How can our food choices contribute to sustainability? The impact of our food choices on the environment is huge, much larger than most people realize. Many people visit their corner grocery store and pick up their week's supply of food without ever considering from where the food came, how far it traveled to reach the store, what resources were used to grow it and then to transport it, what impact did the method used to grow the food have on the environment?
Talk about an inconvenient truth, one of the largest environmentally-damaging foods that people choose is meat (all kinds). From the large swaths of land and water used to produce food for the animals (not to mention, chemical application to the crops), to the impact on water supplies (both in producing the meat --more than half of all water used in the U.S. is spent on meat production-- to the impact these animals have on ground water --millions of pounds of excrement seeping into our waterways and groundwater supplies), to the cost of resources in transporting the animals to their deaths in the slaughter house and then the transporting of their pieces and parts to the various deli counters and meat aisles of the food stores. This environmental impact isn't limited to those animals raised in the U.S, either. Fast food companies seem to prefer the cheaper supplies that come from South America, where acres of rain forest are being cut down and obliterated daily to make room for more graze land. Coupled with the added fuel consumption of transporting "the goods," and it's a double whammy to the environment (and, ultimately, to ourselves... not to mention the artery-clogging, cancer-causing results of final consumption). For a sobering look at just how fast rainforests are disappearing, check out NASA images of deforestation over time in the rainforests of South America. These rainforests are often referred to as "the earth's lungs," and loss of them will put us all on artificial life support very soon!
What can I do to descrease my footprint when it comes to food? The biggest impact that can be made for both your own health and the health of the planet is to eliminate meat from your diet. Next, buy only organic foods (again, making a positive impact on both your health and the environment), and -next- try to buy locally and seasonally. (If you live in a cold climate, this is a bit more challenging.)
Support local farmers in your area through the CSA, Farmer's Market or co-op. Try your hand at growing some of your own food, if you don't alerady. Even a small space can produce some great-tasting produce to, at least, supplement food purchased.
Just a small shift in diet and purchasing habits can make a large impact!