Sustainable living seems to be a new trend for 2018 and rightly so… we live on a beautiful planet, a planet in which we can help protect, so however we can protect it, is definitely worth considering.
‘Sustainable eating’ does not yet have an official definition however, there are lots of examples of good accreditation schemes, such as those certifying ‘organic’ and ‘Fairtrade’ food that are helping make sustainability more available. Understanding the journey of food from farm to fork and the different environmental impacts it has along the way is worthy knowledge because even a small change can go a long way.
Why is sustainable eating important?
The British Dietetic Association state “In the UK, it is estimated that well-planned completely plant-based, or vegan, diets need just one third of the fertile land, fresh water and energy of the typical British ‘meat-and-dairy’ based diet. With meat and dairy being the leading contributor to greenhouse (GHG) emissions, reducing animal-based foods and choosing a wide range of plant foods can be beneficial to the planet and our health.”
However, everybody has a choice in what they eat, and diets are personal to each individual. Not everyone wants to lead a vegan or plant-based diet however, with the most food waste in the UK coming from the household (around 20%) it may be worth considering ways to help reduce this environmental issue.
The consequences of the food industry on our planet:
Excessive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – the worlds current food system accounts for a third of human produced greenhouse gas emissions which is a leading cause of climate change. Livestock production is a big contributor to global warming, whether that be from the animals themselves or the resources that go into raising the animals. There is also deforestation, pollution and over fishing which are huge consequences of an unsustainable food industry.
Destroying marine habitats – fish stocks are in a state of decline with them being over exploited by 90% through fishing and climate change. This is a threat for marine life and it is expected that if nothing is done about this soon, seafood may run out by 2050.
Deforestation – through converting forestlands into farms for livestock production deforestation is now an immerging problem, not only does this affect the environment but it also results in a loss of habitat for thousands of species.
These are just a small number of consequences an unsustainable food chain can result in but they can be reduced by this generation.
Top tips for sustainable eating:
- Eat a variety of foods – maybe try some plant-based recipes, choose a vegetarian option in a restaurant or opt for organic ingredients. Try to eat a variety of fish species to save over exploitation of household favourites such as cod and salmon. A balanced diet is not only a great way to get a range of nutrients in to your diet, it can also be a great way help the environment.
- Meat free Mondays – for meat eaters try and make a small change and see if you can eat a plantbased/vegetarian diet for one day a week, small changes can make a big difference. Ensure when eating fish that you always opt for ‘sustainable certified’ products.
- Reduce food waste – As previously mentioned 20% of the total food waste comes from households. Try to use up fresh ingredients before your frozen or canned items, be creative in the kitchen and use vegetables about to go out of date in one pot recipes such as curries, stews or soups. Ensure you dispose of food correctly by recycling or making your own compost heap.
- Eat local produce – support your local farmers and farm shops, have chat with them and understand their sourcing methods, are the sustainable? Is the welfare of the animal something they are proud of? Understanding the journey from farm to fork can help with sustainable eating, if you have the space and time why not try and grow your own vegetables!
Sustainable eating can also be carried into a lifestyle, there are many ways to help the environment such as natural household cleaning products, car sharing and recycling. With the UK government currently in discussions about single use plastic, here are some top tips to reduce your plastic usage:
- Buying loose fruit and vegetables and avoiding the unnecessary plastic packaging
- Use a reusable coffee cup such as a ‘keep cup’ when drinking coffee out of home, some coffee shops will even discount your coffee too!
- Reusable bags for shopping – cotton bags are great for folding into small bags, having them in handy places such as your car or at the front door for when you are in a rush
- Reusable water bottles – there are some great bottles on the market, some even keep water hot or cold for over 12 hours, some ranges even offer personalisation too so not only are you helping the environment it can also be a great accessory.
- opt out of using plastic straws or requesting them in a bar or restaurant and try paper straws or reusable ones when at home, this can save hundreds of straws over the course of a year by just one person making this change.
BDA Plantbased foods