Food is essential to life. It also forms an important part of our cultural identity, and plays an important role in the economy. People are aware that the food they eat is an important factor affecting their health, but what is less well known is the impact producing and consuming food has on the world’s resources. Alongside the cars we drive and the energy we use to heat our houses, the food we produce and consume has a significant impact on the environment through, for example, greenhouse gas emissions, the use of land and water resources, pollution, and the impact of chemical products such as herbicides and pesticides.
Some of the growing concerns regarding our current food system are:
- Animal products are increasingly raised purely for profit, without regard to proper stewardship or health.
- Monocropping = cultivating crops that without rotating them with other crops, leading to a significant decrease of the soil quality.
- Food is transported and processed using large amounts of non-renewable resources.
- Food is being genetically modified, cloned, and patented.
The problem seems to be that we are separated from the origins of our food, so while we may realize that buying organic is important, organic is now just as industrialized as conventional foods.
Most of the food found in the grocery store is the product of an unsustainable food system. Consumers hold a lot of power, but recently I realized that dropping the role of the consumer might be even more powerful. Choosing not to support the industrial food system is the beginning of sustainable eating. This does not mean that everyone should stop buying food, buy a piece of land and grow their own produce.
So how can you contribute to food sustainability?
1. Learn to cook.
2. Eat locally.
4. Grow something. Anything. Start with herbs for example. Create a container garden.
5. Give up store bought convenience foods and make your own. Pesto, tomato sauce, granola…
6. Buy “fair-trade”. If you do not know your farmer because you are buying a product from a different country look for the “fair-trade” logo, which tells you that farmers are treated justly and paid fairly for their work.
7. Know the cost of cheap food. Do you ever wonder why some supermarket food is just so cheap? You may not pay for it at the cash register, but the cost to your health, the soil, and the environment are there.
8. Be willing to give up convenience. This may be the hardest part of changing the way you eat. On the other hand, it forces you to simplify your food in a way that promotes health and flavor. The simple truth is sustainable food does not outsource it’s preparation.
9. Eat mindfully. It may take more effort, but the rewards for you health and the preservation of our planet are convincing.
If we do not change our incredibly unsustainable food system, we will continue to compromise the capacity of our earth to produce food in the future. Think about what you personally can integrate into your daily routine to contribute to the food sustainability of our earth. It is worth it.