How your food choices help the planet
Sustainable Living

How Your Food Choices Help the Planet: 3 Simple Actions

After being overwhelmed by the IPCC Report on climate change, Krista and I wanted to spend some time focusing on personal actions that could help the planet. Krista started off last week by continuing her series on How Your Garden Helps the Planet. This week, I’m taking a look at how our food choices help the planet.

There will be simple actions we can make in all areas of our lives to lessen our impact on the planet and our food choices are no exception. Small, collective actions can add up not just to help prevent climate change, but also to influence policy makers and big businesses to create change.

I’m sharing three areas that are problematic for our planet and how food choices in these areas can make a difference–because our food choices help the planet when we know what choices to make.

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Help the Planet with your Food Choices

There may be many ways your food choices help the planet, but I’m going to focus on three big topics that are actually quite simple changes:

  1. Reducing food waste
  2. Sourcing local food
  3. Going vegan (or reducing meat consumption)

1. Reducing Food Waste

Food waste is good, edible food that ends up being tossed out. Food waste can happen from buying too much at the grocery store, cooking a big meal and not eating the leftovers, or missing the expiry dates on packaged goods.

Why is food waste one of the food choices that can help the planet?

Canada’s 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 and 2.1 million cars on the road!

Love Food Hate Waste

Consider these shocking statistics from Impact Canada:

Over 50% of all food in Canada is wasted every year.

8% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions is caused by food waste.

1 in 7 Canadians suffer from food insecurity.

Food waste is a big problem.

Food waste compost pile
If you do have food waste, consider composting it to keep it out of the landfill.

How to Reduce Food Waste

While food waste is a problem, there are simple steps you can take to reduce food waste. Here are some suggestions:

  • Meal plan and buy only groceries you plan to use.
  • Shop your fridge and pantry first.
  • Plan a “leftovers for dinner” day to use up food cooked that week.
  • Use apps like Flashfood to help grocery stores reduce food waste.
  • Preserve food that is on the verge of expiring (Check out these 20 unexpected foods you can freeze).
  • Get creative and give food new life, like using your veggie scraps for vegetable broth.
  • Watch movies like Just Eat It, a documentary about a couple living out of dumpsters for 6 months, and be inspired to reduce your food waste.
  • Follow organizations like Love Food Hate Waste on social to get tips on preventing food waste.

Get the Flashfood App and save on your grocery bill!

2. Sourcing Local Food

Local food is food grown or raised in a geographical region close to where you live. Some people subscribe to the “100 Mile Diet” idea where you only eat food that comes from within 100 miles of where you live. However you define “local” for you, sourcing local food is one way your food choices help the planet.

The term “food miles” refers to the distance that food travels to reach your local supermarket. The more food miles collected during food transportation, the more fossil fuels are burned, allowing more harmful greenhouse gas emissions to be released into the atmosphere.

University of Waterloo

Environmental Benefits of Locally Sourced Food

  • Reduce the miles your food travels and reduce the carbon emissions from transport.
  • Support and sustain local farmlands, which can help protect them from being sold and re-developed.
  • Help reduce food waste. “Many large retailers have significant food waste due to items going bad before they are bought. On a smaller scale with a more direct farm to table approach, this food waste is cut down.” (Source: GoGreen.org).

Where to go for Locally Sourced Food

If you’re looking to make the change and start buying more local foods, look up your local farmer’s markets. It’s a great way to connect with the people who grow your food as well as to shop locally sourced products.

Another option is to buy a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box on subscription, which is also buying direct from your local growers.

If you have the space, try your own hand at growing produce! It is so satisfying to be directly connected to the food on the table. Even in a small space, growing some food can be possible.

If you’re shopping at a standard supermarket chain, pay attention to the stickers on your produce to see where the items are from. You might be surprised at how near or far the items are travelling from!

Find out more on how to source local food in Krista’s post: How Your Garden Helps the Planet: Locally Sourced Food

farmers markets are food choices help the planet
Farmer’s markets are a great place to source local food.

3. Going Vegan or Reducing Meat Consumption

The type of food we eat can have an impact on our environment. It’s been well-documented that the meat industry causes a huge amount of environmental damage every year. This doesn’t mean that you have to cut out 100% of meat from your diet, but it is worth considering lessening your meat consumption.

Meat isn’t the only culprit, however, as dairy milk uses substantially more land, more water, and produces more emissions than any of the non-dairy alternatives. When thinking about how your food choices help the planet, your meat and dairy consumption is an important area to look at.

[T]he UN says meat and dairy (farmed livestock) accounts for 14.5% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. That’s roughly equivalent to the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet!

bbc good food

Going to a vegan or plant-based diet means that you do not consume any animal products. The beauty of this diet is that you can choose how you want to tailor it to your life. For me, being vegan means that I will still eat milk chocolate and, if you baked me a cake, I’d eat it. Other than those things, I won’t be eating any meat and dairy. Using these guidelines, I’ve avoided meat, dairy, and eggs for over 15 years.

I’m a firm believer in doing what is sustainable for your life, so if cutting out meat completely isn’t going to last, then consider what changes you can make that will stick. Doing this is one of the food choices that will make a huge impact on the planet.

