Why you should eat like a Seasonarian
Updated: Apr 27
Seasonal eating is experiencing a resurgence in popularity and is one of the ways to adapt your diet to be more sustainable. But to dig deeper into why seasonal food is so important, I got together with Isabella Fisk to chat about the Seasonarians way of eating.
Izzy started Seasonarians.co.uk to promote seasonal, local and sustainable eating. She and co-founder Gareth have already brought together an amazing community of Seasonarians across southwest England and Wales. They partner with businesses to promote local produce using their Traffic Light Label System so that at a glance, you can see where your food has come from.
I was struck by Izzy's passion for making sustainable eating easy and accessible. She explained what a Seasonarian is, how it helps you reduce food miles, and ways to use the Seasonarian Index to eat more seasonally.
You'll also find some of Seasonarians' seasonal and sustainable recipes, and their carbon footprint, in the Floop app.
Co-founder of Seasonarians
What is a Seasonarian?
First of all, anyone can be a Seasonarian. It's open to everybody. It just depends on your goals and aims when it comes to the way you want to eat.
It's doing your best to eat seasonally and locally, where you can. By doing those things, it makes your way of eating more sustainable.
We wanted to keep the term quite open to everybody. For example, if you don't have a lot of money, you might not be able to buy all the most locally, ethically-sourced foods because they are usually priced quite high.
It's a mindset of: where you have the choice, and where you're able to, you make that choice to buy from the UK or grow your own. Even if you've got no garden, you can have just a few herbs on the windowsill.
What inspired you to start Seasonarians?
I was in lockdown with my colleague, Gareth, and we just started having loads of conversations and noticed how people were getting into their gardens more because of lockdown. They were thinking more about their food and where it was coming from.
I think it started from the sort of "vegan argument". For example, eating a lot of avocado and things imported from really far away, with a huge cost to rainforests. We were thinking, "Well how is that better than eating meat that's produced just down the road from you?"
So, that's where it started. But when we came up with the idea, I wanted to run with it because I'm really passionate about the environment, and especially animals. I think it's a good way to give people a choice. It's not forcing anybody to do something. It's just making them more informed so that they can make better choices for themselves. A lot of people don't know the information, or they don't even bother to think, "Where's my food coming from?". I never did before this. I would shove whatever in the trolley. Now I try to look at the labels and where they come from.
For Gareth, I think a lot of his motivation is after working in the dairy industry for quite a long time. I think he feels farmers get quite an unfair time of it because obviously there's this big argument about meat – but not being "good", especially for farmers who love their animals and try hard to educate themselves about carbon emissions and animal welfare and are constantly trying to do better in that regard.
Are you vegan then, or do you eat meat?
No, I eat meat, but I don't eat much. I stopped eating fish after I watched Seaspiracy. I like some fish, but it wasn't a big enough part of my diet to care much about. I don't eat much dark meat. Actually, I've always been like that, even before I knew about the environmental effects.
Sometimes I'll have you a bit of pork or occasionally beef, but mostly it's just chicken. My family eat quite a lot of Quorn and vegetarian alternatives, so we don't have meat anywhere near as much as we used to.
I don't know that it's a good thing to say, "I'm completely banning all meat from my diet", because there's been a lot of things about how that can really affect your health and your mental health.
Some people are vegan and enjoy it, but I think there shouldn't be that pressure for everybody. [It's] true that if you eat a lot of meat, it's good to be mindful and reduce that amount. But I don't think it should be, "never – people who eat meat are horrible". I really don't agree with that way of going about it.
I think it must matter more where your food comes from in relation to you than what it actually is. So the Seasonarian way can be applied wherever you are because it's all about where food comes from in relation to you, rather than the type of food.
How does eating seasonally affect our carbon footprint?
I'm not going to pretend that I'm the most knowledgeable person about all of this. But eating with the seasons is how it worked before we had all these ways to make food at times of the year when it doesn't come naturally. Everybody's so used to having whatever they want, whenever they want now, which can be quite damaging. But eating with the seasons and eating locally will reduce your carbon footprint.
If you live in a country where radishes are available, they may only grow through certain months. In the months when they don't grow, [you have to] ship them in and buy them at the supermarkets to have it all year round.
Instead, you could buy it when it's in season in your country or grow it and then freeze it so that it lasts you. The aim is that it would help reduce the carbon footprint by not flying things in from all different countries because they're not available in the season in your country right then.
On your website, you have a Seasonarian index and traffic light system. How could someone new to Seasonarians start using these day-to-day?
The index and calculator are ways of putting a numerical score on what you're doing, so you can personally keep track. We've made our own index for people to have something to aim towards.
Sometimes you need a framework like that, rather than just, "Be as seasonal as you can". You track [the index] from one month to the next and see whether you're eating more seasonally and locally.
The traffic light system is used mainly with our partnerships. We have a lot of different types of partnerships, like milk vending machines, cafes, butchers, and zero-waste shops, that have taken [the traffic light system] on.
By them having it, customers get the benefit of a simple, easy way of obvious labelling to know where their food comes from in relation to the place being sold. For example, our milk vending machine partnerships have a big green plus label because they come from within 50 miles of the vending machines.
A lot of the time, labels can be quite misleading in other places. We've got this system to help people really easily, of all ages and abilities, to be able to see 'this comes from here'.
If you're going shopping with young children, as a parent, you could make it a game, something fun or like a little challenge. You can say go and pick me three green things, one red thing and two orange things or however you want to do it.
We were trying to think about people who might find reading difficult. If it's a brightly coloured label right there, I would be thinking, "oh what's this?" and probably ask about it. We have some explanation posters to go with it.
We're hoping to get as many different businesses who are passionate about local produce or with the same aims as us and grow the movement of seasonal eating.
Do you have any other tips for someone who's starting to eat more sustainably and seasonally?
Checking labels. I couldn't encourage people to do that enough. When you're going into supermarkets, which are mainly where people shop, just have a look. It's interesting more than anything because you start looking and thinking: there are apples in season in this country, why are they also available from New Zealand?
Make your own food as much as possible and get into cooking. There's the seasonal recipe page on our website, but on the internet, there are just thousands of different ways you can cook with the seasons. If you grow cherries [in your garden], you could make chutneys and jams.
I saw something from one of our partnerships recently that I really like. It was an alternative to guacamole and avocado smash. He was using peas and mint, but it was a really good alternative [to avocado]. You can be quite creative with it.
Now, unfortunately, I'm not a massive fan of cooking. But me and my family moved house last year. So I thought it was quite a good opportunity to start fresh with gardening. I spent this time last year making planters with my dad outside.
We bought a cloche, one of those mini-greenhouses, so I spent quite a long time planting and growing our own. If you don't have wide space, you can grow upwards. There are so many different sorts of contraptions and planters to help you grow within a very small amount of space.
We go to the supermarket and buy peppers. But we throw away the seeds and then buy more. So why aren't we keeping the seeds and growing more ourselves for free? It just takes a bit of an effort. We have a grow your own page [on our website] and tips for people.
Sometimes people are busy, and you don't always have a partner, but it's just trying to find and make time. I found that it helped my mental health a lot, so obviously, there are benefits of being in nature and feeling the earth and getting your hands dirty and stuff. But, there are so many more benefits that come with it, as well as your diet.
It's really rewarding. I loved going outside and checking on how the lettuces were doing. And then finally, when you get to pick things and think: "Yeah, I planted that as a seed and I watched it grow all the way, and now I get to eat it".