Ways of healing the planet through food choices

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Introduction

In the wake of technology and changes in the lifestyle choices, there are rising concerns about the destruction of the planet from various aspects. About the concern about the global impacts of human diet, people should no longer eat only for satisfaction but in a way that sustains the entire world. Humans subject the planet to a heavy burden by having at least three meals a day which can be as simple as eating more plants. It is not only how humans choose to travel or consume energy that determines the carbon footprint, but also the mode of eating has a climatic impact. Thus, it is important to understand the resources used in the meals and create awareness of the relationship between food and climatic change that helps to make better choices. Several factors contribute to the climatic impact of food that includes the level of the food chain, the amount of energy used to produce it, and the distance covered before it gets to the table. The concerns of convenience to the culture affect the personal choices to diet. The individual food choices have a significant impact on the surrounding environment. The research paper focuses on the effective ways that people can help heal the planet through their food choices.

Between 20 and 30 percent of the global warming is as a result of human activity as contributed by the food and agriculture systems. The media is on the frontline in advising on more sustainable food and ingredients as a way to support a greener, and more ethical healthier food system. There lacks a legal definition of sustainable food, but should not be the premise for taking unhealthy foods. Sustainable food should contribute to the thriving of the local economies and also protect the diversity of both plants and animals. It should avoid damaging the natural resources and also contribute to climatic change. The consumers can have a sustainable food system by demanding from the retailers, restaurants, canteens, and other public sector institutions to adopt sustainable food principles (Robbins, 2012).

The previous researches performed on the issue of choice of food and its impact on the planet identified increased global trends toward a westernized diet that contribute to increasing the greenhouse gas emissions and chronic health conditions. The diet comprises of highly processed and increased levels of sugar, salt, fat, and meat in the daily diet. Thus, to reverse the trend, a plant-based diet goes a long way towards reducing the dangerous impacts. However, it is challenging to shift the trend towards the plants other than the commonly taken meals. According to research by Brittany Patterson of Scientific American, the changes in diet appear minor but realistic and can cut the greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. A study conducted with a focus on the dietary behavior of people in the United States showed that the switch to a vegetarian diet could lower the greenhouse gasses by 33 %. It is interesting to note that a strict observance of the new guidelines on a diet by USDA would not make such significant changes in the greenhouse emissions.

Need to take more plant-like foods

The consumption of more plants results to the selling off more local foods and a healthier local food economy. It leads to a more sustainable production, a healthier planet, and healthier people. The benefits of taking plants to a large extent extend beyond the planetary and human health since it also helps to sustain a more local food economy. The use of food grown within the locality where people reside would result in most parts of the country being able to sustain above 80 % of the population with local foods (DeWeerdt, 2009). The practice of eating more vegetables supports the local economy and thus results in a more sustainable way for the planet. Agroecology is the practice of developing and using the economically viable practices that align with nature rather than against it. The benefits of the practice include enhancing biodiversity, recycling nutrients, building healthy soils, and adapting production to the local resources. It benefits the soil, water, and the climate by use of natural methods. The smart farming practices to change the diet reverse the carbon emission to the atmosphere thereby pushing the sustainable food movement. The common practice that; for humans to get what they need, they have to diminish the nature, is unsustainable (Robbins, 2012).

It is likely that the choice of using the simple and available food alternatives could save the health of human race and also the planet. It is important to make dietary shifts for the benefit of the planet and have sustainable food choices from nature.

Eating meat-free meals

Another strategy is to eat meat-free meals. Meat production is a major contributor to climatic change. Livestock production takes 70% of all the agricultural land use and occupies 30% of the land surface on the planet. They contribute to the emission of a considerable volume of greenhouse gasses that result in climatic change. Livestock production for meat is an inefficient process (Garnett, 2009). The choice of food requires prior planning to avoid taking whatever comes along. Also important is to buy the organic and local foods whenever possible. The local farmers understand that organic is the way to grow due to the associated advantages. The foods do not have genetically modified organisms and also organic meat comes from animals that are not fed with antibiotics. The organic farms promote genetic biodiversity, creates less water pollution and results to the limited poisoning of the nature.

Avoiding wasteful foods

Other practices to adopt include avoiding wasting food after production. Most of it is discarded during processing, transport, in supermarkets, and kitchens. All the resources used to grow, produce, transport, and package them are wasted thereby affecting the planet. It is a good practice to grow some of the foods in the home gardens. The practice eliminates some of the transport required to get food to the table and also allows the growth of food without chemicals.

