Climate crisis is at the forefront of many minds right now. As a part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has pledged to reduce its emissions by 278 mtpa by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2060. There is much to be done if we, as a species, want to repair some of the damage we have done to the world, and many countries are setting a great example. Learning to eat sustainably can be a big part of this.
While the power of ordinary people to make big changes to the state of the environment is limited, there are ways we can all do our part. Using public transport more and avoiding fast-fashion, for example, are great ways to be mindful of your impact on the climate. When it comes to food, though, there are even more places to start. Choosing a sustainable diet makes a difference to your health and the world.
Why Eat Sustainably?
The food industry is responsible for around 24% of global emissions. What’s more, 80% of global deforestation is linked to agriculture in some way. This means that the choices we make around our diet are important. Everything we make and do comes with a global cost, and food is no different. The way food is produced, how far it is shipped, and how it is packaged make a big difference to its overall carbon footprint.
The market, of course, is led by consumer trends and needs. If enough of us prioritize ethical, local, sustainably produced foods, the market will respond. This may seem like a big task, but all it really takes is normal people making choices that help them feel good about their diet, their health, and their impact on the planet.
- If the human race reduces our production and consumption of animal based foods by 50%, global emissions could drop by 64% by 2050.
- Sustainably produced food could prevent deforestation by dedicating less land to livestock and agriculture.
- Reduced deforestation would allow for ecosystems to recover and support the population of endangered and threatened species.
- Our global rivers would become cleaner and the amount of wasted water across the world would drop.
So, as you can see, eating sustainably could make a real difference to the world. Of course, focusing on fresh, nutritious, sustainable food that has only experienced minimal processing can also be great for our health!
If you’re interested in sustainable eating, these tips will help you get started.
5 Quick Sustainable Eating Tips for Beginners
There are many different steps you can take to make your diet truly sustainable – but changing your whole lifestyle and diet is a gradual process that takes time. If you are worried about the global impact of your plate right now, this can be frustrating.
These quick tips will help you to reduce your carbon footprint while you learn more about sustainable eating and nutrition:
1. Eat Local Foods
By far the most sustainable way to eat is to choose foods produced, grown, or cultivated in your local area. That’s because it reduces the amount of energy and fuel used to ship, house, and deliver foods from other countries or continents! If you eat as many locally grown vegetables as you can, for example, you will reduce your impact on the environment while getting the freshest foods.
This is easier for those who live in rural areas, of course, but it can be applied to urban areas. Choosing food suppliers that get most of their food nationally can make a big difference when opposed to buying internationally shipped goods.
2. Prioritize Plant-Based Foods
Increasing the amount of plant-based meals and snacks you include in your diet is a simple and delicious way to eat sustainably. Meat and animal-based products take a heavy toll on the environment. While some protein rich meats or dairy products filled with healthy fats and minerals are good for us, most people could comfortably reduce their intake without feeling any worse off for it.
If you plan to eat vegan-friendly meals at least two days in a week, you could drastically reduce the environmental impact of your diet. According to a report by Greenforce, if the world ate a plant-based diet two days a week for a year, it would have the same impact as planting 13.88 billion trees!
3. Plan Your Meals
Food waste is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to needless emissions and pollution. Wasted food creates methane as it rots (which is an even stronger pollutant than CO2). Despite this, and spiraling world hunger, around 1/3 of the food that we produce is wasted or lost.
You can reduce your own food wastage (and save yourself some money) by planning what you are going to eat before you start shopping. That’s not to say you can’t be impulsive, too; just plan your main meals for the week, and buy what you need to make that. You’ll find your money goes further and less food is wasted.
4. Try Less Popular Seafood
Like meat, fish can be tied to perceptions of value and ‘class.’ For example, when the average person thinks of the best steak, they may well say sirloin or T-bone. That’s why these cuts of meat are sought after. Likewise, most people have heard of tuna, sardines, and salmon, but many will say that salmon is the better fish. For this reason, salmon is more expensive.
Unfortunately, these kinds of trends mean that certain species of fish are over-fished and this is having a horrible impact on our oceans. Veering toward line-caught fish and less popular seafoods that are native to the waters closest to you can reduce your impact on the world drastically.
For example, it’s now very easy to get lionfish in some parts of southeastern U.S. This is because the invasive species is being utilized in a way that benefits the environment and the local people; they can get fresh, affordable fish caught in their local area, all while helping the native ecosystems recover!
5. Opt for Non-Packaged or Lightly Packaged foods
Single-use plastic packaging is one of the biggest producers of pollution and microplastics in the world today. While the need to keep food fresh and free from bacteria is huge, there are certain companies that overpackage, use wasteful methods, and generally do more harm than is necessary.
By choosing non-packaged foods where you can (for example, loose fruit and vegetables), and choosing lightly packaged, recyclable, or biodegradable materials when possible, you can make a real difference to your local area and the world as a whole.
These simple tips are easy to implement and they have a direct impact on the waste, pollution, and carbon emissions that you are directly tied to. While it may seem pointless to do this while big companies still produce non-sustainable, highly processed and packaged foods, the market follows our lead. If enough of us choose change with our buying power, companies will have to follow suit.