How I spent a year without shopping at Coles or Woolworths

Susan Hutchinson | Good Food

I don’t much get into New Year’s resolutions, but this time last year a friend of mine, a Canberra comedian, suggested I resolve to not spend a single dollar at Coles or Woolworths for the entire year. While he was half joking, given my view of the practices of these two monolithic stores, and my food ethics, it was a challenge I wanted to accept.

The greenhouse emissions of the transport system that takes fresh food and other grocery items from their country or place of origin, to a wholesale market, to a warehouse, trucked to a grocery store, and sometimes on to a second or third store are huge. Products crisscross the country, and sometimes the world. If you try to buy a locally grown mango in Darwin, it will have been shipped to the wholesale market in Brisbane, before being trucked all the way back to Darwin for retail sale. Then there’s the food miles of importing foods like garlic (commonly imported from China), lemons (often from the United States or asparagus (from Peru) into that system for them to be bought to you in the off season. On top of that, there’s the hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs) used in the refrigeration of all that food throughout its journey. Many of these chemicals are potent greenhouse gases. HCFCs also deplete the ozone layer. HCFC-22 is the most common refrigerant in Australia.

I also have social concerns with both businesses. Farmers have been complaining about unfair prices for produce, and unreasonable contract requirements for years. The $2 milk wars were a very visual example of some of these practices, but similar complaints have been made by vegetable producers including those producing potatoes and onions.

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