‘Tis the season for trend lists as everyone tries to predict the next big thing for the year ahead. We’ve culled through the lists to compile our own tally of trends that relate to the issues Sustainable America supports: sustainable food and fuel. The good news is that finding encouraging trend predictions was easy—now let’s work together to make them come true!
1. Local Food Isn’t Going Anywhere
Just about every food and restaurant trend list we found reports that the eating local trend is here to stay. Triple Pundit called “local” the new black, and in the National Restaurant Association’s annual forecast of trends, “locally sourced meats and seafood” and “locally grown produce” took the top two spots. “Hyper-local sourcing”—restaurants growing their own food—came in at number 6.
Why we love it: As restaurants source more local food, they’re supporting local food economies and communities in a variety of ways. New opportunities will open up for local producers and growers as demand increases, local purveyors will gain exposure as restaurants highlight their relationships on their menus, and more restaurant-goers will be educated about the sustainable food options in their area. And as local food production grows, food miles go down.
2. Hybrids Will Become Ubiquitious
Green transportation journalist Jim Motavalli predicted on mnn.com that hybrids will move from their “alt car” status to take their place as a real option for the average car buyer in 2014. “Hybrids are now available in virtually every market segment, and if you can’t afford a new one there are plenty of affordable used choices,” he says. “How about 50 mpg without sacrificing a thing in terms of usability, comfort and range? Right now hybrids are 3 percent of the market, but expect that to climb.”
Why we love it: It’s about time that an alternative fuel option becomes part of the mainstream conversation. We hope it’s a slippery slope—once buyers get a taste of the fuel-efficient life, they will go even further when it comes time to buy their next vehicle.
3. Food Waste Will Make More Headlines
Not the sexiest of topics, the food waste issue didn’t make as many trend lists, but we were encouraged to see CBS News include “Waste not, want not” in its list of 10 hot food trends for 2014. The topic is also gaining ground worldwide; we found more talk about smart food waste management from European trendwatchers and media.
Why we love it: The finding that 40% of the food produced in the United States goes to waste is fairly new, but the implications of this message are starting to make waves. We hope this topic will make its way to the forefront of the food conversation over the next year.
4. We’ll Grow More Food at Home
The Huffington Post named homegrown food as one of 10 food trends to watch in the new year, and National Gardening Association says that spending on “food gardening” has overtaken “flower gardening” after six years of increases.
Why we love it: Locally produced food is more energy efficient and helps diversify our food supply — and there’s nothing more local than eating from your own garden.
5. Composting Won’t Just Be for Hippies Anymore
In its 2014 Garden Trends Report, Garden Media Group says, “Recycling food scraps and creating compost is the new recycling.” The group cites a national trend in mandatory city food scrap waste management and financial incentives to compost and reduce food waste as signs that more people will start composting in the year ahead.
Why we love it: While composting alone won’t solve our food waste crisis, it does give new life to the food we don’t use and also helps make us more aware of how much food we’re throwing away.
6. Restaurants Will Serve Smaller Portions
Gigantic restaurant portions may get a slim-down in 2014, according to top chefs like José Andrés and David Burke. The National Restaurant Association agrees, putting “half-portions/smaller portions for a smaller price” at No. 20 on its trends list.
Why we love it: Smaller portions may be intended to help customers eat less, but they will also help restaurants waste less food, which helps chip away at our nation’s food waste problem while boosting restaurants’ bottom lines.
7. Cars Will Become More Efficient
Even as hybrids gain popularity, auto manufacturers will also continue to work to find ways to make traditional gas-powered cars as more efficient. In an interview with Ally.com, Tom Libby, Automotive Analyst for Polk, said, “In general, manufacturers are building smaller, more efficient vehicles and reducing any weight possible within the vehicle, whether it’s by changing under-the-vehicle aerodynamic styling or using different materials.” He claims that this trend is mainly due to Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the Environment Protection Agency’s fuel economy regulations.
Why we love it: Even though hybrids are gaining ground, alternative fuel vehicles still only account for a small percentage of car sales, so it’s good news that manufacturers are still finding ways to make traditional vehicles more efficient.
8. Vegetables Will Be Celebrated
Veggies are enjoying an extended moment in the sun that we hope will last. The Food Network declared that vegetables are the new meat. Shane Lyons, chef at Distilled in New York City, said “robust vegetarian and vegan options will just continue to become more mainstream” in thedailymeal.com’s roundup of chef’s predictions for 2014.
Why we love it: Besides being healthy, eating more vegetables and less meat helps us reduce our dependence on oil. It takes about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. compared to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein, according to Meatless Monday. And for the vegetarians and vegans out there, it’s great to see a greater variety of meat-free meals at restaurants.
Sustainable America Blog Editor