We are Eating the Planet
Feb 21, 2022|3Good Health and Well-Being
Have you heard the term, you are what you eat? Of course, we all know some foods are healthier than others when it comes to health and well-being. Things like nutritional value, food quality, fat content, caloric intake and freshness are often considered when discussing healthy eating. However, we don't always see the impact food production and consumption has on the environment.
Did you know the way food is grown can harm the environment? For example, cattle (cows mostly) emit methane into the atmosphere, potentially accelerating climate change? Read more about it in our article "Cows Can Heat the World".
On the other hand, tons of food products are produced and consumed every day at an accelerated pace, and sadly, many tons more also go to waste. We need to make changes now before it is too late. Last year, we reached Earth Overshoot Day on July 29th. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. In other words, it is like using all the food available in your kitchen's pantry halfway through the month and not having money to buy more. Unfortunately, when we reach the overshot day, we start using 'next year's resources, cutting resources short for the year to come, like borrowing from your neighbor to buy more food and then not being able to pay them back. It is a dangerous cycle and one we need to move away from sooner rather than later.
Take a look to change the way you think about food
According to MSN, Americans devour nearly 50 billion burgers each year. If we were to make a line of burgers, it would be long enough to go around the world 32 times. That's nearly 800,000 miles of burgers consumed by Americans every single year — a long enough line to go to the moon, come back, then go to the moon again.
That is a lot of cows and, therefore, a lot of methane. But excessive consumption is not limited to meat-eating. For example, every year, during the Super Bowl in the US, more people eat avocados than on any other day of the year. By one estimate, football fans eat their way through 105 million pounds of avocados during the big game, making it the biggest day of the year for these fatty, nutritious, and delicious fruits.
To meet demand, farmers in Mexico have cut down forest lands in the western state of Michoacán, one of the most important ecosystems in Mexico. According to the Global Forest Watch, as many as 20,000 acres of forest — the area of more than 15,000 American football fields — are cut down each year and replaced with avocado plantations.
Food as a Natural Resource: Responsible Production
A natural resource can be defined as "materials from the Earth that are used to support life and meet people's needs." All food people eat comes from plants or animals; therefore, all foods in their original form are natural resources: fish, red meat, chicken and turkey, vegetables, grains, etc. Responsible consumption, in this case, starts with responsible food production.
Responsible food production looks into the effects food production may have on the local communities and the impact these production activities have on the environment. For example, implementing organic and sustainable farming practices, such as soil rotation and sustainable pesticides.
What does Responsible Farming Look Like?
Organic Farming aims to produce high-quality food, using methods that benefit our whole food systems, such as fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal. In other words, it is chemical-free. It also focuses on using tried and tested crop farming techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Crop rotation is the practice of planting different kinds of crops, one after the other, on the same plot of land; This is done to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.
Sustainable Farming focuses on producing long-term crops and livestock while having minimal effects on the environment. Sustainable farming tries to find a balance between the need for food production and the preservation of the environment. In addition to producing food, sustainable agriculture goes a step ahead and looks into the impact of production in conserving water, reducing the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and promoting biodiversity in crops grown and the ecosystem. Sustainable agriculture also focuses on maintaining the economic stability of farms and helping farmers improve their quality of life.
Here is where Fair Trade and Fair Wage come into place.
FairTrade is "is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient." In other words, it ensures that small-scale farmers, producers and artisans are treated with dignity, respect, equality and fairness.
*Tip: Look for the Fair Trade logo when buying chocolate, coffee, tea, bananas or mangos. That way, you are doing your part in being a responsible consumer.
Fair Wage is the minimum wage rate for specific occupations. They must be paid by contractors working for governments with fair wage policies; Fair wages guarantee that workers can afford, at the very least, basic necessities.
Thinking Cap On
Head over to your family's kitchen pantry and make a list of the most bought products, those food products your family buys and consumes every week. Read the labels and find out:
- Where are they produced?
- What ingredients are used, are they organic? Fairtrade? or have any other type of certification?
- Can you find similar yet more sustainable products at your local supermarket?
- Can you buy them locally?
Then make a colorful and informational poster to put on your fridge door or somewhere visible in the kitchen, and remind your family about the importance of food origin, food waste and well-being.