Derek Hatfield on Sustainability

Derek Hatfield - Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/ onEdition
Velux; the main sponsor for this race and a huge proponent of sustainability; has requested that the skippers comment on different sustainability issues in each leg and how it relates to us on board. For this leg, food is the topic. I don't have sufficient power to send a video so this blog is my submission. Let's be honest, I do not have any special training in environmental studies with regard to this particular topic but I can make some observations that relate to my situation. For me, sustainability with regard to food means that it is healthy for consumers, respects animals, does not harm the environment, is humane for workers, provides a fair wage for the farmer, and supports and enhances rural communities.

Let's be realistic, I do not go to the supermarket a couple times a week and walk down the mega isles to choose from a massive selection of exotic food choices. These ECO 60's don’t have refrigeration to keep the food from spoiling so we use freeze dried meals aboard. I have used Mountain House for the last three races around the world; two meals a day provide the staples for nutrition. Because of the stress, cold and physical requirements to race 24/7, each skippers consumes betwee 5,000 and 7,000 calories a day when racing. To stay competitive, those calories must be replaced. Before each leg, each days portion of food is placed in individual portions so that I don’t have to make decisions on what to eat. I take out a day portion when the sun comes up and by the time the sun comes up the next day, that portion has to be empty. Each daily portion consists of two Mountain House meals and snacks like Boost, dark chocolate, dried fruit and nuts. The prearranging of meals also helps to keep me from only eating the meals that I like the best and helps to maintain a good balance.

One of the byproduct of this type of food is the packaging, the garbage. At the beginning of the race in LaRochelle, each of the skippers signed the ECO Charter which meant that we all agreed not to throw non organic material into the ocean and to bring back all the garbage that we had aboard and recycle it to keep the garbage out of our oceans. As we’ve seen, there is enough garbage in the oceans and in the most remote of places, the southern ocean.

The ECO 60 are extreme racing machines; the galley consists of a single burner stove and a small sink. To prepare each meal, I boil the correct amount of water; (too much and the food is too mushy, too little and my digestive system will be called upon to hydrate the food which will make me dehydrated and constipated); add the water to the freeze dried meal, cover and wait 10 minute and presto, a great meal. (not).

We all need to ensure that we are doing our best to make sure that we are supporting a more sustainable food chain. Food affects our carbon footprint and thus the climatic impact. If we understand the resources that go into producing the food that we eat we can better understand what it means to be sustainable and make better choices to support that.

It seems to me that there are several factors to consider on how the food that we consume impacts the climate. These include how much energy is used to produce the food, whether it is grown organically; how far it has to travel to get to the super market and then to the dinner table. The average meal travels 1200km from the farm to the plate so choosing food grown closer to home will have fewer emissions, be fresher, need less refrigeration and support local farmers. Another consideration in reducing the carbon footprint is to only buy what is required and waste less and what we do not use should be composted instead of going to landfills.

Ok, that's enough from me on sustainability, I'm sure there are many more thoughtful ideas and I invite you to send them into the website so that we can share them with all the readers.

Take Care