier for my family members to just place any rubbish or recycling in the kitchens general rubbish bin.

2) Lack of knowledge. Because we have never recycled in the past, we still don't have a great understanding of what items should be recycled and which items shouldn't be. I am embarrassed to admit that at time when I try and recycle, I am not 100% sure whether a certain item is recyclable or not so I just put it in the rubbish bin in case.

3) Political stance/belief system. As I already discussed, my family would be considered anti-green and although I have an appreciation for the environment and try to be eco-friendly when possible, they are still reluctant to do anything that may class them as 'Greenies'. They also live by an 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude and therefore don’t really consider issues that they don’t think affect them directly.

In order to get my family on board with my efforts to reduce the amount of landfill we accumulate each week, I am going to buy a small recycling bin to put in our kitchen alongside the rubbish bin. I hope that this will encourage my family members to recycle more instead of just putting the recycling in the rubbish bin because it is convenient. I will also print out a straight forward recycling guide to stick to the bin or put on the fridge above the bin, so that we can easily check to see what is recyclable and what is not if ever we are unsure. Changing my family’s beliefs about the importance of recycling is my biggest challenge and I worry that the harder I push them in that direction, the more reluctant they will be to truly listen. Perhaps if I just encourage them to recycle for the sake of not running out of room in our rubbish bin each week, then I can trick them into being eco-friendlier, without them knowing it!

After buying a separate recycling bin for our kitchen to which I stuck a simple recycling guide, there was definitely an improvement in the amount of recycling that actually got done in our household. For the first time in as long as I can remember we actually ran out of room in the recycling bin and have had to start stockpiling recyclable items to put in the bin after collection day. While I can’t say whether the recycling guide has been helpful to my other family members, it has certainly been helpful to me. For instance, I did not know that caps and lids off of bottles could not be recycled. I also didn’t know that plastic microwavable trays could not be recycled. I also spoke to my dad about putting plastic bags in the recycling bin as he has been inclined to put recyclable bottles into a plastic bag before putting them into a recycling bin.
Above: The Guide I printed out and stuck on the kitchen recycling bin (Voorhees Township 2016)

Above: Recycling bin vs rubbish bin at the end of the collection week

I have tried to have a few conversations with family members about recycling however these haven’t seemed to go very well. For example, my dad overheard me talking about how our family are pretty hopeless at recycling and told me that it was a ‘waste of time’. Despite this it is still really good to see my family recycling better, even if it is just so we can fill both of our collection bins more evenly. The next step for our family to be eco-friendlier would be to try and reduce our landfill and recycling all together by buying less packaged foods/items in the first place. Even if I find it difficult to get all my family on board with this, I can at least try and do this myself as I buy all of my own groceries and some of my families too.

Week 2: Food Miles

I eat a lot of vegetables and fruit but have never really put much thought into where it actually comes from. I have at least 1 fresh apple every day and also snack on things like watermelon, strawberries, grapes and apricots when they are in season or at a reasonable price. Most of my fruit I buy from either Coles or Woolworths as it is cheaper and of better quality than the fruit for sale at my local IGA however sometimes I buy apples from my local supermarket. Similarly, I buy fresh Broccoli, carrots, cauliflowers, zucchini and beans from Coles or Woolworths when I am in Hobart or Launceston but I don't buy fresh vegetables from my local supermarket very often as they are usually very expensive and of poor quality (primarily due to poor turnover of stock). If I want vegetables and can’t get to Coles or Woolworths, I usually buy frozen 'Birds Eye' or 'McCain's' vegetables from my local supermarket.

I went to Coles to have a look at where their fruit and vegetables were primarily grown and was pleasantly surprised to find it was nearly all grown in Australia. It was good to see Coles correctly labelling all fresh produce as they are legally obliged to do by FSANZ (2018), however I found myself wondering exactly where in Australia the products were from. This is because I am not only passionate about supporting Australian farmers and food producers but also local Tasmanian farmers and hence, I would rather be able to tell which state certain products are grown in. When looking at the frozen vegetable’s selections, again I was impressed that all of the Coles branded frozen vegetables were Aussie grown, including the stir fry selection. The Birds eye stir fry vegetables were not entirely Australian grown however and I found it concerning that there was no way of knowing exactly where the imported proportions had come from (see table below). Now I have realised this I think I will choose to buy either the Coles brand or Aussie grown Birds eye vegetables when I can, instead of the frozen vegetables which include imported ingredients.

As well as wanting to buy Tasmanian products so that I can support our local farmers and our local economy, I would rather buy local fruits and vegetables that are in season so that I know they have not been transported long distances or stored for large amounts of time, both of which are detrimental to the environment. Because the fruits and vegetables at Coles did not have their exact origin listed, it is impossible to tell how far they have been transported or how long they have been stored and hence there is no way of telling how eco-friendly the produce actually is. I have decided I would like to start shopping at farmers markets when I can so that I not only support our local farmers but can be assured that the produce I eat hasn’t been transported long distances or stored for large amounts of time, both of which emit greenhouse gases and uses up unrenewable energy sources.

