Today is World Food Day. This is a day that calls for action to make sustainable, healthy diets available to everyone. In Australia everything we put on our plates has a big impact on our health and the environment. Here are my tips on eating more sustainably so you can improve your well-being as well as the planet.
There may be no other single human activity that has a greater impact on the planet than raising livestock. Livestock production which includes meat, milk and eggs uses one third of the world’s fresh water. Meat production is a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Raising and transporting livestock also requires more food, water, land and energy than plants.
Eating more of a vegetarian diet will protect the earth and your body. Make a list of the vegetarian foods that you eat regularly and really enjoy. Aim to incorporate these foods into meals more regularly along with a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and wholegrains. If you love pasta and rice then try replacing your usual meat with vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes.
Plant based meat-free products offer the opportunity to get the taste and flavour of meat without having to consume it. This may include soybean, wheat proteins as well as other vegetable sources. Check out your local supermarket freezer for vegetarian versions of hamburger, sausage, chicken and bacon. If everyone in Australia ate meat for one day less, it would be the equivalent of taking 6 million cars off the road.
Fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but certain species are being over-fished or produced in ways that harm the marine environment. To make a sustainable choice look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logos on cans. You can also use apps such as Seafood Watch or Sustainable Seafood to search for sustainable fish wherever you are in the world.
When eating fish in any form – including sushi – here are the ones to avoid. Cod and sardines sourced from the Atlantic. Shark in any form. Also, skipjack and bluefin tuna. You should also bypass orange roughy, imported mahi mahi and crab. Australia now imports more seafood then we produce for domestic consumption. Buy local seafood where you can to ensure it’s been produced sustainably.
In Australia, the average food, shopping basket has travelled over 70,000 km. That’s nearly twice the distance around the earth. Just four imported items can account for 50,000 km. Even if a product is labelled ‘Australian-made’ it can still have imported ingredients. Energy, fuel, gas and water are all consumed during transportation so choose local foods and check which ingredients are produced in Australia.
The modern food system allows us to buy produce that is out of season at any time of the year. This produce has a much greater environmental food print as extra energy is used in its production in hot houses, transportation and cold storage. Always eat seasonal produce as it’s so much better for the environment and our general health. Use a compost bin for any left overs too.
Take away and packaged convenience foods may seem like the easy option, but they have a big impact on the environment. Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down. Organic farming methods improve soil health and reduce reliance on fossil fuels as synthetic chemical or pesticides aren’t used. Cook and grow your own food wherever possible. Even a herb garden makes a difference.
Food has a colossal impact on our environment. Every step of the food supply chain from production to transport has potential consequences. We all have the power to change the world through the small changes we make. Use your food dollars to nourish the earth and your body. Our actions are our future.