Food and drink
You eat what you are - but more often than not we don't even know anymore what we really consume. More and more of us are suffering from food-related illnesses like diabetes, digestive problems and allergies.
What's bad for the environment is ultimatelly bad for us but small changes can make a big difference and considering that we are having to feed an ever increasing population, we have to find a way to do so sustainably. Here are a few simple ways to reduce your impact:
Reduce your meat consumption - Not only are most of the animals suffering in squalid conditions until they end up on your plate but they are often laden with hormones and antibiotics which are posing numerous health hazards for yourself. If that isn't enough, the livestock sector is also a large driver of climate change. According to the UN it accounts for around 14.5% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide and is a major contributor to methane emissions and nitrous oxide, both more potent greenhouse gas than CO₂. If you think that life is not worth living without your daily dose of meat, then at least avoid factory-farmed meat and switch to less GHG intense meat like pork and chicken, or start small with one veggie day a week - you will find yummy, easy recipes here.
Buy organic -
conventional farming relys heavily on the
use of pesticides and fertilisers, resulting in the pollution
of our water systems, the decline in eco-systems and soil productivity,
the killing off of important pollinators and contribution to climate change.
The pesticides being applied to the crops kill off weed and other "pests"
that our native animals rely on for survival. Without these "weeds"
we remove food for insects and when those are in decline it has a negative
impact on birds and other small mammals.
And these pesticides might be harmful to us as well, especially for children,
even after thorougly washing your fruits and vegetables.
More information can be found on the UK's Pesticide Action Network.
Here you find a list with all the residues found in which food.
Reduce your milk consumption, use organic milk or substitute your dairy with hemp milk - the most environmentally friendly option - or soy milk. However, I am not a big fan of soy milk, as is a large contributor to deforestation, often produced with genetically modified crops and might be more harmful to your health than you think as it can inhibit nutrient uptake, see here.
Share your surplus food - instead of throwing away unwanted food and thus contributing to landfill, make somebody else happy and share it with your community through the app and website OLIO, which connects neighbours and local shops so surplus food & other household items can be shared.
Reduce your consumption of fish and crustacians - Firstly, due to overfishing a lot of fish species are already on the brink of collapse. Secondly, modern day fishing methods are very destructive, ranging from using dynamite to bottom trawling (with the latter basically sweeping the whole ocean floor clean), mangrove destruction for prawn and shrimp farms, and fished farm heavily reliant on chemicals. And lastly, the harmful chemicals and the plastic waste we release into our oceans bioaccumaltes, meaning that each larger species ingests more of it - and just think where that leaves us. For example, PCB, a highly toxic pollutant shown to disrupt the reproductive system of UK marine species like killer wales, are usually taken up by humans through food, especially through fish consumptions. PCBs can be highly concentrated in the fish of waters contaminated with even low levels of PCBs.
Avoid excess packaging - especially plastic. Most plastic ultimately ends up in our oceans and microparticles of plastic are now found in many fish, sea mammals and sea birds and according to UNEP, plastic causes the death of a million seabirds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish. It also shows that plastic concentration moves up the food chain, ultimately ending up in our stomachs, which might have implications on our health. Research shows: "Exposure to harmful chemicals during manufacturing, leaching in the stored food items while using plastic packages or chewing of plastic teethers and toys by children are linked with severe adverse health outcomes such as cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive effects etc." So, if the vegetables are sold seperately, great, avoid putting them in a little plastic bag.
Buy your fresh fruit and vegetables at your local farmers market - if there is one near you- and avoid shopping at supermarkets - this way you support your local farming community.
Buy only fresh fruit and vegetables when they are in season - we don't really need strawberries in December and they usually have lost all their flavour and vitamins on their long way from wherever they have been grown. The huge environmental impact is due to their food miles, energy needed for storage of perishable food for prolonged periods (did you know that your locally grown apple could already be a year old?)
