Can the way we eat change the world? This question was posed to me last week by a coworker (I work at an environmental org) and myself and another colleague immediately said, "yes."
Since then, I've been thinking about what I eat and the choices I have at the grocery store. Is my environmental guilt escalating? You betcha. Over the years I've made a number of decisions about what to eat and how much based on both health and environment. For example:
1. I try to eat less meat, especially red both because meat cultivation is bad for the environment and red meat in particular should be limited for health reasons. I also have ethical concerns about industrial farming techniques and think some of that could be reduced if everyone was conscious about their meat choices.
2. I try and eat in season. This is good for the environment, healthier and saves me money.
3. I don't eat veal, or as I like to call it - baby cow in a box.
4. I try to be conscious of my seafood choices. This is a tough one because there are so many issues. Seafood is a great source of lean protein, can contain mercury, Omega 3s, some seafood is overfished, or farmed in environmentally harmful ways...sometimes I buy something at the store and then check Seafood Watch and see it's overfished and feel guilty (especially if it's yummy and I want it again). Luckily most of the issues surrounding salmon and tuna I can avoid because I don't like them anyway but I LOVE shrimp. Most shrimp is farmed in South East Asia or Latin America and it's really bad for the environment. I try to resist and definitely eat less than I used to, but sometimes I fall off the wagon.
So those are the things I'm doing pretty well on but room for improvement? Of course especially on:
1. Buying more local/organic produce. Organic produce is especially hard for me because it's much more expensive most of the time and usually doesn't keep as long, meaning I pay more for it and then it goes bad before I even get a chance to eat it. When you cook for 1 a single cucumber might be in 3-4 meals!
2. Health...yea I had hash-browns for dinner a few nights ago. I also eat way too much cheese and too many baked goods but I'm not trying to cut out either of those!
3. Organics/ethical products in general. Package organic food can also be challenging both because of the higher costs and because there is usually not a big variety of package sizes. This is still a niche market and normally only the 'standard size' is available, whereas I would usually buy the small size. I find this to be a problem with cage-free eggs especially. I feel I would like to buy them but they only come in 1dz packages and it's just more eggs than I can use, sometimes the 8-pack of eggs my store sells is too much!
4. Plastic. I recently became aware of the huge environmental problem that is plastic but almost all food comes in plastic. I don't put my produce in plastic bags anymore because there really is no need but past that I haven't made any progress.
I really do think what we eat makes a difference. The power of consumer purchasing is huge, companies will manufacture anything as long as they can sell it and make a profit, making good choices with our purchases shows that there is a market for good, sustainable products. I realize I'm a long way from perfect in my purchasing choices but I'm trying to be aware of the downfalls and slowly move in the right direction.