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The A to Z of sustainable food habits

Image of the March 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
March 2021 Issue

It’s easy to relax good food habits in the outdoors, whether it’s bingeing chocolate scroggin or using too much plastic. Here are 26 simple ways to enjoy the outdoors more sustainably.

Alternative protein
Despite long standing beliefs – possibly perpetuated by the farming industry – meat isn’t the only source of protein available. Experiment with tofu, lentils, chickpeas and beans for more sustainable sources that won’t go bad in your pack.

Buy second hand
Need a new cooker or pot? Check TradeMe or Facebook marketplace first. Save money, reject consumerism, and if you’re lucky, you’ll make new tramping contacts in the process.

If you’re carrying biodegradable foods, fruit and veg, keep your organic waste – apple cores, orange peels, egg shells –separate from your trash, ready to be composted at home.

Don’t toss scraps
We may have grown up tossing apple cores into the bush, but it’s not as consequence-free as we’ve been led to believe. Food scraps take longer to biodegrade than you think. Pests are also more likely to feed on the discarded food before it rots.

Eleventh hour
The later you leave your food prep, the harder it becomes to avoid plastic. Get into it early so you can bake, dehydrate, preserve and cook to your heart’s content, and package everything in reusable containers.

Fuel efficiency
Not all fuels are equal, and nor are the stoves that burn them. Multi-fuel stoves can burn liquid and gas fuel. Liquid fuel stoves allow owners to avoid using gas canisters and opt for more sustainable fuel sources.

Group meals
If you’re tramping in a group, cook in a group. A meal that serves four will likely be more sustainable, not to mention lighter, than four single serve meals. Share the load – and the dishes.

You may be surprised at how many tramping staples can be made easily at home; crackers, muesli bars and hummus for example. It pays to pack extra, however, as curious trampers are always keen to try your DIY dishes.

Ignore negativity
Any effort you make to eat sustainably is an effort to be proud of, so ignore those who try to belittle your efforts. The world doesn’t need a few people to be perfectly sustainable, it needs many people to be imperfectly sustainable. Do your best.

Join a group
Keep yourself accountable and in the know by joining a group of like-minded trampers – there are plenty to find on social media. Bounce ideas, share recipes, and encourage one another.

Keep to the seasons
Buy in season fruit and veg from your local store. The produce will be better quality, and it will be grown locally.

Leave no trace
Leave No Trace, sometimes abbreviated to LNT, is a guide of best practises for leaving the outdoors as you found it. Learn the seven principles, and live by them. They are; plan and prepare ahead, travel and camp on durable ground, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimise the effects of fire, respect wildlife and farm animals, and be considerate of others.

Matches or lighters?
Trampers should always carry something to light a fire, but what’s more sustainable; lighters or matches? The common consensus is that matches are the better of the two, as they are biodegradable, while lighters have a short shelf life and end up in landfill. A decent flint firestarter can provide 10,000 plus strikes – enough for a lifetime – so may be worth the investment.

New year, new you?
There’s a danger in committing to big changes overnight – as many who have failed to keep grand New Year’s resolutions will understand. Make incremental changes, and ease yourself into a more sustainable lifestyle – change is more likely to stick if it’s gentle.

Single oat sachets are convenient, but lined with plastic. Skip the extra packaging and buy your oats in bulk. You can flavour them at home.

Pick and mix
If there is one aisle you’re guaranteed to find trampers in a supermarket, it’s the pick and mix. Make your own scroggin mixes and pick out your favourite sweets and dried fruits. Extra points if you bring your own reusable bags.

Question ‘greenwashing’
Greenwashing is a term coined for dodgy marketing strategies used by companies to make themselves appear more green than they really are. Read the ingredients, do your research, and don’t fall for ‘eco-friendly’ labels if the claims aren’t backed up.

It’s obvious, but often forgotten at the end of a tramp. Keep your recycling separate from compost and trash, and make sure you rinse it out as soon
as possible to make it easier to deal with later.

Silicone is a durable, food grade material perfect for storing tramping treats. It’s more eco-friendly than plastic, and comes in all varieties, including ziplock bags.

Tea trees
Tea and tramping go together like lemon and honey, but it’s never fun toting soggy used tea bags on multi day trips. Learn which native trees make a good cuppa – kawakawa, mānuka and kānuka – and save yourself the trouble. It’s 100 per cent sustainable.

Utilise leftovers
Don’t leave food in the fridge to go off over the weekend. Get creative with a leftover’s meal, and have it for lunch or dinner on the first day of your adventure.

Vegetarian options
We should all be doing more to reduce our meat intake – it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Why not make
a start with meat-free tramps?

Wash your hands of sanitiser
Small bottles of sanitiser are light and convenient, but their longevity makes them problematic. Opt instead for eco-friendly hand soap.

Buying in bulk will save money, and it reduces the amount of packaging that accompanies a supermarket shop. Head to a specialty bulk outlet, or stockist store to snap a bargain.

Bake your own bread, or use nutritional yeast to add a savoury, cheesy hit to meals. It’s packed with nutrition.

Ziplock bags
Ah, ziplock bags. They’re resealable yes, but unless we wash and reuse them, they’re merely ‘feel good plastic bags’. Be honest about your ziplock use, and unless you’re prepared to reuse them, opt for an alternative.