Listen to “Sustainable Eating – Why We Urgently Need it”.
By the year 2050, the Earth will have to feed a population of almost 10 billion. Adopting a sustainable diet can help maintain an individual’s health while also making sure the planet has enough resources to feed future generations.
Agriculture takes up 40% of Earth’s land and is responsible for 30% of greenhouse emissions, and 70% of freshwater use.
Sustainable agriculture can enable food companies to produce healthy and nutritious food without compromising future generations’ abilities to do the same.
It is undeniable that the global food system that has developed over the past half-century is unsustainable. The increasing incidence of monocultures – vast swaths of single crops grown over enormous areas – are heavily dependent on synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and antibiotics.
Approximately one-third of the food produced is lost or wasted every year, billions of people go hungry every day. In 2019, the fast-food industry was valued at $647.7 billion and is estimated to reach $931.7 billion by 2027. That is bigger than the economic value of most countries.
In agriculture, the concept of sustainability is applied to the production of food or other plant and animal products using farming techniques and practices that help conserve natural resources while having a minimal impact on the environment.
Many people in middle-income and developed countries, and wealthier people in developing countries, typically consume more meat and other animal-source foods than are required for nutrition alone. Much of this is unsustainably produced and has adverse impacts on both human and planetary health.
Our individual food choices can make huge, positive differences to people and nature – improving our health, the health of others, and the health of the planet. However, sustainable eating has to be built on a holistic approach. Asking a major part of the global population to go vegetarian or even vegan is simply not a realistic option, neither in the short or long term.
Here’s how we can all make changes to our diet so that we can eat healthily and sustainably, in a way which is good both for us and the environment:
1. Eat more plants
Farming animals for meat and dairy requires space and huge amounts of water and feed. The livestock industry alone generates nearly 15% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. With global meat consumption soaring 500% between 1992 and 2016, it is clear we need to rebalance our diets by prioritising plants and moderating our intake of animal products.
2. Support local small businesses
Opt for seasonal, local produce. Getting to know your local food suppliers not only enables you to buy the freshest and tastiest food, but it’s also key to maintaining sustainable agriculture and a sustainable economy. Show support through your buying decisions.
3. Reduce your fast food consumption
Fast foods are high in sugars, fats and salt, as indicated on the nutritional information labels. They are, therefore, not considered sustainable foods for your health. Say no to refined grains, added sugars, and all other kinds of processed foods.
4. Cut down on waste
Food waste is a big problem. 30% of the food produced is wasted, which has severe repercussions for the environment. If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after China and the USA. Reducing waste in your household is simple: freeze anything you can’t eat while it’s fresh and, whenever possible, buy loose produce so you can select the exact amount that you need.