A big chunk of our yearly impact comes from the food we consume. Without food, we die. So compared to other types of consumption food is clearly driven by an actual need, compared to most fashion consumption. Still, in some parts of the world food consumption has become a problem.
Food waste, transporting exotic fruits by plane and methane releasing cattle. All food-related problems you will hear of in the West. So do we need to stop eating anything grown far away or give up meat cold turkey (pun intended)? I say no. While we might be able to sustain ourselves on a local vegan diet, for most people there is a lack of money, time, knowledge or allergies that makes it hard or impossible. But we can all do something!
Eat less meat
The meat industry has a huge impact on the environment and accounts for a big portion of an individual’s carbon footprint. While I do believe that it is possible to enjoy an omnivore diet and be sustainable, the truth is that most of the meat consumed is factory farmed and not got for the environment, the animals nor our health.
Eating less meat doesn’t mean you have to give it up completely. For some it might mean meatless Mondays. For some only having it for one meal a day or maybe reserving it for weekends and special events. However, if you want to continue eating meat, invest in good meat, from animals that have lived well and that haven’t been force-fed soy and antibiotics. Look for local farmers where you can see how the animals are treated or go for organic grass-fed meats.
What most people think about when it comes to local products is that it avoids long transportation, but it also contributes to the local economy and to create a thriving community. Local farmers and producers are needed to keep the landscape living and thriving.
Consuming seasonal foods are great as there is no need for energy-craving greenhouses or transportations from around the world. Sometimes the supply of seasonal produce is high, so eating in season can also decrease the eventual waste.
Not only is seasonal foods better for the planet, but generally both taste better and are cheaper than buying other kinds of foods. Supply and demand! So instead of opting for the out season produce from across the world, indulge in some cheap and delicious seasonal foods.
Organic means that the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides are not used. This is important for biodiversity, for the bees, for the health of the farmers and of the people living in the areas where it is grown. Some say it might even be better for your own health!
If organic feels way out of your budget, try to see if there is something you might be able to prioritize differently. Maybe you could skip a chocolate bar or two and instead spend that extra money on some organic milk? Some fruits and veggies are known as the dirty dozen, they generally contain the highest amounts of pesticides so if you cannot manage to buy everything organic, maybe you can avoid the worst ones?
About one-third of all food is wasted worldwide. From all parts of the food chain there is a waste, in production, in stores, and in the homes. Our biggest impact is in the homes, but by buying wonky-looking veggies and brown fruits we can also tell store owners and producers that there is a demand for less aesthetically pleasing produce as well.
Food waste is not only bad due to the fact that it wastes the food and all the resources used but also because many countries don’t have compost. This means that the food waste ends up in landfills where it does not degrade due to being packed tightly with no air to break it down. This ends up emitting methane, yep the same thing as the cows.
What do you do to eat more sustainably? Do you have any points to add to the list?