Pursuing a healthy diet is a worthwhile endeavor regardless of your feelings about sustainability. But if you’re equally committed to eating healthy and doing it in a sustainable manner, there are several lifestyle changes and habits that you’ll want to prioritize.
Minimize Meat Consumption
As good as it may taste, meat consumption leaves a heavy carbon footprint. The chart below highlights the extreme effect that meats have on the environment.
Level of Carbon Emissions by Type of Food
The reason that beef and lamb have such a large impact is because cows and sheep emit methane when they belch, pass gas, and when their manure is collected in large pools. This methane contributes a surprising amount to greenhouse gas emissions.
While completely eliminating meat from your diet is an option to improve your health and be more sustainable, it may not be viable or desirable. If you wish to continue to eat meat as well as be healthier and more sustainable, set goals to do eat meat less frequently. And choose organic meats to reduce your exposure to chemicals and toxins and improve your health even further.
Eat Sustainable Seafood
Beyond reducing your carbon footprint by eating less meat, another sustainability issue to be mindful of related to your diet is biodiversity, particularly among the seafood that we eat. Seafood is a very healthy protein choice, filled with vital nutrients and minerals. However, increased consumption and overfishing of many types of seafood are greatly reducing world seafood populations, pushing many toward extinction and disrupting water ecosystems.
To allow overfished seafood the opportunity to grow and replenish their numbers, buy sustainable seafood, which is harvested in ways that don’t harm the environment or other wildlife. Sustainable seafood can be wild or farmed.
Buy Local Foods
Food system emissions from food production, harvesting, refrigeration, and transportation account for 34% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. What’s the solution if you want to do your part and reduce your food system carbon footprint?
Cut down on refrigeration and transportation time by purchasing your foods from local producers. These foods will be fresher since they don’t have to travel as far and spend extended amounts of time being refrigeration to remain fresh. In addition, there’s typically less plastic packaging involved, also an advantage to help you be healthier and more sustainable.
Find a local farmers market near you or sign up for community supported agriculture (CSA), a way for consumers to buy directly from farmers. And if you do buy food at a grocery store, purchase seasonal produce and less processed foods, which don’t travel as far and have fewer resources (e.g., water, energy, etc.) used in their production.