You’ve heard the phrase; you are what you eat. The food we eat not only affects our health, but can affect the health of our planet. The agricultural business is energy intensive. It uses massive amounts of water and energy to produce the food that we eat. With widespread droughts and threats from climate change, it is important that we are conscious about our food consumption and the effects it has on the planet.
Individuals make changes to their diet every day to improve their health, but we forget our health also depends on a healthy planet. Here are some tips on how to eat right for yourself and the planet:
Eat more veggies. Whether it is just for one day, such as Meatless Monday or going vegan, lessening your meat intake is good for you and the planet. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases. This includes methane from animal waste, along with fertilizers and manure used to produce feed and the deforestation to provide grazing lands. Always be conscious of what your body needs, while keeping the planet in mind. There are great recipes and restaurants to help you incorporate more veggies into your life.
Shop organic. Studies have shown that chemical farming uses considerably more energy per unit of production than organic farms. These chemicals, such as nitrous oxide, not only emit greenhouse gases, but also create dead zones-- areas in lakes, bays, and the ocean that are oxygen depleted because the excess nutrients run off into the water, polluting it. Choose organic food when you can. Since organic foods are grown in healthy soils, they are typically more nutritious, containing more vitamins and minerals. Organic farms also promote genetic biodiversity, creating less water pollution and soil damage. This is healthier for you, the farm workers, and the environment.
Buy local. The average meal travels around 745 fossil fuel burning miles, before reaching your plate. Thankfully farmers markets have been popping up around the state. Buying local reduces the amount of energy used, greenhouse gases emitted during transportation, and helps to slow climate change, while also supporting local farms. Find a local farmers market near you - http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/
Grow your own. There is nothing more rewarding than nursing a seed to a sprout. Gardening can be therapeutic and a form of exercise. You do not need to live on acres of land to start a garden. You can start out small with a few pots of your favorite vegetables or herbs. Not only will you be provided with nutritious, organic food, but you will help provide oxygen for the planet and reduce CO2.
Compost. Starting a compost bin is good for your garden and for the planet. Composting reduces the amount of waste sent to the landfill, while making nutrient rich soil for your plants and garden. Composters now come in all sizes, with towns and organizations hosting events to educate the public about home composting.
Don’t be wasteful. We tend to eat with our eyes. We put too much food on our plate or in our shopping cart. That is why close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted after production, discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens. Start small, you can always go back for seconds. It will benefit the planet and your waistline.
Little, gradual changes in your diet can go a long way for your health and the health of our planet. Remember to always make sure you do what is best for your body and your health, while being conscious of the environment.