In the United States, 40% of food is thrown out annually which is an environmental and social policy tragedy. The average family of four throws away two million calories of food every year. It translates to 25 % of the America’s water used to produce food that is never consumed. Food is the largest solid waste component in America landfills and the emissions from it are equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30 million cars. The revelations about food wastage help to understand the benefit of healthy food choices and inadequate consumptions to avoid surplus. Healthy food choices are a healer to the many negative impacts to the planet (Millard, 2014).

Many American consumers are making food choices with concern for the ethical and social issues. There is demand for more local, humane, and sustainable produced animal products. However, it is also important to understand the meaning of the labels and certifications on the food products. Most of the animal products available in the supermarkets and restaurants come from the factory farms and destructive fishing methods. The situation is disturbing to humans who have to make appropriate food choices for the benefit of the planet (Robbins, 2010). Other than the kind of products an individual chooses and the farming methods, it is necessary to choose where to shop the produce. Independent grocers and the whole foods chain of supermarkets source some of their animal products from the local producers and operations with high animal welfare. The local farmers offer an opportunity to make direct inquiries to the producers and have the most humane and sustainable option. It is important to take a step towards conscientious eating for a positive change and a commitment to a dietary change (Marlow, Hayes, et. al., 2009).

Eating right can save the world from many issues that degrade the natural systems. The cascade of nutritional information about taking local foods, being vegetarians, organic foods, and the environmental impact of eating certain types of foods makes it complex to adopt a sustainable diet. Most people are aware that the food choices have environmental consequences. Food choices affect health, but also have a major impact on the planet (Pitchford, 2002). Thus, making better choices helps to protect the environment from the damaging impacts of the intensive farming practices. An important method of improving diet to safeguard the planet is to reduce the fossil fuel. The common practice of raising the animals industrially quests for extensive amounts of natural resources that deplete more rapidly. The modern factory farming system is a consumer of the fossil fuel. For instance, instead of grazing animals on grass, many of them in the United States are raised on feedlots and a steady diet of corn. A diet rich in the plant-based foods is effective in reducing the fossil fuel use. The substitution of some foods for others reduces the amount of fossil fuel use (Riebel & Jacobsen, 2002).

Adopting healthy farming practices for healthy food production

Healthy foods are obtained from healthy soils that form the foundation for successful agriculture. Reliable evidence from the Soil Association suggests that using artificial fertilizers suppress the rich diversity of life in the soil that keeps it vibrant. Organic farming encourages the building of healthy soil through crop rotation, intercropping, and minimizing tillage. The practices help to improve the soil health and retention according to the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Organic farming encourages a diverse ecosystem that maintains soil fertility and controls pests in a natural way. The method of organic farming reduces exposure to chemical residue from the pesticides. The method of farming is a consequence of healthy food choices with an aim of reducing negative environmental impacts. The benefits associated with the method of farming are crucial in reducing environmental degradation and hence healing to the planet (Lal, 2009).

Understanding the environmental impacts of sea food

It is important to get smart about seafood. An assessment of seafood sustainability ought to involve a careful look at the method used in fishing. The seafood obtained by trawling or by pots and traps burns a lot of diesel as the boats move back and forth over the fishing ground. The seafood with the smallest carbon footprint is the best to eat (Bishop, 2008). Some like clams and oysters are a climate-friendly super-food. Aquaculture is a dependent method in which the systems used do not filter and recalculate the water in comparison to poultry and pork regarding greenhouse-gas emissions. The land-based recirculation aquaculture has climate-controlled facilities and electricity demands that are more greenhouse-gas intensive than aquaculture that does not recirculate. Thus, the fish farmed in the ponds or net pens are more climate-friendly than the fish from the recirculation farms.

The environmental problems associated with fishing include the loss of marine biodiversity due to the catching of non-target species. It also damages the sensitive areas of the seabed and other marine environments by use of destructive fishing methods like bottom trawling. Fish farming and aquaculture is the solution to the myriad of problems. However, the method is intensive and usually associated with social and environmental problems like pollution, animal welfare issues, and interference with the ecologically important habitats.

