Eating well helps our environment

Monday March 06, 2017 Written by Published in Environment
Domestic animals such as pigs are always eager to devour food scraps. 17030312 Domestic animals such as pigs are always eager to devour food scraps. 17030312

SCREENED NOSE: This weekly column is supplied by Te Ipukarea Society. It focuses on conservation and environmental issues of interest to the Cook Islands.


This week is non-communicable disease (NCD) week, and today we are writing about how reducing your likelihood of getting diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, etc, is actually very good for the environment and the local economy, too.

One way to reduce the chances of getting an NCD is to try and eat as much locally produced foods as possible. 

We are so lucky especially here in Rarotonga to have a perfect climate to grow so many fruits and vegetables. We have breadfruit, taro, maniota, pumpkins and kumara for our starch.

We have fish, local chickens and local pork for our protein, and we have taro leaves, rukau viti, and many other greens for our fibre and iron. For fruits we have bananas, pawpaws, guavas, mangoes, soursops, carambola star fruits, and many others. And let’s not forget the oh-so-versatile coconut! And avocados!

We even have local coffee growing in the hills, and of course the local Atiu coffee as well. Local coconut cream goes very well with this in place of milk.

The positive health impacts of eating locally are obvious, as these foods have no harmful additives, contain no added sugar or salt, and limited fat (apart from the local pork). How many of the Cook Islanders living here before European contact suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes and kidney failure? Probably none.

The impact on the economy of eating local foods would also be positive. Buying locally produced goods keeps our money circulating in the country, instead of going to overseas growers, manufacturers, and exporters. It could also encourage more people to take up small scale agriculture when they see an increasing demand for local produce due to increased consumption.

However, as this is an environmental article, let’s get to the positive impacts for our environment.

After making the evening meal, look around and see how much plastic and other packaging material is left over. The empty rice bag, empty tins from the coconut cream, tomatoes, peas or other vegetables; plastic bags that contained the potatoes and onions; empty milk containers or other items. All this will end up in our landfill.

If you made a meal with mostly local produce, nearly all you have left is biodegradeable peelings etc that can be fed to the pigs, goats, chickens, or domestic animals.

This actually makes them healthier as well by giving them a more balanced diet than just coconut or commercial animal feeds. Whatever the animals do not eat, can be placed in a compost bin or worm farm. And if you don’t have any animals, your neighbours who do will welcome the contribution to their animals.

Tourists who visit our island and stay in self-catering accommodation should be encouraged to also eat as much local produce as possible.

Many of them bring pre-packaged meat and other food items with them on the plane, which really makes no sense.

We have the freshest fish and local produce available here, and we also have reasonably priced imported meats and chickens already here. The visitors also bring styrofoam chilly bins to carry this frozen produce, leaving even more waste behind for our landfill when they leave.

With our landfill virtually at the end of its life span, we can all do our part to extend its life, and minimize the area needed for the next one, by going local!

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