Many people do not know that the way we produce and consume our food (especially animal products) is one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Paul Hawken in Drawdown the Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming says, “The most conservative estimates suggest that raising livestock accounts for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gasses emitted each year.”
Honestly, I always believed that people went vegan just to save animals. However, I have learned recently that it is much more than that. Practicing a plant-based diet not only saves the lives of animals but also limits greenhouse gas emissions.
The meat industry has a large greenhouse gas footprint, especially the beef industry. The gross (and somewhat funny) truth is that cows are fed bad diets that are cheap and bulk them up fast but it produces a lot of methane gas in their digestive systems. This gas is not only released when cows are alive but also when they are slaughtered and packaged as food.
Another option for those who do not want to ditch animal products is to find local sources of meat. Buying locally limits the emissions of transporting products across the country to your grocery store. This is also true for produce, it is good to do your research and learn what produce is in season around you and great local places to purchase food such as a farmers market.
The main factors in eating sustainable are eliminating or limiting the carbon footprint of one’s food, practicing a plant-based diet, and refusing palm oil and soy. A plant-based diet and lowering one’s carbon footprint go hand in hand. In order to lower the carbon footprint of one’s food, they must eliminate their consumption of animal products (including diary) which in turn is a diet reliant on plants.
Plastic is also an epidemic in the food industry. Precut vegetables or fruits placed in a Styrofoam container wrapped in plastic is highly unnecessary, a person can easily buy the whole versions (not wrapped in plastics) and cut them at home. Foods like these have been made with their own natural covers making it extremely pointless to add plastic. Avocados pre-sliced and bananas unwrapped are ridiculous examples of this.
The issue with palm oil and soy is that bad production practices can cause deforestation, affect wildlife, and in turn contribute to climate change. I am lactose intolerant, I buy many dairy alternatives and these options include soy. After learning the devastating effects of soy production, I have opted to find better alternatives such as almond or coconut milk products.
The best way to combat climate change is to educate yourself and to act upon what you have learned. I have begun limiting the amount of meat I consume by not purchasing it at the grocery store and finding better protein alternatives. I also purchase fresh produce utilizing reusable produce bags instead of the plastic ones given at the store.
Food sustainability is a goal that people need to be educated on and strive to implement when purchasing the food they eat.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University