The paradox of vegetables

It is evident that eating less meat has significant environmental payoffs. Some previous research studies showed that taking vegetarian diet reduces greenhouse-gas emissions by a large extent and requires less land use as well as reduced water consumption. Other research studies have reported that a vegetarian diet has less environmental impact in comparison to the omnivorous diet. However, the vegetarians and vegans should not be complacent about healthy dietary choices since they gradually revert to other forms of proteins that have a considerable environmental footprint (Sabatino, 2009). The plant-based protein choices carry a different environmental cost that is important to consider. For instance, wheat contributes to one-fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions. Meat substitutes are made of pea and soy proteins. They contribute to one-third of the greenhouse gasses. It is clear that eating a more vegetarian diet takes the pressure from the planet’s resources but does not fully address the environmental impacts (Henning, 2011).

Limiting livestock production for human consumption

A report from the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, identified that the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to all the planes, trains, and automobiles on the planet. Humans take a considerable amount of foods from animals thereby utilize the planet’s resources to feed them in return. The major problem is the number of forests being cleared to develop pastures to feed the animals (Southern, 2015). The disappearance of the trees and other natural covering; result to the depletion of the earth’s natural method of storing carbon. Thus, there is an urgent need for reducing the number of animal products in the diet by replacing them with healthier beans, legumes, and fruits and vegetables (Trivedi, 2008).

Taking seasonal foods

Most of the food taken is transported further, and there is a high demand for a wide range of the ready-prepared and exotic out-of-season food types. The trends have an association to various environmental problems. They lose freshness, flavor, and variety due to the mode of harvesting, packing, distribution, and post-harvest chemical treatment. The mode of transport for the products is air which is the most environmentally damaging form of transport. There is increased global warming through any form of transport of the produce for human consumption. The solution to the issue is buying more seasonal food and local food substances. The seasonal food is fresher, tastier, and has more nutritional value than others transported from other regions (Millard, 2014).

The strategy to support environmentally friendly farming is to ensure that one buys food accredited to a recognized standard. The accredited foods have a mark on the food packaging and signs on the farms. The accredited producer can produce a copy of a valid certificate as a proof of selling environment-friendly food.

Avoid bottled water

Another way to help heal the planet is to avoid taking bottled water. It is a waste of money because bottled water has considerable environmental costs; including the energy costs of producing and transport as well as the environmental costs of disposing of the bottles (McKay & Bonnin, 2006). Water is good for hydration, digestion, and general well-being. In many places, the tap water is governed by strict rules and is usually tested to stringent standards than the bottled water. Thus, it is safe for drinking, and there are no known health benefits of taking bottled water over the tap water. The adoption of the practice of using tap water instead of the bottled water is an effective measure towards the reduction of environmental degradation. As such, a healthy lifestyle does not only include taking making healthy food choices, but also the type of water consumed.

There has been increased wastage of the energy used to make food and its packaging which eventually goes to waste. Large amounts of energy are also used to prepare food as well as refrigeration. Most of the energy is non-renewable fossil fuels and a significant source of greenhouse gasses. There can be efforts to improve efficiency in energy usage thereby reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming (McKay & Bonnin, 2006). Among them is avoiding food choices that require large amounts of energy for production and preparation in which most of them are environmentally unfriendly.

Summary and Conclusion

The general guideline principles for healthier eating that helps to heal the planet should be based on several aspects. The choice of foods should support a sustainable food system for the planet and the consumers. The main meals ought to have generous portions of whole grains, starchy foods, and vegetables as well as a dessert of fruits. The ingredients are of different types and have good tastes and value to health. It is important to buy the local and seasonally available foods to minimize the energy used for food production, transport, and storage. Also recommended is to buy foods from the farming systems that minimize harm to the environment. The consumers ought to reduce the amount of foods of animal origin like meat, dairy products, and eggs. Livestock farming is a major contributor to climate change. The foods taken should be rich in fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, and grains. Consumers should stop buying fish species identified as “at risk” and buy fish only from sustainable sources. Also important is to avoid bottled water by taking plain and filtered tap water. It minimizes the waste from transport and packaging materials. It is necessary to protect the individual well-being and family’s health by ensuring that the meals have adequate portions of vegetables, fruit, and other recommended foods.

References

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Pitchford, P. (2002). Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. North        Atlantic Books

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Robbins, J. (2012). Diet for a New America 25th Anniversary Edition: How Your Food Choices   Affect Your Health, Your Happiness, and the Future of Life on Earth. HJ Kramer.

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