Do you know what these 10 sustainability terms mean?

You may have noticed that more and more restaurants are adding buzzwords like local, seasonal and ethically sourced to their menus, but what exactly do they all mean?

With the help of Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award judge Sonia Mountford, we’ve compiled a list of 10 sustainability terms and what they actually mean. (The Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award aims to celebrate and encourage restaurants to make responsible, regenerative and sustainable choices – from how they source their food to the creation of their menus. If you think your restaurant fits the bill, enter here.)


The meaning of artisan can differ depending on the context in which it’s being used. The Eat Out Sustainability Award criteria uses The School of Artisan Food in the UK description, which describes artisan as “Food produced by non-industrialised methods, often handed down through generations, but now in danger of being lost.”


Biodegradable refers to the ability of a material to decompose via natural processes and eventually be re-absorbed by the natural environment. Biodegradable products include all plant and animal material, paper, food waste and fibres. Plastic, glass and metals aren’t biodegradable. However, even biodegradable materials won’t break down if they’re buried in a landfill because they’re deprived of oxygen, which is necessary for decomposition. Composting provides optimal conditions for biodegradation.

It’s important to note that the biodegradable label on packaging is not necessarily reliable, as there are no uniform standards for it to follow and thus the product’s biodegradable quality hasn’t been verified.

Ethical sourcing

Ethical sourcing is the process of making sure that goods are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way, showing respect to the workers making them and consideration of its social and environmental impact.

Food hub

Food hubs are entities that manage the collection, storage, processing, distribution and marketing of locally produced food. This allows farmers producing locally grown food to have access to the broader markets, such as institutional purchasers, small processors and restaurants.


Foraging is the act of looking for food that grows naturally in the wild, whether it’s in the forest, on the coast, in the wilderness or in urban or rural areas. The food can include vegetables, fruits, fungi, herbs, nuts and seaweed. Wolfgat’s Kobus van der Merwe, Eat Out’s reigning S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year, and Foliage head chef Chris Erasmus are just two notable foragers in the restaurant industry.

One of chef Kobus van der Merwe’s creations at Wolfgat. Photo supplied.

Interested in foraging for yourself? There are events available where you can learn more about it. It you want to go it alone, make sure that you’ve been authorised to forage, a requirement in certain areas, and keep in mind that natural resources aren’t as abundantly available as they were in the past.

Locally grown

This refers to food and other agricultural products that are produced, processed and sold within a certain region, which can be defined by distance, borders or regional boundaries. The term is unregulated at the national level, meaning that each individual farmer’s market can define and regulate the term based on its own mission and circumstances. The Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award criteria describes local as “Food grown within 150km of its point of purchase or consumption.”

Organic farming

Ever wondered what makes produce organic? Besides the fact that organic standards must be met and certified by third-party organic certifier agencies or be PGS-endorsed (Participatory Guarantee Systems), the principle guidelines for organic production prohibit the use of artificial chemicals or pesticides. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimise the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.

Vegetable garden at Boschendal. Photo supplied.

The vegetable garden at Boschendal. Photo supplied.

Regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soil, improves watersheds and enhances ecosystem services. It’s a process of renewal and restoration that aims to capture carbon in soil and above-ground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation.


There’s a time and place for everything. This is true for the production and consumption of goods as well. The seasonality of food or ingredients refers to the times of year when a certain type of food is at its peak. For example, strawberries are in season in spring; mangoes in summer; avocados and oranges in both autumn and winter; and some produce is even naturally available throughout the year. And, if you’re still unsure, the price is often a great indicator of what’s in and out of season. But besides it being cheaper, the produce is usually fresher, tastes better and is healthier for both you and the environment. Restaurants can contribute to a sustainable food system by creating a menu that considers food seasonality.

Seasonal produce from previous winner, The Werf Restaurant at Boschendal. Photo supplied.

Short food supply chain

Short food supply chains are characterised by a short distance or few intermediaries between producers and consumers, providing better support to local producers. These supply chains are good for increasing profits of farmers and other producers, revitalising local economies and reducing food waste. It should also give consumers access to fresh, fairly priced food. It’s an alternative to the dominant long food supply chains that makes use of centralised distribution centres and transport food over long distances.

Awarded to one sustainable restaurant leading the pack in South Africa, the 2019 Eat Out Woolworths Sustainability Award forms part of the annual Eat Out Restaurant Awards. Enter now using the easily navigable form.

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