Posted on 15th October 2019 by Media Relations
Today is World Food Day – a day that is celebrated across 150 countries to raise awareness about how we produce food and how it’s distributed around the world. While World Food Day has been traditionally used to shed light on humanitarian issues, there has been an increasing focus on how our eating habits are impacting the natural environment.
The global agricultural sector, for example, is responsible for a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Further, land-clearing rates are increasing daily to make room for larger farms to meet the ever-increasing demand for food. Despite this, the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animals, while 60 per cent of all plant-based calories that humans consume comes from just three plants (rice, wheat and maize).
Today, we encourage you to pause for a moment as you sit down to eat your favourite meal and think of the journey that each item you are about to eat has gone through to get from the farm to your plate. By truly connecting with our food, we can start to make simple choices that are both beneficial to wildlife and healthier for us.
Below are some easy choices that you can make that will have a positive impact on our natural environment.
Have a meat-free meal once a week
Most of us love meat but we rarely consider the amount of natural resources and energy that is needed to get the meat from the farm to our plates. Large-scale agricultural farming of livestock has also been found to be a significant contributor to climate change. Choose to have one (or a few) meat free dishes a week. You can also choose to reduce the portion of the meat you eat with each meal and increase the amount of vegetables, pulses and grains for a much healthier, balanced diet. Even swapping to a different type of meat with your meal can be beneficial for the environment, such as having chicken instead of red meat (producing a gram of protein using beef requires 10 times more resources compared to chicken).
A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that by having more plant-based meals, we can reduce the equivalent of eight gigatons of carbon emissions per annum – that’s huge!
Choose the Marine Stewardship Council eco-labelled sea food
Covering over 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface, oceans are an incredibly important ecosystem. The oceans are home to over 80 per cent of the Earth’s biodiversity and produce 50 per cent of the oxygen we breathe. Millions of people who live along the coast rely on the oceans as a source of food and other resources. However, almost 90 per cent of the world’s fish stocks are depleted, over-exploited or fished to their limit. Luckily, it is still possible to enjoy a great meal and help protect the oceans at the same time. Choosing Marine Stewardship Council eco-labelled products ensures that fisheries maintain good management practices, healthy fish stocks and habitats and that fishing community livelihoods are secure. As scientific knowledge improves, fisheries that are certified MSC are regularly reassessed so that further improvements can be made to their sustainable fishing practices.
By choosing to purchase seafood carrying the MSC label, you are helping to ensure an ocean-friendly future.
Buy products made using sustainable palm oil
Every second product on the supermarket shelf contains palm oil. Because it is cheap and quick to cultivate, large areas of rainforest are often cleared and made into palm oil plantations. In countries like Malaysia and Indonesia (where 80 per cent of the global palm oil supply comes from), palm oil plantations threaten the habitats of endangered animals such as orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers.
While this makes palm oil sound bad for the environment, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be. If it’s grown sustainably, palm oil production can benefit local communities, and help to protect valuable species and forests. In fact, a report (2018) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that ‘palm oil produces nine times more oil per unit area than other major oil crops’. In other words, replacing palm oil with more ‘sustainable’ alternatives might significantly increase the scale of deforestation.
You can help by choosing products that use 100 per cent Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
Reduce food waste
Australians throw away over 3 million tonnes of food each year! Food waste costs the Australian economy an estimated $20 billion per annum. In NSW, households throw away roughly 800,000 tonnes of food every year (the equivalent to $3,800 per household). By reducing the amount of food waste being sent to landfill you are not only saving money, but you are also helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced when organic waste decomposes. By reducing food waste, you will also be helping to reduce the amount of freshwater that went into growing crops as well.
There are several ways that you can reduce food waste. For example, you could try taking a shopping list, keeping track of expiry dates, buying seasonal and locally produced food or reducing portion sizes – all of which will take the load off our planet.
Grow your own herbs and vegetables
One of the simplest ways you can have a positive impact on the planet is by growing your own vegetables and herbs. By growing your own food, you will also save on plastic packaging, save a bit of money and have access to fresh herbs and vegetables that will add great flavour to your meals. The great thing about growing your own food is that you do not need a lot of space to do it in (check out this episode of Gardening Australia where one person grew 70kg of food in one year on her balcony).
World Food Day is about connecting individuals with the food that they eat and in doing so, helping us understand the journey that the food has gone through to get from the farm to our plates. Small changes to the way we eat can have a big impact on ensuring a better future for wildlife.