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What's On Your Plate?

April 08, 2019
Written by Moni Wahid

When you think about your next meal you are most likely thinking about what you’ll eat. Maybe you’ll treat yourself and go to your favourite restaurant or you’ll stay home and make a bowl of spaghetti. However do we ever think about the impact that has on the planet? The journey your food takes before reaching your plate is a tumultuous one and there are things you can do make it as zero-waste as possible!

Where is your food coming from?

Going to the closest grocery store to your house doesn’t mean the food you’re buying is close to home. A lot of food on the shelves are from different parts of the country and from other parts of the world. This means transportation-- your produce might even be booking a flight to get to the grocery store. Transportation equals burning fossil fuels which is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and it’s creating air pollution as well.


Another part of sustainable eating is how food is actually grown. The simple act of growing food means needing land to do so. According to the WWF, agriculture is the biggest reason for deforestation. Besides growing food to feed ourselves this land usage is also for growing the feed for animals that we consume such as cows and chickens.

While we’re on the subject of animals, to meet the high demand for meat, there is a huge number of animals being raised globally and this is leading to tons of carbon dioxide release.

1 kg of meat from produces kg CO2
beef 34.6
lamb 17.4
pork 6.35
chicken 4.57

CO2 exists naturally in our atmosphere but by adding more it causes the heat to be trapped and warms the planet. The effects of this has already left a mark on the Earth, just take a look at how much of the Arctic has melted

Food waste

We’ve all been there, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we end up biting off more than we can chew-- literally! A picture is worth more than a thousand words and the Waste Reduction Week initiative has created a handy little infographic about food waste:

 

Graphic taken from Waste Reduction Week Canada

Packaging

We talked about packaging in our last article but it’s relevant to this topic as well. Just keep in mind the 4 R’s (recycle, reuse, reduce, and refuse) and apply it to the food products you’re buying. Don’t forget to use cloth bags when carrying your groceries too!

What can we do about this?

There are plenty of ways to make changes towards eating sustainably!

1. Be local

Look for food that was grown in British Columbia. If you eat out, find places that uses local ingredients. This cuts down on the transportation that’s needed to bring food to the stores. Plus it supports our local economy! A great way to find local ingredients are by visiting local farmers markets.

2. Eat seasonally

Decrease the demand for products to be available year round. For example, berries are not grown here in December but they can be found in the grocery stores all year long. Reducing the consumption of hard to find items will go a long way in living zero-waste. Take a look at the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets site to see what’s in season. If you know you’ll start craving something outside of the season, stock up when it is in season and freeze for later!

3. Grow it

Not everyone lives near enough space to grow a whole garden but if you do have one, plant some seeds! Growing even one vegetable means one less that you have to buy and that helps your wallet too.

If you don’t have the garden space you can still grow something in a small pot that can sit near a window or on your balcony.

4. Minimize food waste

Food waste can be prevented in multiple ways!

  • Buy ‘ugly’ produce: a lot of food gets left behind when it doesn’t look pretty enough but the food itself is perfectly fine!

  • Donate: if you just cannot finish the food, depending on what it is, give it to a homeless person or take it to a food bank.

  • Compost: Utilize food that’s beyond saving by keeping it out of landfills.

  • Freeze it: if you accidentally made too much of something, freeze it and come back to it later.

5. Meatless (or Moderation) Monday

Becoming a vegetarian or a vegan is a great way to eat sustainably but it is a big lifestyle change that isn’t for everyone. However, even if you eat no meat and dairy products for one day of the week, it makes a difference. Or at least eat it in moderation by having more meals without meat and less with.

When you do buy meat and dairy products, find things that are grown sustainably (this means a number of things including; ethically farmed, local, and organically fed). Sustainably grown animals are also better for your health.

6. Cut down on the packaging

How much of what you’re buying is unnecessarily packaged?

  • Buy in bulk: things like nuts, beans, cereal, or bagels can be bought from the bulk section.
  • Invest in lightweight bags to use when buying in bulk and ditch the packaging that comes with so many food items.
  • Take your own container when buying prepared food.  
  • Reuse or properly recycle the packaging if it’s unavoidable!

7.   Seafood

Living in British Columbia gives us access to fresh out of the water seafood and we are very lucky to have that. Nevertheless, it’s so important to consume seafood in the most sustainable way possible. Overfishing is leading to extinction and harming our ocean ecosystems. Look for Ocean Wise or SeaChoice seafood products, choose seafood seasonally, and eat local seafood.

Photo taken from The Ocean Wise Network

It might seem like a lot but most of it is very easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. A lot of these things are also better for your health and wallet, which are great bonuses! Start doing things one at a time and before you know it, it’ll become secondhand nature to pick items in a sustainable way.