How Can We Eat More Sustainably?

No, I’m not going to tell you to go full vegan. But let’s see how close we can get to that.

I received a lot of positive feedback on my previous post on ‘Why do we waste food?’. I figured it would be useful to dive into a relevant topic. The concept of eating more sustainably is something that I strive towards, it’s not something that I fully live out as yet. I attempted it when I lived alone in Cape Town, but struggled once I started staying with my family again.

In today’s post, I’d like to dive into a few aspects of sustainable eating that are worth considering. Let’s first look at why it’s important, how our current habits impact the environment, ways we can try to improve on our eating habits, and how to move forward as a society.

Gary Lawrence Quote: “Sustainability is a political choice ...

Why is this topic important?

I think many of us underestimate the impact our eating habits have, not only on our body, but our mind, our community and the environment. I personally think it’s important because we typically eat around 3 meals a day (+snacks), every single day of our life. That’s somewhat astonishing, if you think about how much we actually eat in a year (>1000 meals). If we think of the population as a whole, that’s 7 billion people eating at a rate of 1000 meals a year – there’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Now I know that’s a bit of a stretch, since not everyone eats that much or has the privilege to. Trying to also point out why we should be incredibly grateful to fit that category.

That rate of eating means that we need to find ways to efficiently produce enough food for everyone. Efficiency, however, can come at a cost (I realized that from own personal experiences). We’ve started to extract natural resources at an unnatural rate, and the products get distributed unequally. That means that we’re now producing more food than ever before, but are causing significant damage to the environment and not feeding everyone.

Let’s dive deeper into that.

How are our current eating habits affecting the environment?

Here some interesting facts from Our World In Data:

Bar chart of how much of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (26%); habitable land use (50%); freshwater withdrawals (70%); eutrophication (78%) and total mammal biomass (94%) results from food and agriculture.
https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food

The bar graphs essentially show the contribution of the food and agriculture industry on different aspects of the environment. What we don’t realize is that the type of food we eat, has a direct impact on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, land-use, fresh water supplies and even biodiversity.

Here’s another interesting figure to see how specific food types affect GHG emissions.

The immediate takeaway is that the top 3 contributors are all meat-related. That is because livestock and cattle are all incredible potent methane producers (cows and sheep fart, A LOT). When you stack up all the farms that use unsustainable techniques, it adds up to tonnes of GHG emissions.

I’ve also talked about the impact of food waste in my previous post, which has its fair share of environmental impact. There’s also the packaging and plastics that are used throughout the value chain, which all accumulates.

It’s not all bleak and sour though, there are clear ways for us to improve on these issues. It’s not as easy for some people and it might be easier in other countries, but it all starts with a single step.

最高の引用: これまでで最高のGreenhouse Gas Effect Cartoon
https://image.cagle.com/151304/750/151304.png

How can we improve?

From my personal experience, it’s somewhat simple. We just need to be more conscious of where we get our food from. The first thing is to try and support local as much as you can. The more you’re able to source from small farms, butchers and reliable sources of free range food, the better.

Try to cut down on buying fast food and eating out at large franchises. Those are typically major contributors to the emission chain and tend to be incredibly unsustainable.

The next thing is to add more vegetables, fruit and plants into your diet. The less we rely on cattle and poultry, the more we are reducing our contribution to the GHG emissions. It can be as simple as setting up a meal plan for the week, and instead of eating meat for like 4 days, cut it down to 1 or 2 days (essentially cut down from your current habit).

The last thing is to grow your own food where possible. This is more applicable to people who live in houses with gardens. The more you can source your own food organically, the healthier it is for you and the environment.

If you’d like to find more tips on how to eat more sustainably, check out the link below:

https://www.wwf.org.uk/what-can-i-do/10-tips-help-you-eat-more-sustainably

Moving forward

As a society, we’ve started to romanticize the concept of fast food and take-outs. Some people I know can eat fast food on a daily basis. It’s cheap and convenient. But it comes at an indirect cost.

To move forward as a society, I think we need to start finding ways to encourage and incentivize each other to live more sustainably. We live on a planet with finite resources. The impact of our actions from the last few decades/centuries are starting to take its toll. We can’t keep plowing ahead with the same habits. The population is growing, so that means we’ll only have more mouths to feed.

