People tend to think that the way they eat affect only their bodies and have no other effect whatsoever. However, the foods we eat do matter, for us as well as for the environment. Your food choices actually have a great impact on the environment, and even the smallest of changes can significantly improve the current state of things. So read on in order to discover in which ways our food choices affect the environment, and how with just a little bit of effort we can make things better.
1. Wasted food
One third of what we produce in food goes to waste, and still there are hundreds of millions of hungry people. We produce a lot of food waste and it has become a big problem for the environment. Not only are we missing the opportunity to feed the hungry people who can’t afford the food we’re wasting, but we’re also causing damage to our environment. Namely, according to a report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2013 (FAO), we’re allowing food to rot, and that rot is creating billions of tons of greenhouse gases, which further negatively impacts water as well as land. The FAO blames the U.S., Europe and Latin America the most, for wasting lots of meat. In these areas, around 80 percent of all meat is wasted. The researchers from this organization estimate that by 2050, to be able to feed everyone, food production will have to be increased by 60 percent.However, if we reduce food waste and loss, according to Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, there won’t be a need to produce more and put more stress on the environment, as there will be more food available. One way to waste less is to stop buying more food than you actually need (you’ll throw away some of it anyway, as you won’t have the chance to eat it all until it spoils). Just this one small change could significantly help the environment, as well as contribute to less food being wasted and more being available.
2. The use of palm oil
Did you know that your favorite sweet treat – Nutella – is made with palm oil? This probably doesn’t sound harmful to you, but in a few seconds it will. Namely, according to the former French Ecology minister, Ségolène Royal, the fact that Nutella is one of the most commonly purchased products leads to deforestation. She stressed that our appetite for this sweet is having detrimental effects on the environment. In fact, the palm oil used in the spread is what is contributing to deforestation. As deforestation leads to global warming, a lot of new trees need to be planted. As palm oil is needed for the production of Nutella (as well as many other products), oil palms are planted more commonly than trees, which has caused serious damage to the environment. What we can do in order to reduce this damage is to stop buying Nutella and other products made with palm oil.
3. Food packaging
If you think about it for a minute, you’ll realize that most of the foods you buy come in some sort of packaging. Almost a third of the solid waste stream in the U.S. is product packaging, and Americans recycle only around 51 percent of these materials, according to the NAtural Resources Defence Council (NRDC). The leading grocery and fast food companies keep using these harmful packages and fail to use recyclable materials (and urge people to actually recycle), which leads to more and more trash piling up.According to Darby Hoover, report project editor and NRDC senior resource specialist, “Single-use food and beverage packaging is a prime component of the plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways, which kills and injures marine life and poses a potential threat to human health… Companies have an opportunity and obligation to curb this pollution. Better packaging design and improved support and adoption of recycling are key to turning the tide on this unnecessary waste.” Unfortunately, no significant positive changes have yet happened, and there really isn’t much that we can do as it is up to the food and beverage producing companies.
4. Factory farming
Factory farming is to blame for the abuse of animals, lands as well as natural resources, all for the sake of producing cheap and unhealthy food for people. This system could be held responsible of one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, as over 37 percent of methane emissions are caused by factory farming. This gas poses a 20 percent higher risk for global warming. Also, looking just at the U.S., more than 260 million acres of forest have been cleared in order to make room for crop fields where only foods for live stock are grown. This means that factory farming could also be blamed for deforestation. But that’s not nearly the end. Industrial agriculture takes around seventy percent of the world’s fresh water supply. Also, if agricultural run-off continues polluting water, it could destroy entire ecosystems and be toxic and deadly for humans and animals.In order to prevent factory farming from destroying our planet, what you can do is buy only organic products to support small-scale farming (which also uses less toxic matters and the foods they produce is much healthier for you). You could also grow your own vegetables and fruits, as well as farm your own animals. The less we buy from factory farmers, the more likely they will be to stop destroying our environment as much.
5. Food transporting
Buying foods that are produced in your local area is not only cheaper, but better for the environment as well, transportation of foods causes pollution, particularly carbon dioxide emission, which is the main global warming gas. Buying locally produced foods would significantly reduce the emissions and would contribute to making this planet a less environmentally damaged place to live.