Medical News Today describes a sustainable diet as “a diet that is generally healthful and has a low impact on the environment and food supply.” Along with climate change, the effects of our food choices on many other aspects of the environment (i.e. land use, water footprint, energy, or fossil use) also need to be considered.
Although there is currently no consensus on what makes a diet sustainable, some diets and food items might be more sustainable than others, and choosing them can help a person reduce their environmental impact. In fact, most studies demonstrate significant environmental benefits to increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables, while reducing the consumption of animal-based foods.
In this post, we’ll identify some simple steps you can take towards eating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly diet.
1. Shop locally
You can help cut down on the average 1,500 miles food travels from farm to fork by purchasing food that’s grown or produced nearby, which means you’ll also help reduce the amount of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere.
Because local farmers are unable to simply pick up and move their operations to new locations when the soil becomes unworkable, their livelihood (and the well-being of the towns they reside in), depends on sustainable growing techniques that preserve and replenish the fertility of their small patch of soil. So by buying food locally, you’re also supporting small farms that are primarily using sustainable agricultural techniques.
2. Buy seasonal food
When you purchase in-season fruits and vegetables, you lower the chances of consuming food that’s traveled across the country (and are therefore reducing transportation emissions associated with shipping imported foods).
3. Choose organic
Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides isn’t just better for nearby birds and animals, but for people who live close to farms as well. In fact, opting to grow environmentally friendly foods may reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 68%.
4. Eat more plants
Meat production in the U.S. accounts for 42% of agricultural greenhouse gases. In fact, beef requires 20 times more farmland than plants so vegetables require fewer resources and produce fewer emissions overall. You don’t necessarily have to give up meat altogether. A flexitarian diet allows you to keep your animal-product consumption low just by eating more veggies. Beans, nuts, and soy are all great high-protein alternatives to animal products.
5. Choose products that come in minimal packaging (or even better, in no packaging) and pick reusable options
Companies produce 78 million tons of plastic annually, while manufacturers and consumers only recycle 14% of it. Less packaging essentially means less material that ends up in landfills and oceans. You can play your part simply by purchasing unwrapped produce and by bringing your own reusable bags when you shop.
6. Cook at home
Eating at home won’t just save you gas to get to a restaurant but it will also allow you to have more control over the ingredients that go into your food, so you can ensure you’re eating a more nutritious meal.
7. Start eating more whole wheat grains
Not only do wholewheat rice, barley, oat, corn and rye have high nutritional benefits, such as helping prevent cancer and cardio-vascular disease, but they require less work, and therefore less energy and water to produce the same amount of food.
8. Start a backyard garden or community garden
A home garden not only allows you to save food miles racked up from food producers, but also helps you reduce how often you travel to and from grocery stores. Find out what local fruits, vegetables and herbs will grow in your geographic region and soil conditions and give the home garden a try.
9. Increase your intake of uncooked fruits and vegetables
Eating more raw foods doesn’t just reduce energy consumption for cooking and heating, but it also reduces the energy that would be associated with processing and over-packaging many common store-bought products.
10. Preserve your food
Highly perishable foods, such as fruits and veggies, create large amounts of waste. You can reduce the amount of food you waste simply by preserving it—fermentation, dehydration, and freezing are all conventional and easy methods. Plus, preserving your food allows you to make healthy, seasonal produce last beyond its harvest time.
As you can see, there are a lot of easy things you can do to help the planet by adjusting your plate. Most of the changes you make will even benefit your own health! Be sure to learn more about Kiwi Energy to find out about other things you can do to help create a more sustainable planet.