Most of us know that the choices we make when it comes to shopping for food have an impact on the environment. I guess we are clear on the big picture by now. The environment is in a bit of trouble and our way of consuming is one of the things we can do to help it. But when we look at the specifics it becomes complicated. Should we all become vegan or will eating free range meat do the trick? Are organic produce really better and is it ok to fly in banana’s from South America the whole year round?
You might think, what does it matter what I buy. The impact of the shopping choices of one person can’t make a difference on the global environmental health. That’s where you are wrong. People enjoy habits. Resulting in similar food choices throughout the year. If you like drinking milk during your breakfast, chances are you do this at least 5 days a week. Am I right? Resulting in 52 weeks times 5 glasses = 260 glasses of milk a year. Now, if I may assume that your glass has the size of 1 cup, that means the amount of milk you drink during breakfast over the time of one year is 62 liters.
Now imagine this, according to the United Nations, producing 1 glass of milk requires 200 liters of water, resulting in 52.000 liters of water used for your glass of breakfast milk.
I’m not saying you should stop eating and drinking what you like. But making conscious choices definitely does have a positive impact. You could choose to replace your regular milk with biological milk or you can even replace it with soy milk a few times a week. According to this Dutch study, the water footprint of soy milk is much lower than the average cow milk footprint. Soy milk’s water footprint is only as big as 28% of that of cow’s milk.
A few years ago the United Nations stated the importance of our diets when it comes to our wish to save the world. In their report on the environmental impact of consumption, they promoted a vegan lifestyle to increase ethical consumption.
Don’t worry, I am not here to convert you to veganism. Admittedly, I have been vegan for almost 4 years and I would love to share all the vegan goodness with you, but I won’t. I can imagine it all seems a bit drastic and it’s your choice to find what fits you. Not mine. The good news is, you don’t have to go vegan to reduce your food consumption footprint. All it takes is a bit of conscious shopping.
Here is what will happen if you decide to make a few changes on your shopping list.
1. You will reduce world hunger by introducing a meat free Monday
In 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), stated that 792.5 million people were still undernourished. Over the last two decades, this number has decreased by almost 200 million. Good news but the numbers are still too high. What if I would tell you that we are producing enough grains for our livestock to feed those people. Scarcity is not the reason for hunger. Poverty and inequality are.
FAO states that almost 50 percent of the world’s grain production is fed to livestock. Now take into account that 7 to 10 kg’s of cereal are needed to produce 1 kg of beef and you will see that it’s a highly insufficient way to produce food. There is enough food on the planet to feed everyone. Better yet, for the last 20 years, our food production has increased faster than our global population. The problem is that we choose to feed cattle with that food instead of people.
2. You will keep the world’s water clean
Just like there is plenty of food to go around, there is also enough water on the planet to lessen everybody’s thirst. Nevertheless, many people still have to survive without clean drinking water. Factory farm livestock consumes water in massive amounts. Producing 1 Kg of beef requires 15.000 liters of water, 1 Kg of pork needs 6.000 liters and 1 Kg of chicken 4.300 liters. Not to mention the water pollution caused by livestock.
3. You will save the rainforest by switching to plant-based milk
According to the World Wide Fund (WWF), forests cover 31% of the land area on our planet. Providing us with oxygen, medicine, resources and homes for many species. In the Amazon alone around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years. Mainly due to deforestation for cattle ranching. By taking away rainforest, we are limiting the world’s capacity to counter CO2, resulting in an increase of greenhouse emission gasses. It’s estimated that deforestation alone provides 15% of all greenhouse emission gasses. And yes, I know what you are thinking. Aren’t many trees being cut in order to grow soybeans? Yes, they are, and yes, some plant-based milk require soybeans. But not nearly as many soybeans as factory farm animals eat.
4. You will cut CO2 and build your community by shopping locally
Shopping local has many benefits. Not only is it often cheaper, it helps your community. The more local foods and products you buy, the more fun shops you will have to choose from. And let’s be honest, isn’t it a bit ridiculous to buy a bell pepper, wrapped in layers and layers of plastic, flown halfway around the world when they actually grow them in your own country? When you shop local produce, you will be more likely to eat fruits and vegetables which are in season. Imagine the increase on your energy footprint. Not only are you not flying in your food, you are also not using greenhouses to grow it.
5. You will save energy by consuming wisely
The way you choose to shop and consume has an impact on your yearly carbon footprint. Instead of me telling you about it, why don’t you find out what your carbon footprint is and what you can do to make it smaller. Take the test. Even though my footprint is relatively small. I eat vegan, don’t own a car, recycle, buy second-hand when I can and live in a new well-isolated house, my footprint can still be reduced drastically. My main source of waste are imported exotic fruits and the use of plastic packaging (although I do recycle them). What are your improvement points?