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Sustainable Food

Sustainable Food

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: UNSW Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Sustainable Food
    Book Description:

    After renovating his inner-city Sydney terrace and making it almost entirely self-sufficient in energy, water and waste disposal, Michael Mobbs realised his house was sustainable, but he wasn’t. While his house saves 100,000 litres of dam water a year, the same amount of water is used to produce ten days’ worth of food for the average Australian. In this companion book to the bestselling Sustainable House, Mobbs turns his attention to reducing the carbon emissions associated with growing, processing, transporting, selling and disposing food. With his own experiences anchoring the book, Sustainable Food contains practical advice on establishing community and backyard vegetable gardens, keeping chooks and bees, and reducing water usage, along with insights into dealing with councils, sidelining supermarkets and what we eat and why.

    eISBN: 978-1-74224-618-5
    Subjects: Public Health

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-5)
    (pp. 6-6)
    (pp. 7-8)
    Peter Newman

    Michael Mobbs has shown us how to live more sustainably in his inner-city home in Sydney, remarkably more sustainable than anyone ever thought possible – but he did it.

    Now he is taking on issues beyond his front door by looking at sustainability in the systems that support our cities, and in particular food. Of course food needs to have large land areas and lots of clever science and technology to produce for the world’s burgeoning cities. You could never produce enough food in a city to make much difference, but it can be an important symbolic effort to support. That...

    (pp. 9-21)

    I live in Chippendale, Australia. It’s a small, closely built suburb with about 4000 residents and 4000 workers, a 40-minute walk from the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

    In 2010 I saw a young fellow crouching on the road verge gathering ‘weeds’ and placing them with surprising care into a plastic container. ‘I’m making a salad,’ he said. ‘And I’d like to come gardening with you.’ When he emailed me later I saw he was a head chef in a famous restaurant (Luke Powell, Tetsuya’s) and he lived around the corner. If there were no road gardens in...

    (pp. 22-45)

    Then some neighbours, then the local community, then government got involved.

    The house, the Chippendale Plan, and my gardening are connected because they physically and socially support and depend on each other. Each provides simple, affordable ways to be self-reliant for the essentials we need to live: shelter and food.

    I seek to make more connections, to you, your garden, your street, suburb and community. To encourage you to use simple old ways, as your grandparents’ generation did when they gardened, and so connect and support soils, the birds and beasts around you, the trees, the air, and the waterways....

    (pp. 46-57)

    That’s what my city friends did. Where, after all, were the paddocks to grow wheat and corn, the irrigation, the cows and chooks? And so, following others, I began to buy my food from shops, supermarkets and farmers’ markets. But over the years I’ve discovered we used to grow food in our cities, that when we know a few basic things any of us may grow food here. It’s what our parents and grandparents did.

    No matter where it is – in the city or the country – our food needs six things to grow: soil, water, sunlight, plants, nutrients and mulch....

    (pp. 58-117)

    That leaves about 4 square metres of horizontal soil. One boundary fence is a vertical garden, the other is planted with two grapevines, there’s a chook run along one fence and a passionfruit along another. This small space wasn’t enough to grow the food I needed, so I headed out front to the street.

    When I began to garden out the front I had no plans beyond my own section of the road verge. But after I’d composted, planted and mulched, some neighbours really liked it and did the same. So a few of us began to grow productive plants...

    (pp. 118-139)

    We have stronger, more productive plants and trees – and more food – when we have healthy, abundant soil and compost.

    It’s hard for most of us to understand how fundamental soil is to our lives. We see it, perhaps, as something to walk on, not to get on our shoes or clothing, to avoid touching. ‘Urk’, might be the most common response to the word, ‘soil’. Or, ‘What’s that got to do with me? No thanks.’

    But we stop there, at that point of misunderstanding, rejection, even, of the idea of soil at our peril. For anyone reading with a similar...

  10. 5: PLANTS
    (pp. 140-164)

    They’re native stingless bees and almost certainly have flown from the bee hive at my house looking for pollen. They’re a sign of my connections with the plants in my garden, the streets and my community, and of the connections these things have with each other.

    By gardening and by talking to Indigenous elders I’ve learnt that trees and plants, birds, insects grow in association with each other, not in isolation.

    Insects, trees and plants in our garden support living environments in our streets and private land. Nature doesn’t know about property limits; it answers only to the boundaries of...

  11. 6: WATER
    (pp. 165-181)

    Water’s as essential for food as the sun’s light and heat, and soil. Of these it’s my favourite since, in the form of floods and droughts, it dominated my life on the farm and I grew to understand it best. To grow up to know deeply that we need water to live is, perhaps, a gift, particularly in this dry, hot country. Most of my practical ideas for urban farming have been about water and some are included in this chapter. Whether a garden’s vertical or flat water will make or break it; no water = no garden.

    The only...

  12. 7: CHOOKS
    (pp. 182-189)

    They can be kept in an inner city garden (even my small one). You might have some problems (foxes, diseases etc), but solutions are simple and inexpensive, and once you’ve got them you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

    At my place competition over food scraps rages between the chooks and the compost bin outside. Generally the chooks win because it’s easier to hurl leftover veggies through the kitchen windows than to carry it to the bin outside. When I’m cooking, the chooks lurk outside, unseen but heard clearly, their gossiping and commentary on the food preparation a constant reminder...

  13. 8: BEES
    (pp. 190-198)

    What they don’t know is that we can keep Australian native bees in hives and some are stingless. These bees make plants and trees in our gardens, parks and streets more productive and require almost no maintenance, no feeding, no watering – just a shaded place for their hive. And they give us honey. They are the gift that keeps on giving. What other city creature requires so little, but gives so much? Here’s how they live at my place and how others help bees live in the city.

    One morning in February 2009 an Australia Post courier delivered a hive...

    (pp. 199-221)

    The chapter’s focus will mainly be local councils, as presently they have most to do with local food. Similar strategies do work, however, at all levels of government.

    All governments consist of two parts: those inside who are elected, and those who work unelected, called ‘officers’. The unelected work full time, have most resources and information; information equals power. For most of us who deal with councils it’s the unelected who exert most power. When the unelected refuse to give we citizens what we – the 99 percent – want, we need the elected people to support us and to direct the...

    (pp. 222-231)

    The orange I ate today came from a tree which took three years to grow to fruit picking stage. The tree needs soil that’s replenished, watered, cared for; a farmer does that. The farmer took hours to pick it, and someone drove an hour to bring it here. As a kid on the farm I rode my black horse, Biddy, to bring in the sheep and cattle. I’d walk the cows in for milking. I saw sheep killed to make the household lamb chops and roasts. I sewed bags of wheat in the middle of the sun-burning paddocks. I was...

    (pp. 232-237)

    I’m talking about the food – water, soil and energy needed to grow it – and get it into our kitchens. Where do we go to sustain our city living? And what direction do we choose to get there? To answer these questions let’s consider things we can do every day to grow and buy food; not just to get it, but to get it in ways which renew our culture.

    But a moment of humility, first. I’m unaware of examples in Earth’s cultures where any culture has sustained itself. All that’s come before has gone, because cultures haven’t kept their soils...

    (pp. 238-242)
    (pp. 243-243)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 244-248)