How Changing Your Diet Can Help Save the Planet

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Food is, of course, fundamental to life.

But in a perhaps ironic twist, the things we eat fuel some of the greatest threats to the survival of humanity. A growing body of evidence has shown that our industrialized food production systems are a source of pollution, a contributor to climate change and a cause of biodiversity loss.

You can help change that, however. Here are 10 simple things you can do today to reduce the environmental impact of your diet.

1. Understand food as a process, not as a product

People often see food on a grocery store shelf and don’t think much about how it got there.

But between the farm and the plate, food must be processed, packaged, transported, marketed and sold. Many of these steps can be damaging to the planet. When you consider the entire food system, you are in a better position to make informed choices about the things you eat.

2. Support sustainable agriculture

Buy your food from producers and retailers specializing in sustainable products.

Sustainable agriculture uses up to 56% less energy, generates 64% less greenhouse gas emissions and allows greater biodiversity than conventional agriculture. And because sustainably produced products are generally more labor-intensive, they can create 30% more jobs, demand higher prices, and generate higher incomes.

3. Know what you are eating

Pesticides, herbicides and antimicrobial drugs are often used to increase crop and livestock yields, but can have adverse effects on human health. Discharges from farms can also contaminate aquatic ecosystems and pollute soils.

Read labels, ask questions and do your research to find out where food comes from and how it is produced. Choose whole foods from sustainable agriculture rather than intensively farmed and highly processed foods when you can. Prepare meals at home, instead of buying take out.

4. Plant your own garden

Growing your own produce eliminates the need for chemicals like pesticides, packaging, preservatives, fuel for transport and cold chain storage. Fruits, vegetables and herbs in their most natural form are also the most nutritious. They’re rich in vitamins with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects – and relatively inexpensive.

Get your neighbors and friends involved in building a community garden. Grow fruits and vegetables around your house, on your balcony, or on your window sill.

5. Buy local

In addition to supporting small businesses and farms, purchasing locally produced food reduces fossil fuel emissions associated with cold chain transport and storage. It also reduces the potential for food loss along the way.

Building relationships with local producers and retailers is a way to understand how your food was produced, to engage in dialogue, to voice your concerns, and to exchange ideas.

6. Eat a diet rich in plants

The demand for resource-intensive animal protein has increased dramatically in recent years. Currently, about 60 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used for grazing livestock, and people in many countries consume more food of animal origin than is healthy.

Switching to plant-rich diets would use less land, produce less greenhouse gases, require less water and improve animal welfare. It would also provide more cultivated land, which is crucial with the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Switching to a diet rich in plants could also help reduce chronic diseases, such as heart disease. , strokes, diabetes and cancer, as well as costs associated with treatment and loss of income.

7. Diversify your diet

Diets around the world are increasingly homogeneous and based disproportionately on crops that are high in energy but low in macronutrients. Over the past 100 years, over 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared. Today, only nine plant species represent 66% of total agricultural production. Almost one in three people suffers from some form of malnutrition, with many countries facing simultaneous challenges of under-nutrition and overweight or obesity.

According to the EAT-Lancet Commission, eating a healthy diet with a variety of plant-based foods, and moving away from highly processed foods and diets high in refined grains and added sugar, could prevent up to a quarter of all adult deaths.

8. Reduce food waste

One third of all food produced is either lost or wasted. It’s not just in stores or restaurants and it’s not just in wealthy households. The United Nations Environment Program Food Waste Index report reveals that it is a global phenomenon that affects all income levels.

To reduce waste, plan ahead and only buy the food you know you will use. Enjoy every edible part of the food you buy. Measure portion sizes of rice and other staples before cooking, store foods properly (use your freezer if you have one), be creative with leftovers, share extras with friends and neighbors, and contribute to a local food sharing program. Finally, make compost from inedible scraps and use it to fertilize your garden.

9. Avoid unnecessary packaging

Food packaging tends to end up in landfills and every year around 5,000 billion single-use plastic bags pollute the land and sea.

Whenever possible, choose unpackaged, durably or lightly packaged food products. Use baskets for shopping, take reusable or cloth bags with you, and store food in glass jars or wrap in beeswax or other durable materials.

10. Make your voice heard

The world spends an estimated $ 1 million per minute subsidizing existing food systems, distorting markets, hampering change, and harming human and environmental health.

Call on governments and policymakers to drive a transition to sustainable agriculture and prioritize reducing food loss and waste in their climate change action plans. Call for transparency from producers, retailers and services on agricultural practices, ingredients and their nutritional values.

Finally, be an advocate in your own social circles. Use your social media platforms to share information, recipes, ideas and inspiration. Finally, form networks, launch projects, raise your voice.

UN Environment


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