When it comes to food, the two factors we usually take into consideration are whether what we eat is healthy and whether it tastes good. What many of us forget to think about is whether our food choices are environmentally sustainable.
Despite a constantly increasing awareness of the environmental impact of the food industry, many consumers are still ignorant of the details. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector plays a huge role in climate change, as well as deforestation and water pollution. 18 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are generated from this very industry, and so is 65 percent of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, contributing to acid rains. The expansion of animal farms is a major factor in deforestation, especially in South America, and one of the largest sources of water pollution, due to animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals.
But it isn’t just the animal industry that’s doing the damage – packaged and processed foods also require a lot of energy to produce, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Moreover, pesticides and artificial fertilisers used in agriculture are not only bad for our health, but decrease the biodiversity of the soil, hinder the growth of many plants, and may poison animals.
Although this information can seem overwhelming, reducing our ecological footprint isn’t as hard as it seems. The key to the solution of the ‘food problem’ is simple: eating fewer animal products, and more locally produced, organic, non-processed foods.
And while the environmental results of an environment-friendly diet would take dozens of years to show, there are immediate results we can see on ourselves. A diet loaded with vegetables, fruit and whole grains will help us lose unnecessary fat, as well as give us more energy and reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Buying organic also means not ingesting the chemicals fruit and vegetables are usually treated with, which make them a lot less good for us than they are supposed to be.
Does this mean we should all go vegan? Not really. While veganism can be a perfectly healthy and sustainable choice, merely reducing our consumption of animal products would be enough to produce a significant change on our planet.
There are many ways we, as individuals, can be kind to the environment, and changing what we eat is one of the most straight-forward ones. Cleaning without chemicals is another: with e-cloth, all you’ll need is water, and your house will be shiny clean. Could it be any easier?