We are doing a very poor job of protecting the environment that we depend on for food and water. We need to start becoming interested in learning where food comes from, how it is grown and produced, and what it is doing to our environment. Food production systems and diets play a crucial role in the issue of sustainability.
Sustainability is the ability to maintain the qualities that are important in the environment. We
cannot have a secure food supply unless that food supply is sustainable. Food sustainability is essential so that that our rapidly expanding population will have enough food to eat and be able to get high quality, nutritious foods. Even though currently a billion people are getting enough food, about 7 billion people are eating a diet that is poor in quality.
Food production places a huge demand on our natural resources. Meat production, and especially beef production, contributes significantly to the global greenhouse gas emissions (almost half caused by livestock production alone). This is one of the factors that is driving our climate change. Raising and transporting livestock also requires more food, water, land and energy than plants.
Working toward a sustainable food supply can only be achieved if there is a shift in the way our food is produced. We can help with this by choosing a diet that includes more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods and meat. If you look at the US, vegetables, fruits, and nuts account for only about 2% of crop land, and only 10% of the corn and soybean grains grown are for consumption by humans. As individuals, if we ALL shift our diets towards more vegetables and fruit there will be a shift in the food production (it’s all about supply and demand), which will ultimately help sustain the planet.
What can we do?
You have more power than you realize! If we all do our part, as a combined force we will be able to make a change in the environment. Not only will it help the environment, but it will also help your health and waistline! Here are a couple of ways that you can play your part:
Eat more fruit and vegetables. By choosing more of these foods, farmers would grow more of them!
Eat seasonal. By buying locally grown vegetables and fruit you will be assured that it is seasonal. Food24.com has a simple list of seasonal vegetables and fruit for South Africa.
Grow your own! Nothing is better than the nurture you can get from growing your own vegetables in your garden!
Eat less red meat. Beef (41%) and milk production (19%) account for the majority of livestock emissions, with pork (9%) and poultry and eggs (8%) contributing as well.
Meatless Mondays. If we all do our part and have just one day a week without meat it would have a huge impact on our environment.
Avoid overeating. Limit the food you waste by tuning into your hunger and satiety signals. You may realise that you don’t need as much food as you though! Learn what portion sizes you need and savour your meal by eating mindfully. Mindful eating also means thinking about where your food came from and how it is nourishing your body
Choose local. If possible, find farmers markets where you can get fresh produce grown locally.
The Healthy Eating Plate was created to incorporate sustainable eating habits into the USDA’s My Plate. When we focus our meals around vegetables and fruit the environment will benefit, so the Healthy Eating Plate suggests filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits. The idea is to shift your eating towards a more plant-based way of eating.
We can all take action on all these issues because every step in the right direction helps, no matter how small. Join in and help create a food and farming system that is suitable for the future.