Produce item
Origin label
Strawberries (DM. Jennings)
Strawberries (Driscoll’s)
Cos Lettuce
Green Seedless Grapes
Royal Gala Apples
Green Kiwi Fruit
Kent Pumpkin
Green Beans
Red Capsicum
Sweet Red Potato
Green Zucchini
Coles Peas, Carrots & Cauliflower
Birds Eye winter vegetables
Birds Eye Chinese Stir-fry Vegetables
Birds Eye Malaysian Stir-fry Vegetables
Coles Stir-fry Vegetables

                                                                      Above: Huon Valley Strawberries at Coles


Week 3: Pantry Audit
Since I buy all my own food at home, I have my own cupboard in our family kitchen that I keep all my food in so it was quite easy for me to complete my own little pantry audit. The food in my pantry is food that I have bought for my partner, his children and myself. I was surprised by the lack of consistency in labelling as the wording was different on most foods and whilst some foods had detailed ingredient origins listed, others were a lot vaguer. It was good to see the use of the Australian origin bar chart label on quite a few products as it really does help the consumer to see exactly how Australian a product is however many still didn't have this label. I did some research and found that any 'priority foods' manufactured after June 2018 require the Australian bar chart label however 'non priority foods' only require a written statement describing where the food was grown produced, made or packed (ACCC 2018).

Food Item
Origin information
Heritage Mill Porridge Sachets
Made in Australia from at least 97% Australian ingredients
Ritz crackers
Made in Indonesia
SAXA salt
Made in Australia
Moccona skim cappuccino Sachets
Made in Australia with ingredients from multiple origins
Coles Rice Puffs
Made in NZ with local and imported ingredients (Rice from Australia)
Queen imitation Vanilla Essence
Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients
Natvia natural sweetener
Made in Australia from all imported ingredients
Fountain tomato sauce (NAS)
Made in Australia from less than 10% Australian Ingredients 
Bega Peanut Butter (smooth)
Made in Australia from at least 30% Australian Ingredients
Uncle Bens Vegetables Medley Rice
Made in Spain with ingredients from multiple origins
Real Foods Corn thins
Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients
Coles Quick Oats
Product of Australia (100%)
Heinz Spaghetti
Made in New Zealand
Herbalife Vanilla shake mix
Made in USA
Herbalife Personalise Protein Powder
Made in USA
Poppin Microwave popcorn
Made in Australia from at least 78% Australians ingredients
Continental Creamy Bacon Carbonara
Made in Australia from at least 82% Australian Ingredients
Maggi wholegrain chicken noodles
Made in Malaysia
SAXA pepper
Packed in Australia from imported products
Uncle Bens savoury chicken rice
Made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients
Coles diced beetroot
Made in Australia from at least 99% Australian ingredients
Uncle Bens special fried rice
Made in Australia (NSW) from imported and local ingredients
San Remo chicken and mushroom pasta
Made in Australia from at least 80% Australian Ingredients
Euro Spices cinnamon Ground
Vietnam (100% Australian owned and operated family company)
Sun Rice Mini Bites
Made in Australia from at least 99% Australian Ingredients
Coles sliced beetroot
Made in New Zealand
Cobs popcorn
Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients
Arnott's Pizza shapes
Made in Australia
Mountain Bread Corn wraps
Made in Australia from at least 99% Australian ingredients
Vetta high protein, low carb pasta
Made in Australia from at least 90% Australian ingredients
Macro Organic toasted coconut chips
Product of Sri Lanka

Even within the same companies there was lack of consistency with ingredient origin and wording of the origin statements. For instance, I had three different flavours of 'Uncle Ben's' microwavable rice and each of them had completely different statements and also ingredient origins i.e. 

1.      Made in Australia (NSW) from imported and local ingredients
2.      Made in Australia from less than 10% Australian ingredients
3.      Made in Spain with ingredients from multiple origins

Also surprising to me was which products were and weren’t Australian. I was happy to see that most of my Woolworths and Coles branded products were from either Australia or New Zealand but I was shocked that popular brands like Fountain and Bega sourced most of their ingredients from overseas. 

Doing this pantry audit certainly made me think about how much food we import from oversees. I was happy to see that most things are manufactured in Australia or at least New Zealand, even if the ingredients are often imported. Although I would primarily like to see all products being Australia made, I also have a lot of confidence in the ability of New Zealand companies to safely manufacture foods as I know they abide by the same laws and standards as we do here in Australia (FSANZ 2018). Other countries however I know very little about which is why I found it worrying when the origin label stated that the product was made overseas or in Australia but from imported ingredients. Especially when the label didn’t state where exactly those ingredients had come from.

