The human population is growing and with it a demand for food. It’s not difficult to understand that there are limitations as to the ways we use the land and how much land we are able to exploit without causing significant and unrecoverable damaging impact on the words’ climate, affecting us all. The sad fact is that the current structure is far from sustainable. I have recently watched fascinating documentary “Kiss the ground” that brilliantly explains the damaging effect of current agriculture methods. Yes, the issue is with the METHODS that are being used. Single crop fields, overuse of pesticides, damage to the soil with invasive machinery to name a few. I have also been surprised to discover the important relation of livestock with fertility of a farmed land for its regeneration. Cattle has been getting really bad reputation recently due to high CO2 emissions. The issue however is not with the animals, but with the volume and the way they are being farmed.
Issues of Animal Agriculture
Animal agriculture have dominated the world food industry. There is no denying that the nation is hungry for meat!
Let’s look at some numbers:
26% of land is dedicated for grazing livestock
33% of land is allocated for growing feed
70% of word’s fresh water are used for agriculture (1/3 of which is livestock feed)
51%of global greenhouse gas emission is produced by livestock (according to Worldwatch Institute)
The scientists involved in making “Kiss the ground” explain the issue is with the way livestock is kept, indoors or on acres of exposed land as supported to green field where the CO2 exchange is at a healthy rate and where soil is able to process the waste.
They provide a proof that using simple methods they suggest, raising livestock does not have to be an ecological disaster.
There are simple solutions, promoting regenerative agriculture practices that heal the soil, revive ecosystems and solve climate change but it does involve reducing the amount of meat we produce and consume.
Let’s look at plants…
Joseph Poore, a researcher at the University of Oxford who studies the environmental impacts of food alarms that we have to be mindful about everything we consume.
Veganism gained more and more popularity over the recent years. Lots of people are making a change, some are switching to this diet for health reasons, some are animal lovers, lots think this is the right thing to do having the environment in mind. We are being more aware of the word crisis and have better understanding of the impact our diet has on words’ ecosystem.
Most people believe being vegan or vegetarian is ultimately being green. Is that right?
“Air-transported fruit and veg can create more greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram than poultry meat” (J Poore)
You can look at bananas, pineapples, mangoes and quite easily understand that those come from tropical countries and so they have to be shipped rather long distances for us to enjoy. It’s not just about air miles…. Avocado, mango are among produce that use huge amount of water at the growing stage on the top of air miles involved in transportation. Cocoa is also a major driver of tropical deforestation and one of the biggest contributors to global biodiversity loss. Cashew, almonds both have high water footprint.
With constant and full availability of all produce in supermarkets it is very easy to dis-attach. We no longer in need to consider what is in season as almost all vegetables and fruit are on our shelves all year round. University of Manchester researcher, Angelina Frankowska found that in UK asparagus has the highest carbon footprint compared to any other vegetable eaten in the country, with 5.3kg of carbon dioxide being produced for every kilogram of asparagus. Why? Because it’s mainly imported from Peru. Are you surprised? I was too! I had no idea!
What’s is a sustainable diet?
Animal-based foods are generally more resource-intensive and environmentally impactful to produce than plant-based food.
But you do not have to become a vegan or vegetarian to make an impact. According to World Resources Institute “Global average per person protein consumption exceeded dietary requirements in all regions in 2009, with each person consuming on average about 68 grams per day— one-third higher than the average daily adult requirement. In wealthy countries, protein consumption was higher still. For example, the average American man eats nearly 100 grams of protein per day, almost double the amount of protein he needs (56 g)”
The issue is an OVERCONSUMPTION. If the words’ 2 billion high meat consumers cut their meat consumption by 40% we would have saved area size twice as big as INDIA in land and 168 Billion tons of gas Emission. Behind cheap production is also often low quality. Let’s not forget that we are what we eat! Our food is our building block affecting our body now and affecting our future.
For most of us the supermarket shelves offer more than we could wish for. Food is very affordable for most of the worlds”s population and so it’s just to easy to fall in the spiral of consuming too much, just because we can. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to enjoy avocado, bananas, mangoes and almonds but I choose to do with without an obsession. It’s the quantity we demand is the real problem.
5 simple ways for more sustainable diet that will positively affect your health and wallet
1. Reduce your meat and diary consumption
We know animal agriculture needs serious refinement but Let’s not wait for others to take action. Cheap meat will almost never be sourced sustainable. The higher the demand, the more unethical methods will be used to speed up “production” of livestock. The issue is largely with the amount of meat that we demand so by reducing your meat intake you will largely impact the cycle. If you can not go meatless, make it a special occasion and celebration rather than every day normality.
Find a local supplier and choose a good quality over quantity. Don’t assume, ask questions. Knowing where your produce comes and how it was raised is a good place to start.
2. Eat seasonal
When I was a child my granddad had a small patch of land where he was growing tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, cabbages… I can remember the excitement when the first strawberry was ready to eat. It tastes heavenly, sweet and full of sunshine! I’m sure mainly because I was waiting for it for such a long time. Anticipation is a great thing! You can also get excited. Seasonal not only means tastier and cheaper food but great reduction is costs to the environment when it comes to transportation. Avoid buying food that it out of season and comes from the opposite side of the globe. Consider freezing or preserving food when in season to capture the flavours to be enjoyed whole year round.
If you live out of town you might be lucky enough to be close to a farm shop or a village market. Farmers markets have gain popularity over the last few years and many cites have those available. Hand made food, artisan bead, local honey and veg however, they can be rather expensive and simply not affordable for many.
Its worth looking at other ways to be sustainable when it comes to shopping. I signed up for a ODDBOX vegetable and fruit delivery. This company collects unwanted fruit and vegetables directly from farmers. They rescue what can’t go the supermarkets as it don’t fit the guidelines ( look, size, shape). I fund this is a great value for money and above all really good quality product. You can check my review here.
There are many other companies like Riverford Organic Farmers, Farm Direct, Abel & Cole that can provide you with fresh supply of high quality products, organic, local and seasonal produce, offer home delivery plus all is delivered in cardboard box rather than ton of plastic packaging. WIN WIN all the way!
4. Don’t waste
If you had a chance to get involved with growing your own you do understand how much effect, time and energy goes into it. Don’t get dis-attached from that concept just because you buy thing in the shop. We should all use every bit of the food we have not only to protect the world’s limited resources but also to save our money and time. Check my tips on how to stop food waste.
5. Be creative and open minded
Cooking for me is an art form. I love searching, preparing, making, pleasing others with delicious food. Just like a good painting plate should be full of colour as well as taste. You might not have passion for cooking but you can make your “painting” interesting and colourful every time. Choose Variety. Explore, try, taste new things, get curious. Variety is definitely sustainable.