Himalayan Sea Salt is in most of my savoury recipes, I know. But hear me out. I’ve decided to say goodbye to that sparkly pink salt once and for all, despite having an ongoing love affair with it (that rivals chocolate and chai lattes). You’ll no longer be seeing any Himalayan Sea/Rock Salt in any future Vegie Head recipes… and here’s why. I’ll give you a hint: Himalayan Sea Salt is not sustainable.
Note: This is not a paid or sponsored post in any way. It’s based purely on my own research and findings.
A funny aside- someone pointed out it was ‘Rock Salt’ – not ‘Sea Salt’ – however I’ve called them both interchangeably over the years and even bought them as both. When you read on you’ll see why I was so surprised to find it’s not from the sea AT ALL.
When I started to dive deeper into the way I was eating and purchasing goods, one really interesting thing popped up.
I’d always been obsessed with the health benefits for me but hadn’t taken a lot of consideration thinking about the health of the Earth (beyond knowing that eating a plant based diet was much better than any alternative out there).
Eating a plant based diet made me starkly aware of this- the cruelty and detrimental affects of animal agriculture, choosing foods and products without palm oil, and aiming to choose local organic fruits and vegetables where possible.
When I started reducing my food miles (buying organics that were grown within a 20km radius from Fresh Box, growing my own vegies thanks to The Healthy Patch, and just choosing Aussie grown and produced where possible) my eyes were open WIDE.
But as embarrassing and ignorant as it may seem, salt just never came into the equation.
I just kept buying Himalayan Salt without thinking about it. Without taking anything into consideration except that it was the best salt on the market.
For years it has been on touted online as the most nutritious option for our health and had innumerable studies showing the benefits of it (some dispute this, but I believe we do need a good quality salt in our diets- providing we have no health issues that state otherwise). This article is not about the health benefits -or lack thereof – there’s plenty of that online already. This is purely just about the use and abuse of Himalayan Salt.
And it seems as though nothing has changed.
And try as I might, spending hours trawling online, looking for actual information about the sustainability of this salt just couldn’t be found.
“Is himalayan sea salt sustainable” was a search term I used- and all I found was this on a Yahoo forum:
“With regards to the question of Himalayan Crystal Salt being a Renewable resource:
We have been informed that there is at least 1000 years supply of Himalayan Crystal Salt, and that geologists believe that there is even more salt beyond that. In other words, they have only been able to survey to a certain point, and believe the deposit extends even further. We feel that the salt was discovered when it was in order to help restore balance to the planet through its cleansing, purifying and healing effects. Through working in a symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth we can allow ourselves to learn to revere and care for our homes, being both our physical bodies and the earth on which we currently live.”*
Though Himalayan pink salt was formed millions of years ago, the six mines where the salt is harvested each contain vast supplies. The total number is disputed, but by some estimates the largest mine, Khewra, holds 6.7 billion tons, of which about 220 million tons is currently accessible. Khewra harvests about 400,000 tons per year, which means one mine could continue harvesting at a similar rate, without expansion, for about 550 more years! If tunnels and mining expanded further into the mountains, the supply could be nearly infinite.”**
Nothing I found left me feeling satisfied. I wasn’t comfortable with these answers and quite honestly, could smell a rat.
So this is where I go into common sense mode.
It’s not sustainable
Call me crazy, but pillaging the mountains in Kherwa, Punjab^ (310 km from the Himalayas mind you!) just feels WRONG. The salt mines are estimated to have formed 800 million years ago, and have taken this long to form. Though it’s claimed there is enough to last almost 500 years, once it’s gone- it’s gone. We’d be waiting another 800 million years- well, our future generations would – for it to possibly be formed again.
It’s mined. It’s not even from the sea!
Unlike some salts, (like Murray River Salt Flakes) that are evaporated naturally and come from saline groundwater resources, the way that Himalayan salt is mined uses conventional and ancient mining methods (some dating back to the 1800’s), that can contribute to greenhouse gas levels. They blow open the mouth of the cave using explosives, then remove approximately 50% of salt from each area- leaving the rest as support for the large salt rooms.
It has HUGE food miles
From Punjab to Australia – 8,821 km.
Local salt- such as Murray River – 540 km.
That’s a huge difference, and it’s the difference between polluting the air and seas unnecessarily vs choosing something closer. No brainer.
It doesn’t necessarily contribute to the health of the local environment
Local salt – and again, I use Murray River Salt as an example – utilises the mineralised brines from the Murray Darling Basin aquifers, and therefore prevents 150-200 tonnes per day from entering the Murray River. The Murray is a precious life source for many food producers in South East Australia and an important part of the local eco-systems.***
However mined salt, as far as I can find, doesn’t have any local community projects that support local eco-systems.
So there you have it. A few good reasons why you should finish what you’ve got in the pantry and move on to a local salt. Sustainability is KEY here, and it’s now beyond tipping point.
We all need to be making changes that will not only help change the state of the environment as it currently stands, but also to protect natural non-renewable resources.
If you’ve got a favourite local salt, share below!
Some GREAT Australian Salts
Other Resources to read: