Do you know that the food you eat has an impact on the environment? This includes the land and water systems. Bad food consumption and disposal habits contribute to environmental hazards and that’s why we must apply caution to all we do, including our eating habits.
Sustainable eating simply describes the habit and practice of selecting and eating only foods that are healthy for both our bodies and the environment. These are foods that provide us with a balanced diet and also facilitate the conservation of the environment. Usually, they are grown, processed and consumed in a manner that does not cause any harm to the environment or compromise its ability to meet the needs of future generations.
The Need for Sustainable Eating
What we eat has changed and is changing the planet.
Our natural resources have been placed under extreme pressure. 70% of the water taken from freshwater lakes and rivers is used for agriculture. As a result, freshwater sources are running dry and the existing water resources are becoming polluted. In addition, our oceans have become barren as they are poisoned with chemicals, trawled, and overfished.
The agricultural industry causes 60% of deforestation by land clearing for farming. Across the globe, forests have been devastated to make space to rear cattle and to grow crops to feed livestock. 33% of soils are degraded and our biodiversity is threatened with tropical forests disappearing and many plants and animal species are endangered.
Food production is not just the greatest driver of wildlife loss, it also contributes to climate change: about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food production, processing, transportation and consumption. Climate change is one of the biggest global health and food security threats.
Again, we must emphasize sustainability because;
The world population is growing; by 2050, the earth would have to feed 10 billion people. This implies that there would be increased pressure on the existing natural resources. If we do not take action, the existence of future generations would be compromised.
Global malnutrition has not been encouraging as one out of every three persons suffers from malnutrition. 794 million people suffer from hunger and 2 billion people do not have sufficient access to vitamins and minerals necessary for growth and development while about 1.9 billion people over-eat and 600 million people are obese globally.
The question now is, how can you and I eat sustainably?
Sustainable Eating Practices
- Eat more plants: Research consistently shows that animal foods have a much larger carbon and water footprint than plant foods. Farming animals for meat and dairy requires space and huge amounts of water and feed. The livestock industry alone generates nearly 15% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. With global meat consumption soaring 500% between 1992 and 2016, it is clear we need to rebalance our diets by prioritizing plants and moderating our intake of animal products. Plant-based foods have been demonstrated to be healthier compared to animal-based options.
- Grow some of your food: When you grow your food, it means that you have cut the need to transport food over long distances using vehicles that release emissions into the environment. It also means that you will help to absorb some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using your food crops. Growing your food does not mean you require a large piece of land. You can simply use a garden to grow kales, tomatoes, onions, and herbs. You can also use a balcony or window box to plant food crops in pots.
- Avoid wasting food: Today, the average home throws away about 30% of the food it purchases even though this is clearly a waste of resources and cash. To reduce wastage, it is advisable to carefully review your family’s food requirements and only buy enough quantities. Food preservation methods such as drying and cooling are worth exploring. You can simply freeze anything you can’t eat while it’s fresh or reduce moisture content by drying to make them last longer. If you can’t preserve it, there are so many people in need of food! Please give it out rather than waste it.
- Shop for produce that is in season: When possible, try to include seasonal produce from your local farm or shop in your diet. Eating foods out of season comes at a higher cost in terms of environmental impact and carbon footprint, since they likely had to travel a long distance to get to you.
- Eat Organic Foods: organic foods are grown with environmental sustainability consciousness. They encourage soil conservation practices such as manure application, composting and cover crops. In addition, they limit the use of harmful chemicals which makes them safer and healthier for you to eat and for the environment.
- Mindful Eating: Mindful means paying attention to your diet. When you eat mindfully, you focus on the kind of food, its source, packaging and nourishment to your body. Mindful eating would help you realize the right quantity to consume so you don’t eat too much or throw so much food away.
Sustainable eating is the best thing you can do for your planet today. I hope you’re drawing out the list of adjustments you need to make to imbibe these sustainable eating practices. Congrats to you as you make these healthy choices today!
Author: Ajodo Andrew