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Call for sustainability on banana’s 376th UK birthday 15.04.09

On the anniversary of the first banana being sighted in the UK on the 10th Apriln 1633, Consumer Focus Wales is urging supermarkets to do more to help shoppers make sustainable shopping choices.

Since the fruit was first seen in a London shop 376 years ago, food choices available to Western consumers have multiplied. But as Welsh consumers become increasingly aware the food and drink we purchase has a major impact on the environment around us, Consumer Focus Wales is calling on supermarkets to help shoppers make the sustainable choice – for example by stocking and promoting more local and seasonal foods.

The food we eat is responsible for 31 per cent of the average European household’s impact on climate change while environmental campaign group WWF notes that food and drink makes up a quarter of Wales’ total ecological footprint.

While many factors relating to the impact of food and drink are outside the direct control of the consumer, for example the way the food is produced and processed, sustainable shopping choices can still make a difference.

Angharad Griffiths, sustainability expert at Consumer Focus Wales, said: ‘Shopping sustainably is a key element in a household’s impact on climate change and part of the jigsaw of answers that can lead to us living in a way that is kinder to the planet. The big question is how to do this. A large part of the answer is making sure that the sustainable choice is the easy choice for consumers.

‘Many of us do most of our food shopping at supermarkets so it stands to reason then that these retailers have huge potential to help their customers make more sustainable choices. This ability to shape our actions is demonstrated by the decision of some supermarket chains to introduce biodegradable shopping bags.’

Consumer Focus Wales believes supermarkets can help consumers to make greener choices by:

- promoting more local and seasonal food

- stocking sustainably sourced products

- increasing the amount of recycled content in own brand packaging

- reducing the amount of packaging used in the first place

- providing clear information on the environmental impacts of products

Mrs Griffiths added: ‘In recent years supermarkets have engaged with many of these issues by introducing initiatives such as replacing plastic packaging with ‘compostable’ packaging; replacing plastic carrier bags with degradable versions or ‘greener’ versions with more recycled content, as well as initiatives to encourage customers to recycle and re-use their carrier bags.

‘ All of these developments are welcome however they are just the beginning. All the main supermarkets could do more to improve their ‘green’ credentials and to make it easier for their customers to make more sustainable choices.’

Peter Shield

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