ラブリーAnimated Greenhouse Gases Cartoon - インスピレーションを与える名言
https://ojogalaksihmbah.blogspot.com/2020/07/animated-greenhouse-gases-cartoon.html

It’s all about taking a small step in the right direction. Little by little, a little becomes a lot. Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of the minor changes you make in your life. Just try your best, whatever that means to you.

The point I’d like to make here is that we can do better. Most of us choose not to, out of convenience. The choice of eating more sustainably is definitely a privilege, but one that we should utilize as much as we can.

Eat better today, for a healthier planet tomorrow.

Why Do We Waste Food?

I’ve been doing some research into household consumer behaviour and why we waste food. I thought it would be an interesting topic to speak about, given how common food waste is nowadays.

In today’s post, I’d like to dive into several aspects of food waste (which can be extrapolated to any kind of waste). I’ll look at the impact it has on society, the impact it has on our psyche and the impact on our environment.

Impact of food waste on society

When it comes to societal impact, it’s easy to look at it from 2 different extremes; those living in abject poverty and the filthy rich. The majority of us lie somewhere in the middle. For those who live in a state of constant hunger and search for food on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite clear why wasting food makes no sense.

Think about it this way, whenever you intentionally throw food out (bec you let it expire etc.), you deny other people a chance to leverage that same thing. Yes, there should be a threshold or limit to what you can give or can’t give (based on the quality of the food for example). But more often than not, people who don’t have anything to eat will be incredibly grateful for your left overs.

Food waste comic. | Food Waste Facts & Stats | Pinterest ...

This applies even more when you’re eating out at a restaurant. Time and time again, I see people leave large portions of their food on the table when they leave a restaurant. Those restaurants can’t do anything but throw it away. You, on the other hand, can ask for a takeaway box and give it to someone else (a guard or beggar etc.).

Our decisions always make an impact on other people, whether we see it directly or not. You can change the lives of the people in your community by simply giving away some of your leftovers or excess food. Especially when you know you’re not going to eat something, but keep it in the fridge until it expires/rots and throw it away.

Be mindful of these habits, they also have an effect on your psyche.

Will.i.am Quote: “Waste is only waste if we waste it.” (7 ...

Impact on our psyche

As I mentioned already, there are indirect consequences to our wasting habits. The impact actually seeps deep into your subconscious, because you are essentially programming yourself to live a certain lifestyle.

Something as simple as throwing away leftovers? Really?

Yes, because it ingrains a certain level of ingratitude. This may sound like an attack to some of you, but it’s how I personally view the topic. When you’re comfortable with wasting, you are essentially doing the opposite of being grateful. You’re not truly appreciating the value of the blessing.

It happens by mistake and a lot of the time it’s not on purpose, but when it’s habit/lifestyle, then it can be truly problematic. Especially because you’re living out your values. And I don’t think any of us would really like to acknowledge that ingratitude can be a core value.

Apart from that, there’s also a huge concern about the environment. Landfills simply can’t sustainably deal with the type of food waste we produce.

Food Waste | ECOEducationService

Impact on the environment

Apart from the clear and obvious non-degradable aspects of the waste (like packaging and containers), the food itself causes a significant problem. Considering that most of our food waste typically ends up in landfills (in unsustainable quantities), it ends up being buried for microorganisms to decompose.

The issue is that the process is achieved through anaerobic digestion (without any oxygen), and the by-product is large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2 and methane). This means that food waste directly contributes to climate change.

Another factor to consider is the value chain of the food process. From the time it’s farmed/produced, through to the logistics of transporting it, to the refrigeration/storage, all the way to consumption, there’s a lot of waste created when we throw that food away.

You can find more information on what happens to food waste in the article below.

What can we do about it?

I know that sounds all dark and gloomy, but there is something really simple that we can do about it. Simply waste less.

Start by paying closer attention to your buying and eating habits. If you notice that you always buy an excessive amount of certain items that usually end up expired, then start buying less of it. When you notice things approaching their expiry date and you don’t plan on consuming it, then give it away.

In addition, just give more to those who less fortunate than you. It obviously needs to be edible and in decent condition, but it doesn’t have to be brand new or immaculate. People appreciate the smallest of gestures and acts of kindness. By doing this, you’re acting out the value of gratitude. God has blessed us all with much more than we can count. It’s time to make our actions count.

So if you want to play your part and make a difference to society, to your psyche and to the environment, waste less, be more mindful of what you buy and start giving out more. You got this.