Sustainable Food for a brighter future
Aktualisiert: 7. Sept. 2021
The Climate Change is already there. The oceans and the temperatures all around the world are rising. If we don´t act yet, our lives in the future will never be the same. Therefore, the UN (United Nations) has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (see in figure 1). And one part of these 17 goals considers nutrition. But why is for example sustainable food so important? And how or what can we eat sustainably to help our planet?
Figure 1 Sustainable Development Goals (Source: https://www.arc2020.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/sdgs-list-en-1024x588.jpg, Retrieved on 27.08.2021)
Firstly, we need to know, why sustainable eating is so important? Food production contributes approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the livestock sector alone represents almost half (14.5%) of these emissions. Also, food production occupies about 40% of global land and uses 70% of freshwater. For this reason, it is the largest factor threatening species with extinction. So you see, a change in food production and consumption is needed to stop climate change.
Furthermore, we need to define what sustainable food actually means? Currently, there is no common definition of sustainable food because of the many different views as to what constitutes a 'sustainable' food system, and what falls within the scope of the term 'sustainability'. Strictly speaking, sustainability implies the use of resources at rates that do not exceed the capacity of the Earth to replace them. So, to put it simply, sustainable eating puts the focus on foods that are produced in a way that is beneficial for the environment, supports local communities, and is humane to farmers, workers, and animals alike.
Sustainable food production is incredibly important, not just for the sake of our planet, but also for our health and future as well. Opting for some of the most sustainable foods (see in Figure 2) whenever possible can help minimize greenhouse gas emissions, decrease food waste, and reduce exposure to harmful chemicals, additives, and preservatives that are abundant throughout the food supply.
Figure 2 Environmental Pyramid (Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D3YmjQpWwAEJKIf.jpg, Retrieved on 27.08.2021)
Tips for Sustainable Eating
Avoid Highly Processed Foods. If a food product has been through many steps in manufacturing, with lots of ingredients coming from all corners of the world, the carbon footprint is higher for that product, due to traveling, manufacturing, and distribution.
Choose Nutritious Foods. These are more sustainable because they use resources—water, farm inputs, soil—wisely to produce foods that contribute to good health. These foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts, and seeds.
Avoid Overeating. This is probably the most serious sustainability issue of all, because producing food to be consumed in excess of the calories we need wastes resources.
Avoid Purchasing Fresh Foods Out of Season. Foods that travel long distances are not typically sustainable.
Use Preserved Foods in the Off-Season. Preserved foods that are lightly processed, such as canned, dried, and frozen, are more sustainable options during the off-season, compared to produce that is grown in heated greenhouses or shipped in from far away places (air transport is the worst).
Consider Organic Foods. Organic food regulations significantly limit the synthetic pesticides that can be used in crop production, and they support more sustainable soil practices, such as the use of cover crops, composting, and manures.
Reduce Food Packaging. The packages (cereal boxes, clamshells, individual cups) can make a huge impact on sustainability, as packaging fills up landfills. Select minimally processed whole foods with little packaging as your best bet.
Trim Food Waste. This is a significant factor in sustainability.
Reduce Meat Consumption. Research consistently shows that animal foods have a much larger carbon and water footprint than plant foods.
Achieving a healthy and sustainable food system is an urgent matter that depends on collaborative efforts from governments, the private and public sectors, as well as individuals. Supply and demand work both ways—a shift in the food production landscape depends on a shift in our diets. We must be aware that our food choices ultimately impact more than just ourselves, and primarily plant-based diets are best for both health outcomes and the environment. In the end, what’s good for the planet is good for us too.
This article only shows one possibility of how we can help our planet. There are many different options you can consider and implement in your daily life to reduce your carbon dioxide footprint. So, if you are more interested in the topic of sustainability and nutrition or sport then leave a comment there and I will consider it in my further plan. Despite this, I hope that I have you sensitized that there is a climate change that we need to stop. And that there are also many options how every person can make a contribution to that. One can be our nutrition! So, change your nutrition now only for health reasons, but also for environmental reasons. We only have this planet!
Link R. (October 20, 2019). Sustainable Food Guide: Tips for Eating Sustainably + Top Food Choices. Retrieved on 27.08.2021; from https://nutritionstripped.com/sustainable-food/
European Commission (November 21, 2016). Sustainable Food. Retrieved on 27.08.2021; from https://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/eussd/food.htm
Palmer S. (August 2, 2021). Top 11 Tips for sustainable eating. Retrieved on 27.08.2021; from https://sharonpalmer.com/top-11-tips-for-sustainable-eating/
Harvard T.H. Chan (n. d.). Sustainability. Retrieved on 27.08.2021; from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/