‘You are what you eat!’
Whatever is on our plates has a massive impact on our planet; there’s no doubt about that. Buying food from ethical food brands, making better dietary choices, eating healthy, ensuring zero food wastage, and living sustainably go hand-in-hand. If we follow sustainable food practices, we will not only improve our own health but also help ensure the future of the planet.
Meaning of sustainable food practices
Food sustainability is not just related to food. It depends on various factors – how is the food made, distributed, packed as well as eventually consumed. The term ‘food sustainability’ has started to come up more over the past few years, as people have embraced a planet-friendly and healthy lifestyle.
Sustainable food strives to stop harming or wasting our natural food resources. When you follow sustainable food practices, whether as a business or at home, it will ensure a lower environmental impact. In addition, it reduces the effects of climate change and carbon emissions by eating locally sourced food, while also supporting your community.
Guide to sustainable eating
Here are some sustainable food choices to follow as a guide to sustainable eating:
- Try to eat home-grown produce, as much as possible
- Save water while cooking, as much as possible
- Only use in-season ingredients while cooking
- Go on a plant-based sustainable diet plan
- Buy from local farmers or markets in your community
- Buy from brands that follow sustainable packaging and recycling habits.
- Use eco-friendly cleaning products in your kitchen
- Reduce food wastage
Tips to eat fish sustainably
Fish & seafood are the most preferred and liked food items, around the world. Americans consumed 6.3 billion pounds of seafood in 2019, the second-largest seafood consumer after China. However, for those who do eat fish, there are plenty of things we can do to consume fish more responsibly. Here are some tips to eat fish sustainably, without any guilt.
1. The first step is to buy local, seasonal fish
Local markets offer a broader and fresher variety of locally sourced fish. Not only does buying fish locally have a smaller carbon footprint, but it’s usually cheaper too. If you have a regular fishmonger, keep buying from them. These fishmongers know what’s in season and how fish have been sourced & caught.
2. Supermarkets to the rescue
Or choose supermarkets following sustainable seafood practices. If local fishmongers & fish markets are not an option, then buy from supermarkets. Many supermarkets have now vastly improved the range and standards of their seafood, which are verified as sustainable by independent third parties.
3. Make smart online choices
When buying online, pick sites with nationwide delivery. Look for businesses that provide complete information about the species of seafood, how and where they were caught or farmed.
4. Balance is necessary
Buy a wide range of fish to maintain current fish stocks and protect dwindling species. Balancing out your fish purchases is the answer. Here are 22 marine species mentioned in the Greenpeace Red List that you should completely avoid buying and consuming.
5. Pick fish species carefully
Prefer to get eco-friendly seafood like shellfish, oysters, and mackerel. Buy fish that are organically farmed and hand-picked. Or ones that are line-caught. Ensure you do not buy & consume fish that are endangered.
6. The 2X rule
Try to consume fish only twice per week, to get a balanced amount of protein and other nutrients, required to remain healthy.
7. Try alternatives
Eat farmed fish over wild-caught ones, as they cause lesser pollution from fishing boats. Or opt for vegetarian fish alternatives, when possible, as they don’t need to be given other smaller fish as meals.
8. Check eco-labels or certifications, when buying fish
Find and research the most reliable sources. Or ask the fishmonger/ staff, before choosing your fish. For instance, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild fisheries, and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for farmed seafood.
9. Avoid food wastage with your meals
Eat the whole fish. Or find smart ways to use it all. For instance, if you fillet a fish for the mains, make stock from the bones. Add veggies and tomatoes, then boil in water with some fillets for a healthy and thrifty side dish. Try to reduce any wastage.
10. Get educated
Learn about fishing and farming methods that have a negative impact on the marine environment. And avoid consuming such seafood.
How (and why) to eat meat sustainably
Yes, eating meat and animal products does have a drastic impact on the environment. But you don’t need to become vegan or vegetarian just yet, if you don’t want to. Instead, opt for environmentally friendly meats (i.e. chicken over beef), know about your food sourcing, whether they are farmed & treated ethically, and most important – reduce your meat consumption with a sustainable diet plan.
11. Eat less meat to help the environment
No, we’re not asking you to stop eating meat entirely. But when you cut down on meat-based meals, you have a lesser impact on the environment.
Did you know? In the United States, during retail meat consumption, one pound of beef needs 1,799 gallons of water, while one pound of chicken requires 468 gallons of water, and one pound of pork utilizes 576 gallons of water. And meat production accounts for nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
So, eating less meat can conserve water resources and reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
12. Pick your meat producers & suppliers, carefully
Always buy from local farmers and ranchers who rear pasture-raised, grass-fed meat instead of intensively farmed, mass meat in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The unethical practice of adding antibiotics to make the livestock sold bulkier is dangerous for humans, especially children, as they cause various infections. Look out for labels like: Pasture for Life, Outdoor bred, Free-range, Organic meat, etc. when buying your meats.
Yes, try to buy organic meat whenever possible, as organic food is more sustainable than conventional farming practices. When you’re shopping for meat at the local market or butcher shop, pick organic meats from local farms when possible; these farms tend to run smaller operations that give back to their community.
13. Know your meats well, before you buy them
Farming livestock causes about 6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, that’s an estimated 18% of global gas emissions. Within livestock, sheep and cows cause higher greenhouse gas emissions than chickens and pigs; so avoid consuming them at all costs.
So, when you do want to eat meat, minimize your negative footprint by opting for chicken or fish, while steering away from beef, mutton, or lamb. Chicken and turkey are some of the most sustainable sources of protein, and they’re also relatively affordable.
14. Avoid food wastage
Plan your meals ahead before going grocery shopping. Learn how to correctly store your food items, especially meats, which tend to go bad faster. Control your eating portions. Reuse leftovers, wherever possible. Don’t let any food go to waste.
Reducing (or altogether avoiding) meat waste is crucial, as making meat utilizes more water and energy, releasing even more CO2 into the atmosphere. Try to reuse or recycle food waste, when possible.
Related article: 10 Hassle-Free Ways To Reduce Your Food Waste
15. Follow a sustainable diet for better health
Try a more sustainable diet plan like a reducetarian diet or flexitarian diet. Alternatively, only consume meat on weekends, or try Meat Free Mondays, to start off. Eating meat sustainably and in moderation helps you lose weight, live healthier, and lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
A good takeaway with your food
Buyers, sellers, and everyone who is part of the food supply chain are integral to sustainable food practices. As the consumer, you must shop, cook, and eat more responsibly to ensure minimum food waste. Compost, reuse, and recycle consciously when possible.
On the other hand, if you are part of the food production and supply side, you must responsibly source sustainable food. You must also be careful with cooking, packaging, distribution, disposal, and handling.
The final takeaway from this article is that your sustainable food practices affect you, your health, and the planet as well. So, make smart food choices and follow this guide to sustainable eating habits to ensure a healthier future for yourself, while also supporting this planet, that nurtures and cares for us.