Sam Judd

Comment on the environment from nzherald.co.nz columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: Grow your garden, not your gut

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Does it ever make you cringe when you see someone who is overweight gorging themselves on takeaways?

It is not just the health problems that irk me - many environmental problems stem from an unhealthy diet also. Just take a walk in the central city early on a Saturday morning and count how many fast food wrappers you see in the drains.

I believe there is an inextricable link between people who don't look after their own health and those who damage our environment.

Single use convenience food packaging and sugary pre-mixed bourbon and cola drink containers are constantly proving to be the biggest source of rubbish on our streets and beaches.

New Zealand has the 7th worst obesity rate in the world. For a country with plentiful quality soil and widespread access to water, we really have no excuse.

You might argue that our most productive land and a disproportionate share of our water is taken up by agriculture which is not actually feeding kiwis - our best products are exported to the highest bidders.

Can our terrible eating habits be blamed on urbanisation?

As more people flock to newly developed apartment dwellings in cities, they give up the opportunity to have a garden and teach their kids how to grow food. But Statistics New Zealand figures say that, although the percentage is rapidly rising only around 20,000 of our 4,000,000-odd people lived in apartments in 2006.

Most kiwis want to have their own slice of outdoor space- if not to grow food, at least to have a barbecue and play back yard cricket (which may explain the sprawling mass of Auckland, which is a similar size to Los Angeles with one-thirtieth of the population).

So it seems that most of us have the space to grow food, but we are too lazy to do it. It is easier to pile yourself into a car and burn fuel to visit a shop where unhealthy food (likely to be wrapped in single use plastic packaging) awaits our lazy bellies.

I find it sad that many kids are growing up this day with no real appreciation of what it takes - other than money - to produce food.

It is healthier, cheaper and better for the environment to eat fresh food that can be grown at home. When we are educating school students about using less waste, one of the best examples that we can use is growing it yourself.

And it really isn't that hard to start. If you don't have the space, or wouldn't know the difference between clay and topsoil- there are many community gardens out there, where people can usually learn essential gardening skills and share a space. You can check out this handy guide here.

Some school students are lucky enough to be getting gardening skills already through the Enviroschools network and other fantastic organisations like The Garden to Table Trust, which is working with Waterfront Auckland on an edible garden by the sea on the north wharf.

So, why not give it a go? When it comes to harvesting your homegrown fare, it will be an immensely satisfying experience. Your tummy, wallet and the earth will thank you for it down the track.

Sam Judd is co-founder of the multi-award winning charity Sustainable Coastlines.

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