Find out just how much of an impact your diet has by trying out the BBC’s Follow the Food calculator. Find the link here: Follow the Food Environmental Footprint Calculator

How to Reduce your Meat Consumption

The idea of going vegan can be overwhelming, so here are some easy ideas to get you started:

  • Have a “meatless Monday” meal night.
  • Try using 1/4 cup of applesauce instead of one egg the next time you bake.
  • Choose one product to stop buying and find an alternative.
  • Sign up for Veganuary or do a vegan challenge with friends.
  • Experiment with a new recipe, like these butternut squash ones.
  • Don’t go “cold turkey” and cut everything out at once. Make small steps towards the bigger change.
  • Go vegan at home, but when out or at friends’ places compromise on what you’ll have.

Your Food Choices Matter

Eating is an essential part of our life and it is actually an essential part of combatting climate change. Looking at the different statistics on emissions, we can see how our food choices help the planet or they hurt the planet. I hope you’re encouraged by the fact that there are some truly practical and easy steps you can take with your meals and food choices that will make a positive impact on our environment.

Do you consider how your food choices help the planet? What food choices do you make that have a positive impact on the earth?

Cork Yoga Mat

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25 Comments

  • Michelle (Boomer Eco Crusader)

    This is a great post. I am really trying to reduce food waste, but there’s still room for improvement. I have cut down the amount of meat I eat – no meat before 5 PM, and one or two meatless days a week. It’s a start. Living with 2 carnivores makes it difficult for me to reduce any further. I’ve also reduced the kind of meat I eat – with beef being the worst environmental culprit.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you, Michelle! It’s great you’ve found ways to reduce your meat intake. I think it makes a huge difference to even just reduce consumption and doesn’t necessarily have to be an all or nothing thing. Choosing a sustainable way forward for your own life is going to be more impactful than not making changes 🙂

  • Jaya Avendel

    I love how to cover a diverse range of ways to reduce food waste! I did not know there were apps that helped grocery stores reduce their waste, so I will be looking into that. What we cannot grow we get in a CSA share weekly. The fresh fruits and vegetables taste good and are raised organically!

    Starting small in all the steps we take toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle is a great way to find what works for each person and keep improving. The Just Eat It documentary sounds powerful!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      CSA’s are so great! I love that there may be items included we wouldn’t normally think to buy–it’s a great way to try new local produce 🙂

      • Ruth| Ruthiee loves Glamour

        I love this post so much! It’s a very informative piece! I am trying to be more sustainable when it comes to food. And I’m also always looking for ways to reduce food waste. Before now, I did not know there were apps that helped grocery stores reduce their waste. Now that I know, I will definitely check them out. These days, I am very deliberate with what I eat and consume. But this was a nice reminder to be more deliberate about what I eat. Thank you for sharing. xx

        • Ruth| Ruthiee loves Glamour

          ove this post so much! It’s a very informative piece! I am trying to be more sustainable when it comes to food. And I’m also always looking for ways to reduce food waste. Before now, I did not know there were apps that helped grocery stores reduce their waste. Now that I know, I will definitely check them out. These days, I am very deliberate with what I eat and consume. But this was a nice reminder to be more deliberate about what I eat. Thank you for sharing. xx

        • A Sustainably Simple Life

          That’s amazing you are already looking for ways to reduce food waste. It makes such a big difference to our planet! I love the Flashfood app 😀 Hopefully there’s something similar in your area!

  • Caroline

    I’m loving these tips! I’m really trying to minimise my food waste at the moment – living with 4 other people will no doubt make it harder when I move back to uni 😬

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks Caroline! That’s great you’re already focusing on reducing food waste. Hopefully your roommates at Uni will be inspired by you and jump on board too 🙂

  • Karalee

    These are great tips!
    I shop for groceries almost daily & I plan my dinner for the day based on what ingredients I already have. I also make a list & only buy things on the list.
    I use the app Too Good To Go & I’ve bought fruit & veggies from the grocery stores & bread & pastries from the bakery that would’ve gone to waste.
    I also love shopping at the farmer’s market & they have one every Wednesday & Saturday!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Those are all such great things! We don’t have Too Good To Go here in Canada, but it is a similar concept to Flashfood. I love that this idea is growing. There is so much food out there that doesn’t need to go to waste!

  • Richie

    Hi Alison,

    A thought-provoking article, thank you.

    We’ve started taking action in the areas that you mention but there is a way to go yet:

    * Reducing food waste. We are still guilty of this – open the fridge, take something out, “Oh crap, that was use by last week! Is it safe to eat?’ [Quick consideration of Sell By vs Use By dates on products] Throw it out to be safe.

    * Sourcing local food. We do this. I’m always surprised at how much more expensive it is to buy stuff from within a 10-mile radius compared to stuff from thousands of miles away. I’m sure this accounts for the decisions made by poorer households.

    * Going vegan (or reducing meat consumption). We have Meat-Free Mondays. Next step is to introduce another day.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you, Richie!
      It sounds like you are doing great! I think there will always be areas for improvement (at least I know for my life there will be). I love that you’re aware of the issues and are taking steps to tackle them. 🙂

  • readandreviewit1

    Fab tips! I definitely don’t think I’m ready to go vegan yet, but I love your suggestions for cutting down meat consumption – I particularly like the idea of a meatless Monday and doing a vegan challenge with friends! Thanks for sharing x

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thank you!
      Going to zero meat isn’t do-able for everyone, that’s for sure. I love that you’re considering one of the ways to cut down though! 🙂

  • MummyConqueringAnxiety

    Great post. I meal plan at the moment and I am trying to reduce waste in this respect, from a money saving perspective.

    I need to do more though, so saving this post and setting myself a goal to do better.

    xx

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