You can help build a more sustainable plant, starting with your plate.
Next time you sit down to eat, I invite you to pause for a moment. Take a breath and reflect on all the things that had to happen to make the meal that is in front of you. All the resources, such as land, water and energy, plus all of the people who grew, harvested, transported, processed, cooked and served your food. What is on your plate connects you to landscapes you may never see, to people you may never meet and to impacts you may not be aware of. This is why what we eat really matters.
Food is the foundation of our own health and wellbeing, but it goes beyond just ourselves. Of all human activities, it is our food system that has the greatest impact on the natural world. And did you know that the people involved in producing food are more likely to suffer from food insecurity than people working in other sectors? This puts food at the heart of many major challenges we face in the world today, from obesity to climate change to poverty.
The good news is that each of us have the chance to engage with creating positive change in the world whenever we sit down to a meal. Becoming more intentional with how we shop, cook and eat can be delicious, joyful and impactful – not only for ourselves but also for others and the planet.
Many of us are already aware of the positive effect eating less meat and other animal products can have on both our health and on the planet. Shifting towards a plant-based diet can be an important step in making your diet more sustainable. But there are many other things you can do too. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Eat The Rainbow
Did you know that just three crops – wheat, corn and rice – provide nearly 60 percent of all calories consumed in the world? Relying on just a few crops means less diversity in our production systems and our diets. Eating a diverse diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and legumes, whole grains, and plant-based proteins and fats is a great way to support your own health and the health of the planet. Including unusual and heirloom varieties of crops, and seeking out producers who grow using principles of agroecology is a great way to help build more biodiverse production systems, which can help us be more resilient in the face of climate shocks.
Love Food, Hate Waste
In Australia, the equivalent to one in every five bags of groceries bought is wasted. That’s around $10 billion worth of food thrown in the bin each year across the country. This is absurd when you think about all the resources, time and effort that goes into producing every bite of our food. As a lot of food waste happens in the household, this is a great place each of us can have an impact. Food waste is actually a pretty simple issue to overcome, but it requires us to change how we value and prioritise food. Some easy ways to get started are to plan your meals for the week, shop for what you need, and batch cook a few meals at once. It helps to learn the best way to store produce to extend its shelf life. You can use the freezer as a pause button, creating more time to enjoy your food before it goes bad. You could introduce a once a week ‘fridge clean out’ meal, where you challenge yourself to create something from whatever you have left over. If any food is wasted in your house, it is a good idea to make sure it is composted. This diverts food products from going to landfill, where they rot and produce the potent greenhouse gas methane.
Cooking can understandably feel like a burden when life gets hectic. But we also have the chance to see cooking as a chance to slow down, disconnect from the devices that run our busy modern lives and reconnect with ourselves. You can let the kitchen be a space for mindfulness, taking some deep breaths, relaxing and focusing only on what you are doing right now. When you are chopping the vegetables, just chop the vegetables. This helps you practice the three skills of mindfulness – the ability to focus, the ability to sense, and the ability to find equanimity. Skills that help us find patience, calm and focus throughout the day, not only in the kitchen! Mindful cooking also gives us the time to make choices more aligned with our values rather than just price, taste or convenience.
You can learn more about how food can build a more sustainable world with Michelle Grant’s cookbook The Great Full – Sustainable Eating with Purpose and Joy.