Why should you eat sustainably?
There are 7.5 billion people on the planet and counting. As the earth’s population grows, the amount of food that needs to be produced for that rising population grows too. A lot of things come into play when you’re thinking about feeding a planet full of 7.5 billion people, which is only exponentially growing.
Only 40% of the earth’s land is used to feed 7 billion people
1/3 of all fresh water on earth is used to raise livestock
1.3 Billion tons of grain are grown, and not eaten by humans, but by farm animals
The natural question that arises out of this is should I care and if I do, what can I do about it?
First things first, you should care. The reality is that in some way, shape, or form, this is going to affect you. The flip side of it is that not only can you help earth, but you are helping yourself as well since this is something that will also have a positive impact on your health too.
Here are five ways you can eat more sustainably:
Eat More Plants
The benefits of eating plants are indisputable. They’re low in caloric density and high in nutritional density and contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your body. Coupled with the fact that the impact of growing plants compared to grains and livestock is inconsequential compared to the numbers above … it’s clear that eating more plants helps more than harms. From an environmental perspective, you get more production from plants. Scientists also cite that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could drop by 75%. Scientists also cite that global meat production uses up about 83% of land resources, while only providing about 18% of total calories to the world.
Minimize Meat Consumption
You can still consume meat while still being friendly to the planet.
75% of global emissions come from cattle and other ruminants
56% of global emissions come from poultry and pigs
Plant production is 512% more productive than meat production, and this includes the use of farmland. In fact, if no meat production was existent, we would use 75% less farmland. Find grass-fed, humanely-raised or pasture-raised meat from local farms you trust. Try to avoid grain-fed meat or those part of a CAFO, (concentrated feeding animal operation). This might cost some more, but worth the cost for your body and the environment. Eat alternative sources of protein and incorporate plant-based proteins into your diet such as lentils, quinoa, almonds, beans and rice. You can also try something different, like insect protein (such as Exoprotein)
Eat a Variety of Seafood
Seafood is easy to incorporate into your diet since it takes away from meat consumption while still filling the protein void and includes essential, healthy fats. However, like anything in the world, resources are finite. Certain fish are farmed out or in danger of being overfished. Find sustainable seafood here. From a labeling perspective, I’d suggest finding wild-caught fish instead of farm-raised, which comes from a factory farm and can sometimes contain additives.
Not only are you supporting local businesses when you’re eating, you’re also going to be a more informed and powerful consumer in the market. The more people that eat local, the more support you give to local farms, which in turn supports small businesses. The money you spend on your local sources means that money stays within the local economy and supporting small businesses. It takes a lot of energy to transport food, so the money you’re spending on local sources means it cuts down on the mass transportation of food from big grocery chains which in turn at least have some positive impact on greenhouse emissions. The key is just finding the places that you’d be able to get that local food, such as small grocers, farmers markets, and local butchers. Find local food suppliers in your area. In addition, you also know where you’re food is sourced, and that is a huge benefit to your health.
Sustainable eating ultimately comes to minimizing waste. Eat leftovers, freeze food that might go bad, and find different ways to cook food that has an older shelf life. The benefit for you and your health is to eat consciously. This will help with portion control, which results in fewer calories along with less food intake. 1.3 Billion tons of food is wasted each year. On average, consumers in Europe and North America throw out more than 95 – 115 kg a year, while regions like South Asia and Africa throw out 6-11 kg a year. Fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers have the highest waste percentages for any food.
About the Author
Andrew Kobylarz is the creator of DeskJob Life, a site dedicated to helping knowledge workers implement healthy eating and fitness habits. Outside of speaking at Tune In Tuesdays, he coaches high-intensity interval classes at Intrepid Gym in Hoboken and is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified coach. He has also been featured on The Ladders, Aloha Magazine, and has created the video diet course which now has over 2,500 students. If you want to drop him a line, shoot him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.