Bring your own bag when shopping so that you don't need to use a plastic bag. For really nice foldaway eco reusable shopping bags, check out London company Re-Uz
Grow your own or go foraging -
Herbs and even some vegetables like tomatoes
can be grown on balconies and window sills and
even in a big city like London there are so many
places you can go foraging but please first
familiarise yourself with the type of fruits,
funghis and herbs that are safe for human consumption.
More information can be found in the area "Ideas & recipes".
Just always make sure to take only as much as you need
and leave some for others.
So the next time you enjoy your lunch in a park pick some
berries for a (plastic-)free snack.
Try and cook from scratch - ready meals are usually high in sugar, salt and other additives that we don't need nor want in our food and which contribute not just to obesity and diabetes but also cancer and heart diseases. Here you can find some healthy and quick vegetarian recipes
Avoid buying bottled water - if you are living in Europe then the standard for tap water are more stringent than for bottled water but if you are concerned about tap water's purity or dislike its taste, buy a filter and get a reusable water bottle to take with you. Eco friendly and stylish bottles are offered e.g. by "One Green Bottle" where you can also find plastic-free lunch containers.
Avoid or reduce your consumption of soft drinks - like with bottled water their use contributes to waste but also to all the maladies of ready meals, see above. The same goes for juices as these are stripped of the fruits fibres and just leaves you with a high sugar content.
Bring your own take-away coffee cup - Take-away paper cups can't be recycled, and according to an article in the Guardian, "For health and safety reasons the paper must be virgin, prompting claims that it takes at least 100,000 trees to fuel Britain’s coffee habit a year". You can find beautiful eco coffee cups made from baboo here or try JOCO cups made from glass.. For more information, have a look at the "cupifesto" of the Environmetal Paper Network, a network which consists of more than 145 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 6 continents that are signatories to the Global Paper Vision.
Plan and make a list when going shopping - this way you can avoid excess food being purchased and then thrown away. In the UK 7.3m tonnes of household food waste was thrown away in 2015. The NGO Lovefoodhatewaste provides good recipes for use of leftover food.
Buy fairtrade products - as these at least ensure that labour conditions are fair and no child labour was used. Did you know that with a purchase of as innocent an item as chocolate, you might involuntarily support child labour and slavery?
Trust your senses - don't bin it just because it is past its sell-by date. According to the FAO nearly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption is being wasted every year. In a report by the UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers the figure is even higher. They claim that 50% of global food is being thrown away, stating that supermarkets encourage us to buy too much food through buy-one-get-one free schemes, the too strict sell-by dates and our demand for cosmetically perfect food.
Chuck those over-the-counter dietary supplements - dietary supplements can do more harm than good, including cancer and heart disease. They also often can't be taken up by our bodies and have to be eliminated by our kidneys, which can even result in kidney damage. Avoid fish oil especially krill oil, because krill are vital to ocean ecosystems around the world. The increased harvesting of these tiny crustaceans and the increase of water temperatures due to climate change theratens the survival of these vital animals. A balanced diet will provide your body with all the vitamins and nutrients it needs. This of course doesn't apply if you have been prescribed dietary supplements by your doctor!
Ask bar staff not to put a straw into your drink -
come on, you don't really need it and it is only
another plastic pollution that is added to the ocean
and ultimately finds it way into your food.
And if not in your food then it might end up
in some marine mammal or sea turtle,
as happened here (warning: video with some strong language
and an animal in distress).
Or ask management of your local to switch to paper straws,
like mine has done, see photo at the right,
and if they refuse it might be an idea switch to some responsible bars
like "Nine Lives" in London, whose owners refuse to use limes because
of their food miles and where there is an extra charge if you want to use
their reusable bamboo straws.
Avoid plastic full-stop - say no to plastic plates, cutlery, bags, wrappers ... because right now we are starting to eat and drink it, with so far unknown consequences. Plastic is already being found in our water supply, in the fish we eat and now even in salt.