Your Diet Affects Your Sustainability Score
An ageless advice goes that we are what we eat. This old saying is more relevant now than ever. In the 21st century, people have become increasingly aware that their lifestyles leave a larger impact than previously conceived. What we do, how we eat, and what we eat (or not eat - we will get to that in a bit) can have long-term consequences on our environment and the well-being of future generations. The unit is an extension of the whole and vice-versa.
The meat vs. plant-based diet argument is one placed under continuous scrutiny. How are the various food types processed and prepared, and what are the major differences between them? Which is more sustainable for the environment?
It is amazing to know that we can protect Earth by simply improving our sustainability score. We’re not talking about reusing, reducing or refusing (although those are awesome and necessary too like our reusable tumblers). It all starts with a basic human need - a prerequisite for survival. It all begins with what you choose to eat.
Agriculture and the Meat-based Food Industry
Agriculture has served us well from the time of our ancestors, through the advent of permanent settlements and civilizations. Unfortunately, much has changed since then. We’re now facing a surplus of meat that is more than we can chew.
Then, there is the humanistic debate. Are animals suffering for our selfish desires? Chickens are laying a ridiculous amount of eggs that far exceed their life cycle needs. Pigs and cattle are being specially bred for augmented body parts, which restricts movement and quality of life.
But the biggest concern may be that meat consumption is simply unsustainable in the long-term. This is so even if we were to ensure the most ethical practices. We’re talking about a perfect world where everyone chooses free-range chickens, and grass-fed cattle, minus all the unethical practices. Why? Because we’ll simply run out of space on Earth to provide for these amazing creatures. Also, the statistics seem pretty serious. Research by the United Nations Agricultural Organization states that twenty-six percent of the planet’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33 percent of croplands are used for livestock feed production.
Couple those worrying numbers with a rapidly growing demand for meat consumption, and we get a full-blown global crisis. We’re running out of time and space to sustain the meat industry for the exploding human population. And not to forget, livestock management is responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases through enteric fermentation or manure. This contributes to the global warming issue and jeopardizes the overall health of our precious planet.
Plant-based Food Industry & the Surge of Veganism
Although plant-based diets seem like a natural choice, there are certain factors to consider. And GMO concerns may top the charts in this aspect.
You’ve probably heard of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They’re often artificially augmented crops that serve one purpose - feeding our bellies. GMOs were originally created to satisfy the growing demands of global consumerism. But this has backfired in many ways.
For starters, GMO products are believed to result in serious side-effects within our bodies (naturally so, since our bodies weren’t made to process synthetic ingredients) such as compromised antibacterial resistance and some types of cancer.
But under normal circumstances (with GMO out of the equation), plant-based diets or a vegan lifestyle can drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal-based food production. The meat industry has been known to contribute up to three-quarters of the climate change-related to emissions.
Agriculture has truly remained a major uncertainty. The entire process utilizes about 70% of the freshwater supply on Earth, where producing a pound of beef may require up to 1,800 gallons of water. Additionally, animal products leave a major carbon footprint on our croplands (which already occupy about 40% of ice-free landmass) and this will only worsen with an exploding human population.
Making a Conscious Decision
While it might seem like a no-brainer to switch your meat out for veggies, the process should be done with careful thought and planning - preferably with professional medical advice. Moderation might be a better alternative for most individuals, rather than making a drastic change in eating habits.
Consumers may argue all day over the ethical aspects of their dietary preferences. However, the discussion should go beyond what we put inside our bodies. What you don’t eat also affects your sustainability score.
Food waste remains one of the greatest environmental concerns in the developed world. A staggering one-third of all food is wasted. Landfills are being filled to the brim, with trash slowly seeping into natural environments, which devastate wildlife. Sometimes, this damage is irreparable. Innocent and beautiful species of animals are culled in numbers.
Instead, we believe that anyone can do their part toward achieving a more sustainable environment by:
1) Mostly consuming plant-based meals with minimal processed products (non-GMO).
2) Reducing intake of meat-based foods (being a vegetarian or vegan is entirely optional!).
3) Consuming food and drinks through the use of sustainable containers and cutlery.
4) Reduce food waste by ordering only as much as you need and donating excess food (there are various food rescue groups all around the web - check local listings for more information).
Join the Movement!
At Pirani Life, we #PartySustainably. We’re constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to reduce waste while guiding others through sustainable practices. Check out our reusable tumblers on a mission to protect our planet!