Some products were also misleading as the packaging read things like 100% Australian owned and operated family company however this was not referring to the ingredients at all i.e. the ingredients of this product actually came from Sri Lanka however when I first saw the packet, I falsely assumed it was an Australian product. This audit has made me realise how little I know about where my food comes from and has inspired me to make a conscious effort in the future to check labels and try and buy products that have been made in Australia from ingredients also grown here. As well as knowing that Australian foods are produced safely (in accordance with FSANZ), I also would rather support my local economy and support businesses which in turn support other Australian companies instead of companies overseas. I also worry about the distance the foods have been transported as I know that increased food miles correlate with greater environmental impact.

Week 4: Cook up 2 legume recipes

I had absolutely no idea how damaging to the environment our agricultural sector was until I watched the documentary film 'Cowspiracy'. The fact of the matter is, it is impossible for us to live sustainably on earth whilst people consume the amount of farmed meat and animal products that they do. Whilst I am not Vegetarian, I also do not eat as much meat as most people do in developed countries today. As far as animal products go, I probably eat only 2 serves of meat a week as well as 2-3 eggs, 3-4 yoghurts and 2 cups of light cow’s milk. I commonly eat a plate of vegetables for dinner without any meat or eat a large meatless salad for lunch however sometimes I feel like my body does crave protein and fat and worry that I eat too many carbs.

Firstly, I wanted to look up what legumes actually were. According to the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (2019), Legumes include all forms of beans and peas i.e. chickpeas, beans (butter, broad, cannellini, red kidney, adzuki, black-eyes and soya), peas, lentils and lupins. Out of all of these legumes, I only ever consume peas, green beans, broad beans and soya beans (in soy milk). I know I like other forms of legumes however as if they have ever been added into soups or salads or anything like that, I have enjoyed them, I just haven’t had much experience cooking with them myself. I was excited to try some recipes which were similar to foods I already eat, but had various legumes added to them.

1.      Butter Bean and Beetroot Salad (Sanitarium 2019)

2.      Chickpea and Broad bean Salad (Sanitarium 2019)

I have tried both recipes and I can honestly say I really enjoyed them. I felt as though the legumes made the meals more filling and left me with a greater feeling of satiety then the plant-based salads I would usually eat. I am really happy I did this challenge and tried these recipes as it has shown me that it is possible to make a nutritious meal that is filling and satisfying without adding meat. I would definitely like to continue consuming more legume-based meals in the future and now that I know there is another option to get protein and various other nutrients other than by eating meat and animal products, I would even consider becoming a vegetarian in the future. After all, I don’t really like meat all that much, I just eat it when I feel as though my body is craving protein. Now I know there is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative that I enjoy, it makes sense for me to make the eco-friendlier choice more often or all the time. 

 Above: one of the legume salads I created


This food challenge has really got me thinking about what sustainable and environmentally friendly food is. It has made me realise how I can be eco-friendly in my everyday life, by being just a little more mindful and making a few simple changes and substitutions. In the past I have been able to identify how various behaviours were eco-friendly whilst others were not, however I thought it was a waste of time me changing my behaviour as I am just one person and felt as though I couldn’t possibly make a difference. I know now that this is the wrong attitude to have however and plan to make as many eco-friendly food choices as I possibly can in the future and also encourage others around me to do the same. Only then will I be able to say I have made a positive contribution to a more sustainable, fair and environmentally friendly food system.


Bolanos, V 2014, Behavior Change Plan: The Transtheoretical Model in Action, image, viewed 18th March 2019, <>.

FSANZ 2018, Country of Origin labelling, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, ACT, viewed 22nd March 2019,

Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council 2019, Types of Legumes, Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, NSW, viewed 18th March 2019, <>.

LaMorte, W 2018, The Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change), Boston University School of Public Health, Boston MA, Viewed 15th March 2019, <>.

Sanitarium 2019, Healthy Recipes, Sanitarium Australia, NSW, viewed 12th March 2019, <>.

Voorhees Township 2016, Departments Guide to Single Stream Recycling, Voorhees Township, NJ, viewed 18th March 2019, <>.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karly, It was a pleasure reading your Eco-Friendly Food Challenge Journey. It would be interesting to see what has happened since your challenge finished 4 weeks ago. Bringing your family and others along the journey can sometimes be challenging. I'm not vegetarian instead follow a more 'flexitarian' way of eating which sounds like what you are doing now. I think if we all increased our awareness of what we are doing with our and the environment then that is the first step. My moto is 'eat fresh, local and in season' when you can. This is probably the best we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. Sandy