Lately, as more people are becoming aware of how their diet is affecting the environment, they are wanting to switch to a more sustainable diet. But what is the most sustainable diet?
The answer varies for each individual but there are some general things everyone can do to reduce their impact on the environment.
What you eat is a personal choice which is often influenced by culture and we respect that. However, in many areas, especially developed countries, our diet is very unhealthy and unsustainable which is affecting our health and the planet.
A Short History
Different cultures around the world eat differently. A long time ago, humans were hunters and gatherers who had to find their own source of food.
Slowly, as they developed better tools, it was easier to hunt and catch bigger prey. Our intelligence and creativity are what allowed us to create these tools and evolve.
However, we have completely exploited the earth and the knowledge we have of it for our personal gain. We recognize the best time to grow crops and which type of crop is suited to a certain environment. In addition, we were able to domesticate wild animals.
Fast forward to today, we now have billions of animals locked up in factories that are killed, cut, and neatly packaged for us. The only thing we need to do is give a bit of money and the meat is ours. We no longer have to worry about finding our food and killing it. If that were the case, most people on the planet would be vegan.
Food has become so accessible to us and some would argue too accessible. We no longer need any skill or time to make our meals. People can make them for us.
Another thing to note is that the meat we buy from the supermarkets almost has no connection to the real animal which is what makes it so easy for many people. I know for a fact that some individuals refuse to eat something if it resembles the animal it came from. But in the supermarket, you can buy meat and even forget that it is meat because of how processed it is.
Commercial agriculture allowed the human population to grow to 7.8 billion people. But something is clearly wrong because the earth is now in peril. We have completely changed what evolution use to mean. We have taken it on another level. If we want the human population to continue to thrive, something needs to change.
So what is the best diet for the planet right now?
Agriculture is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world. This includes crop and animal farming. However, animal farming is so much more harmful to the environment than harvesting crops. This is for several reasons.
Firstly, animals need more land. This is two-fold. Land is needed for the actual animals but we can’t forget that crops are needed to feed all the animals too. If we didn’t consume meat, think about all the land that would free up. This is important as it’s often forests that need to be cut down to make space for them. Entire ecosystems are destroyed when in reality is, it is not necessary.
All animals, but cows especially, produce methane which is a greenhouse gas. This contributes to climate change and surprisingly it is a much more potent gas than carbon dioxide. This means that one molecule of methane gas has a stronger warming effect than a molecule of carbon dioxide.
Another thing that should be mentioned is fish. Across the globe, fish are hugely overexploited putting the fish population at critical risk. We cannot continue like these or the oceans will not be able to sustain themselves. Thankfully, there is something you can do. First, if you eat a lot of seafood, try to reduce it. Additionally, look out for certified sustainably sourced fish. There are different labels depending on where you live.
Unsurprisingly, the best thing you could do for the planet is to cut down your meat consumption and animal products. A plant-based diet is currently the best diet for the planet. We need to immediately reduce animal farming. It’s crucial in our fight for climate justice.
But we’re not all perfect. Being vegan or even vegetarian doesn’t mean you can never eat an animal product in your life. Being an imperfect vegan or vegetarian is better than doing nothing. Something to think about.
Another big part of a sustainable diet is processed food. Getting all your food wrapped in plastic or some other packaging is not sustainable in any way. Unfortunately, we live in a world where even fruit has to have plastic wrapped around them. (someone explain that to me). Maybe it’s hard to completely boycott all packaged food depending on where you live but you can give it a shot. Here are some tips for you when grocery shopping.
It’s important to reduce our waste. Plastic is polluting natural ecosystems and our oceans and there’s no way to completely clean them up. It’s irreversible. So maybe think twice if it’s worth getting all those chocolate bars.
If you do want to eat some meat, you should definitely stay away from processed meat and opt for fresh meat from the butchers instead. It’s not good for your health or the environment.
Buy fresh ingredients instead of processed foods in order to make your own meals because fresh ingredients have a lower carbon footprint. You shouldn’t buy processed food and ready-made meals just because it’s easier and more convenient.
We can’t forget where the food is grown or made. This is especially important if you are following a plant-based diet, but it applies to everyone. Try to only get seasonal fruit and veg so they don’t need to fly them across the ocean. This will mean giving up some foods but think about the big picture. Again, I want to stress the point that no one is perfect. So it’s fine if you have some slip-ups because you really wanted something one time. Just don’t fall into the habit of doing it on a regular basis.
The good news is that a diet that is good for the planet is also one that is good for you.
However, if you are vegan, you just need to make sure are eating a varied diet so you get all the nutrients that you need. Also, make sure you are getting enough B12. Apart from this, a vegan diet is very healthy for you so don’t think otherwise. A vegetarian diet is just as good for you.
Eating too much meat, especially red meat, is not good for your health. Eating too much of it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some cancers.
The bottom line
To summarize, these are the best things everyone should try and do:
- Reduce your consumption of meat and animal products.
- You don’t have to go vegan, but you should definitely think about eating more plants than meat. It’s important to create a diverse diet for yourself so you are getting all the necessary nutrients. It’s important to focus on the health of yourself as well as the health of the planet.
- Always look for certified products that have been sustainably made to avoid the ones that are causing mass deforestation and other harm to the natural environment.
- Avoid heavily processed items and cook your own meals to reduce plastic waste.
- Buy locally-sourced food.
Remember, the ‘most sustainable diet’ varies from person to person, from country to country.
Having a sustainable diet should not feel like you are depriving yourself. If it is, then you might need to switch your perspective. Ask yourself, why do you want to live sustainably? When you have a good answer to that question, everything else will come easily.
An ideal world
The population is growing faster and faster. If our diets don’t change soon (and very soon), food insecurity will become a global problem. There won’t be enough food for everyone. I soon hope that the population stops growing like it is in Japan because there’s too much stress on the planet.
So what is the ideal scenario? In a perfect world, everyone would eat a generally plant-based diet. The meat that they would eat, would be locally sourced but more importantly, it would be sustainably and ethically managed. Since we wouldn’t need nearly as much meat as we do now, there would be fewer animal farms and more land for us and for ecosystems to flourish.
Making animal farming more sustainable should definitely be a goal to achieve in the near future. We can’t keep cutting down trees at this rate and releasing so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
This should really be the world to aim from. The way we are living is so unsustainable. The earth has survived so much in the past, including an asteroid. It will survive this as well. The question is, will we?
Fighting the climate crisis is no longer a fight for planet earth because it can bounce back from pretty much anything. We are now fighting for our lives and every other living organism on the planet.
This world could be amazing. A world where nature and humans thrive alongside each other instead of fighting each other. Everyone should realize that we are too part of nature and denying this fact will not change anything.
Switching to a more sustainable diet is one of the easiest and best things you could do, and it would benefit everyone, including you. This could be your first step into eco-friendly life.